Friday, January 04, 2019

Remembering Garfield and Langton

Much to my chagrin, the recent holiday rush caused a delay in my observing the deaths of two people prominent in the world of mystery and crime fiction. First off, of course, was Brian Garfield, who passed away on December 29 at age 79 “after a battle with Parkinson's disease,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. Although he produced a wide variety of books, including crime novels, Westerns, and volumes of non-fiction, he may still be best remembered for giving the world 1972’s Death Wish, which was made into a film two years later starring Charles Bronson. The Reporter explains:
Garfield was the author of more than 70 books that sold more than 20 million copies worldwide, and 19 of his works were made into films or TV shows. …

Brian Francis Wynne Garfield was born in New York City on Jan. 26, 1939. He was the son of Frances O’Brien, a protégé of Georgia O
Keeffe; the famed artist introduced his mother to her future husband, George Garfield.

He grew up in Arizona “accustomed to having writers around the house,” he said, and wrote his first book, a Western titled
Range Justice, when he was 18.

In the 1950s, Garfield toured with The Palisades, a group that recorded the doo-wop song “I Can’t Quit.” He also attended the University of Arizona and served in the U.S. Army and the Army Reserves from 1957-65.

Garfield's 1969 non-fiction book
The Thousand-Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in non-fiction. And according to his literary agency, John Grisham credited Garfield’s article “Ten Rules for Suspense Fiction” with “giving him the tools” to create The Firm.

He also served as president of the Western Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America.
I confess to never having read Death Wish or Garfield’s 1975 sequel, Death Sentence. However, there are several other of this author’s works on my bookshelves, thoroughly enjoyable fare such as Hopscotch (1975), The Paladin, (1979), and Manifest Destiny (1989). If you aren’t yet familiar with Garfield’s storytelling, check out some of The Mysterious Press’ brief plot synopses here.

* * *

Jane Langton is gone, as well. While she wrote a number of children’s books over the years, it was for her crime fiction that Rap Sheet readers are most likely to recognize this prolific Boston-born author. As Mystery Scene’s Brian Skupin recalled, “For over 40 years, Jane Langton’s mysteries about Homer Kelly, a homicide detective turned Harvard professor, have delighted fans with their wide-ranging erudition, intriguing characters, gentle humor, acute sense of place, social conscience, and charming illustrations.”

The first of Langton’s 18 Kelly novels was 1964’s The Transcendental Murder (aka The Minuteman Murder); the last was Steeplechase (2005). The series’ fifth entry, Emily Dickinson Is Dead, captured the 1984 Nero Wolfe Award (given out by the New York-based Nero Wolfe Society) and was nominated for an Edgar Award. Just last year, Langton received the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award. Mystery Fanfare offers a bit more information about her career here.

The New York Times reports that Langton “died on [December 22] in hospice care near her home in Lincoln, Mass. She was 95.”

READ MORE:Metaphysical Coincidence: Brian Garfield, 1939-2018,” by Fred Fitch (The Westlake Review).


Craig said...

Very sorry to hear about Brian Garfield's death. I never read "Death Wish" or its sequel, but I very much enjoyed the book that he and Donald E. Westlake wrote together, which was titled "Gangway." It's a Western heist novel, or as the co-authors called it. "the world's first comedy romance suspense pirate western adventure novel."

Mike Ripley said...

Sad news about Brian Garfield. With books such as "Kolchak's Gold" and "The Paladin" he showed us Brits that Americans were really quite good at historical thrillers, something I hope I properly acknowledged in my reader's history, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang".