Monday, April 22, 2019

Bullet Points Mini-Edition

• Former Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany has joined the cast of HBO-TV’s forthcoming Perry Mason mini-series, which I understand will be set in 1930s Los Angeles and star Matthew Rhys (The Americans). Deadline says Maslany will play the Aimee Semple McPherson-like Sister Alice, “the leader of the Radiant Assembly of God, preaching three sermons a day (21 a week!) to a hungry congregation and a radio audience that spans the country. Entertainer, politician, God’s conduit to the City of Angels, Sister Alice wields great power when she speaks, and plans to use it in ways only she can know.”

• In other television news, two popular crime novels—Will Dean’s Dark Pines and Liv Constantine’s The Last Mrs. Parrish—are both headed toward small-screen development.

The Gumshoe Site brings news that New York author-playwright Warren Adler passed away on April 15 at age 91. Cause of death is given as “complications from liver cancer.” Jiro Kimura writes:
The former owner of [an] advertising and public-relations agency wrote his first novel, Options (Whitmore Publishing, 1974; later reprinted as Undertow; Stonehouse Press, 2001), a thriller, and kept writing novels—mostly crime novels—quite prolifically till his death. He may be most famous as the author of The War of the Roses (Grand Central, 1981) and Random Hearts (Scribner, 1984). The former was adapted into the 1989 movie starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, while the latter [was made] into the 1999 film starring Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas. He created the series character Fiona Fitzgerald, a homicide detective in Washington, D.C., who was introduced in American Quartet (Arbor House, 1982), and featured in eight other novels. The last one was Red Herring (Rosetta Books), and the 2002 TV movie, “Fiona,” was broadcast with Kellie Martin as Fiona Fitzgerald. His last novel was probably Last Call (CreateSpace, 2018).
The New York Times and Variety have further details.

• Back in February, AARP: The Magazine carried a quite moving essay by Adler, which is worth revisiting now. In it, he relates the difficulty of caring for his wife of 67 years, Sonia, who has long suffered from dementia. “I do not believe she suffers emotional distress, but I do,” Adler wrote. “Witnessing her decline is debilitating. I kept her at home with round-the-clock care until two years ago, when it became unsafe for her to stay there because she had become aggressive and would wander. Now I live alone in the home we shared, and I am trying to cope with the bruising experience of loneliness.”

• CrimeReads has posted a variety of interesting pieces lately, including Dwyer Murphy’s look at “20 Crime Novels that Probably, in Retrospect, Overestimated the Dangers of Marijuana”; Nathan Ward’s tribute to the fictional Crimeways magazine; Paul French’s survey of crime fiction set in Kingston, Jamaica (which should also have mentioned David Goodis’ The Wounded and the Slain); and Paul Abbott’s spoiler-filled encomium to Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series.

• By the way, that McBain piece led me to a Web resource with which I was not previously acquainted: Hark! The 87th Precinct Podcast, dedicated to McBain’s “ground-breaking police procedural series,” and hosted by the aforementioned Paul Abbott. Hard to believe I’d never heard of this before, as it debuted in November 2016.

• Television Obscurities offers upan unusual 60-second promotional spot” for NBC-TV’s fall 1974 prime-time lineup. It features neither the names of new and returning shows, nor any footage from those programs. Instead, it showcases still photos of its series stars—familiar ones, such as Rock Hudson and Susan St. James (McMillan & Wife), Raymond Burr (Ironside), and Martin Milner (Adam-12); and that season’s newcomers, among them James Garner (The Rockford Files), Jessica Walter (Amy Prentiss), and Barry Newman (Petrocelli). In those days, NBC was the place to find interesting crime dramas.

• Wow! Here’s a CBS-TV pilot I thought I would never see again: The Jordan Chance, starring Raymond Burr, whose third small-screen series—the short-lived Kingston: Confidential—had gone off the air more than a year before this two-hour flick first aired, on December 12, 1978. As Lee Goldberg observes in Unsold Television Pilots: 1955-1989, The Jordan Chance (produced by Roy Huggins and written by Stephen J. Cannell) starred Burr as Frank Jordan, “an attorney who was once wrongly imprisoned and is now dedicated to helping others who are unjustly accused or punished for crimes they did not commit.” In addition to Burr, the film’s cast includes Ted Shackelford, Jeannie Fitzsimmons, James Canning, and Stella Stevens. At least for the nonce, that full movie is available on YouTube.

• Incidentally, don’t confuse The Jordan Chance with an earlier but equally unsuccessful pilot, 1976’s Mallory: Circumstantial Evidence. Goldberg recalls in his book that it featured a curiously curly haired Burr as Arthur Mallory, “a once-famous lawyer whose career floundered after [he was] unjustly accused of coercing a client to commit perjury. Though cleared by the Bar, his reputation is still tarnished.” Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate that particular telefilm (which also starred Robert Loggia and a pre-Star Wars Mark Hamill) anywhere online, but a clip from the picture was shown as part of this 1976 Tonight Show interview with Burr.

• The Web site Crime Fiction Lover proposes “12 South African Crime Writers to Add to Your Reading List,” among them Ekow Duker. Lauren Beukes. Imraan Coovadia, and Margie Orford. Sadly, I have not yet read works by any of those four.

• Talk about monetary inflation! The latest of B.V. Lawson’s “Media Murder for Monday” posts says that “Bumblebee director Travis Knight is set to tackle the Mark Wahlberg-starring Six Billion Dollar Man (after helmer and co-writer, Damian Szifron, stepped down in 2017). The long-awaited project stars Wahlberg as Col. Steve Austin, a downed pilot who is saved by an operation that makes him part machine. The project is a big-screen adaptation of the classic 1970s TV show that starred Lee Majors.” Remember, that earlier science-fiction program was titled The Six Million Dollar Man.

• With this being Earth Day, Janet Rudolph has updated her quite lengthy list of “Environmental/Ecological Mysteries.”

• Let’s welcome back Unlawful Acts. David Nemeth’s blog went ominously dark in mid-February, leading to speculation that he had given up the venture. However, he’s been back on the job as of last week, posting daily links to stories about crime and mystery fiction, and less frequent lists of upcoming small-press releases.

• Although it provides no real insight into Hulu-TV’s eight-episode revival of Veronica Mars—due to launch in late July—this short teaser suggests the series hasn’t lost its sassy, sarcastic edge.

• And B.D. McClay of The Hedgehog Review supplies a fine defense of thesauruses as valuable reference works for writers. “To be clear: I am not somebody who is particularly patient about English errors,” McClay explains. “I still insist that ‘begs the question’ should not ever be used in place of ‘raising the question.’ I have very little time for ill-conceived metaphors. But I don’t blame the thesaurus. I blame not thinking about what you’re saying, which you can’t reasonably expect any reference guide to prevent. At least somebody who looks up a word in a thesaurus is putting a little work in.”

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