Thursday, March 12, 2020

Bullet Points: Pandemic (Yikes!) Edition

• I mentioned here in January that American network CBS-TV was developing a crime-drama series around Clarice Starling, the FBI agent first introduced in Thomas Harris’ best-selling 1988 novel, The Silence of the Lambs. At the time, there was no star slated to fill the title role in Clarice, but Deadline reported recently that 32-year-old Australian actress Rebecca Breeds (Pretty Little Liars, The Originals) has been hired for the job. Deadline notes that Breeds (right) “is taking on the role that earned Jodie Foster an Oscar for the 1991 movie adaptation directed by Jonathan Demme. In 2001’s Hannibal, based on Harris’ 1999 novel, which was set 10 years after Silence of the Lambs, Clarice was played by Julianne Moore. (Hat tip to January Magazine.)

• The finalists for this year’s Lambda Literary Awards—aka the “Lammys”—have been announced in 24 categories. These annual prizes, now in their 32nd year, are sponsored by Lambda Literary, “the nation’s oldest and largest literary arts organization advancing LGBTQ literature.” Below are the contenders for best lesbian and gay mystery.

Lesbian Mystery:
The Blood Runs Cold, by Catherine Maiorisi (Bella)
Galileo, by Ann McMan (Bywater)
The Hound of Justice, by Claire O’Dell (Harper Voyager)
The Mirror of Muraro, by Amelia Ellis (Newton Pryce Ingram)
Twisted at the Root, by Ellen Hart (Minotaur)

Gay Mystery:
Carved in Bone, by Michael Nava (Persigo Press)
ChoirMaster, by Michael Craft (Questover Press)
Death Takes a Bow, by David S. Pederson (Bold Strokes)
The Fourth Courier, by Timothy Jay Smith (Arcade)
The Nowhere, by Chris Gill (PRNTD)
The Quaker, by Liam McIlvanney (World Noir)
Rewind, by Marshall Thornton (Kenmore)
Royal Street Reveillon, by Greg Herren (Bold Strokes)

Winners are to be announced during a ceremony held in New York City on Monday, June 8. (Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

• In Reference to Murder reminds us that 2020 brings at least two notable crime-fiction anniversaries: “it’s been sixty years since the [release of the] 1960 Alfred Hitchcock psychological horror film, Psycho, which was based on the Wisconsin killer and graveyard robber, Ed Gein; and it’s also the 50th anniversary of Tony Hillerman’s The Blessing Way, the first book to introduce Navajo police officer Joe Leaphorn.” According to The New Mexican, Hillerman’s novel debuted on March 11, 1970. Psycho saw its premiere on June 16, 1960, at New York City’s DeMille Theatre (aka Columbia Theatre).

• Max Allan Collins’ long-awaited 17th Nathan Heller novel, Do No Harm, was released this week by Forge. Concurrently, Collins recalled in his blog some of the difficulties he’d had fitting his fictional Chicago private eye into the real-life case involving Ohio doctor Sam Sheppard and the July 1954 murder of Sheppard’s first wife, Marilyn—a crime that may have helped inspire David Janssen’s 1963-1967 TV series The Fugitive, and that Collins says “has fascinated me since 1961.” An excerpt from Do No Harm can be found here.

• Did Scottish violinist and mystery author William Crawford Honeyman (1845–1919) provide inspiration to Arthur Conan Doyle in his creation of “consulting detective” Sherlock Holmes?

• Regrettably, I must acknowledge the recent deaths of three people familiar to the mystery-fiction community. First, Barbara Neely, author of the four-novel Blanche White series (Blanche on the Lam, etc.), “which had at its center a nomadic amateur detective and domestic worker who uses the invisibility inherent to her job as an advantage in pursuit of the truth,” as the Associated Press explains. Just three months ago, Neely was named by the Mystery Writers of America as the winner of its 2020 Grand Master Award. She passed away on March 2, at age 78, as a result of a heart ailment. (CrimeReads provides a fine tribute to Neely’s work here.) Second, former trial attorney Laura Caldwell, who, recalls the Chicago Tribune, penned “a trilogy of mysteries (Red Hot Lies, Red Blooded Murder and Red White & Dead) in 2009, all featuring a Chicago-based attorney/private investigator named Izzy McNeil …” Caldwell was only 52 years old when she died of breast cancer on March 1. Finally, we said good-bye on March 8 to Swedish-born actor Max von Sydow. Although he was closely associated with films by director Ingmar Bergman, and made his U.S. movie debut in 1965’s much-criticized The Greatest Story Ever Told, von Sydow also portrayed villains in Three Days of the Condor (1975) and the 1983 James Bond flick, Never Say Never Again. He even did a turn in a 1985 Kojak TV picture, Kojak: The Belarus File, starring Telly Savalas. Von Sydow perished just one month shy of his 91st birthday.

• Shortly after I posted this obituary of author Clive Cussler, Neil Nyren, the former editor-in-chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons and now editor-at-large for CrimeReads, let me know that Publishers Weekly would soon “be running a piece by me … about being Clive’s editor.” That fine, fond remembrance can finally be relished here.

For anyone who didn’t know this already:
Humphrey Bogart will go down in history as the actor most associated with the detective character Phillip Marlowe, but he wasn’t the first actor to play him, and he wasn’t author Raymond Chandler’s first preference.

In 1944, the washed-up musical star Dick Powell played the sleuth in the first film adaptation of a Chandler novel,
Farewell, My Lovely (retitled to Murder, My Sweet, lest it seem like another musical). The movie relaunched Powell’s career, and Chandler was not disappointed with the casting decision. Powell bought an air of refinement that Chandler had initially envisioned for his P.I. But actually, he said later, the actor he most wanted to play his detective was Cary Grant.
• Deadline reports that “Showtime has found its missing President. Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale) has been cast in the key role opposite David Oyelowo in The President Is Missing, Showtime’s drama pilot based on the novel by President Bill Clinton and James Patterson from Christopher McQuarrie and Anthony Peckham. In The President Is Missing pilot, a powerless and politically aimless vice president (Oyelowo) unexpectedly becomes president halfway into his administration’s first term when President Jillian Stroud (Dowd) goes missing, despite his every wish to the contrary. He walks right into a secret, world-threatening crisis, both inside and outside the White House. Attacked by friends and enemies alike, with scandal and conspiracy swirling around him, he is confronted with a terrible choice: keep his head down, toe the party line and survive, or act on his stubborn, late-developing conscience and take a stand.”

• Short-story writer Chris McGinley makes the case that Charles Brockden Brown’s forgotten Edgar Huntly, or Memoirs of a Sleepwalker (1798) was “the first true rural noir in American letters.”

• I know Lee Goldberg primarily as a prolific author (Fake Truth) and as the co-founder of Brash Books. But not long ago, he also launched Cutting Edge, an imprint he says was “created for stuff that doesn’t fit into Brash … mostly vintage crime and thrillers from the late ’50s and early ’60s, some non-fiction, some literary fiction, and some westerns.” Among the yarns already available from Cutting Edge are e-book versions of Sterling Noel’s I See Red (1955), Geoffrey Wagner’s Season of Assassins (1961), and The House on Q Street (1959), by “Robert Dietrich,” aka E. Howard Hunt, plus paperback reprints of all four of James Howard’s novels starring “itinerant newspaper man” Steve Ashe. I have read only one of those four, 1957’s Die on Easy Street, but can finally now get my hands on the remainder: I’ll Get You Yet (1954), I Like It Tough (1955), and Blow Out My Torch (1956). Such a treat! To learn more about each of these titles, and more, and to see what’s coming soon from Cutting Edge, refer to the imprint’s Web site or its Facebook page.

• If you’re like me, you are hoping soon to enjoy a fifth entry in David Hewson’s dramatic series starring Amsterdam police detective Pieter Vos and his country-reared colleague, Laura Bakker (The House of Dolls, Little Sister, etc.). Unfortunately, no such book yet seems on the horizon. UK author Hewson has, however, just made available for downloading a Vos short story titled “Bad Apple.”

• CrimeReads posted a fascinating piece earlier this week about “poison pen letter crimes” of the early 20th century, by Curtis Evans (Murder in the Closet). While you’re visiting that online periodical—which celebrated its second birthday on March 7—be sure to also take a gander at Paul French’s appraisal of crime fiction based in Saigon, Vietnam, Katie Orphan’s survey of the Los Angeles locales used in James M. Cain’s novels, and Tessa Wegert’s essay, “How Do You Write a Mystery When Every Plot Is Taken?” A trio of slightly older articles worth tracking down, too: Laura James’ “brief history of beauty as a surprisingly effective legal defense”; Ashawnta Jackson’s analysis of “how Isaac Hayes' soundtrack to Shaft ushered in an era of iconic Blaxploitation cinema”; and L. Wayne Hicks’ look back at the writing career of C.W. Grafton, father of author Sue Grafton.

• One of the books I’m looking forward to reading this season is Loren D. Estleman’s Indigo, his fifth novel about L.A. “film detective” Valentino. In advance of that work’s May 26 release, publisher Forge has posted the initial four chapters online. Hurrah!

• San Francisco-area novelist Mark Coggins’ latest August Riordan private eye novel, The Dead Beat Scroll, was published last September. Since, he contributed this photo feature to Mystery Tribune, showcasing some of the Fog City sites figuring into that yarn.

• In his blog, Men’s Pulp Mags, Robert Deis offers a quite favorable critique of a 2019 book to which I contributed, Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980, edited by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre. Deis opines, in part: “Sticking It to the Man is not your typical book about vintage paperbacks. It’s one that combines insightful paperback reviews with heavily-researched cultural and political history, pop culture history, and author profiles and interviews. And, it includes contributions written by more than 20 knowledgeable academics and other experts Nette and McIntyre recruited for the project.” Find out more here.

• Meanwhile, a reviewer for the literary mag NB lists my essay, “Black Is Beautiful,” as one of his favorite pieces in Sticking It to the Man.

• Mystery Fanfare alerts us to a special offer being made by the organizers of Bouchercon 2021, to be held in New Orleans, Louisiana: The first 200 registrants will pay only $175 to participate, while other attendees will be charged $195. At last check, the 200 threshold had not yet been reached. It’s your lucky day!

In a recent interview, Spy Vibe’s Jason Whiton spoke with Ian Dickerson, author of A Saint I Ain’t: The Biography of Leslie Charteris. Of course, Charteris was “the creator of Simon Templar, a modern-day Robin Hood who was better known as The Saint.”

• For Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Peter Swanson (Eight Perfect Murders) addresses the ever-important question, “what can novels teach us about getting away with murder?

• Speaking of “Getting Away with Murder,” that’s the name of the column UK reviewer/raconteur Mike Ripley composes each month for Shots. His March edition includes remarks about the annual Penguin Books crime party, Icelander Snorri Sturluson’s King Harald’s Saga (“which was [possibly] first published in 1230),” and new or forthcoming works by Kathryn Harkup (Death by Shakespeare), Peter Morfoot (Knock ’Em Dead), Stephanie Wrobel (The Recovery of Rose Gold, aka Darling Rose Gold), and Jim Kelly (Night Raids).

• And as you negotiate the COVID-19 pandemic, revisit this piece I wrote last year about crime novels set amid disasters.

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