Saturday, July 11, 2020

Bullet Points: One Heck of Giant Edition

• Chris Sullivan, who writes the fine blog Morse, Lewis and Endeavour, confirms that the popular ITV-TV series Endeavour, starring Shaun Evans and Roger Allam, “will end as predicted, at 33 episodes.” Endeavour is, of course, a prequel to the long-running small-screen drama Inspector Morse, both of them based on characters created by Colin Dexter. “It is no surprise to those who believed that Russell Lewis, the creator and writer of all the Endeavour episodes, would not go beyond the number of episodes that the original Morse series and the Lewis series stopped at,” Sullivan remarks. This means there will be eight seasons of Endeavour altogether, with the final one comprising only three episodes. That’s the same number of installments found in Series 7, which was already broadcast in Great Britain this last February, but will debut in the States on PBS-TV’s Masterpiece Mystery! come Sunday, August 9. Here’s a trailer for the new season.

• If you want a jump on that August debut, and aren’t  squeamish about plot spoilers, check out The Killing Times’ reviews of those Series 7 installments: Episode 1, Episode 2, and Episode 3.

Since I last took note, The Columbophile has rolled out three more posts in its series identifying “The 100 Greatest Columbo Scenes of the 1970s.” Part 6 is here and includes a great clip from the Season 3 episode “Double Exposure,” in which Peter Falk’s Lieutenant Columbo rattles his prime suspect (played by Robert Culp) during his golf game. Part 7 features a scene from the Season 2 installment “Requiem for a Falling Star” in which renowned American costume designer Edith Head has a cameo role. And in Part 8, look for guest murderer Patrick McGoohan to offer Columbo some cigar etiquette in the Season 4 episode “By Dawn's Early Light.” (By the way, McGoohan scored an Emmy Award for that performance.”) The Columbophile’s unnamed author has so far covered 80 of his or her 100 choices. The penultimate post in this project is slated to appear tomorrow.

• When I read that 82-year-old New Mexico author Rudolfo Anaya died on June 28 at his home in Albuquerque, I didn’t immediately recognize any link with crime fiction. After all, I associated him with mainstream fiction, especially his best-selling 1972 novel, Bless Me, Ultima, and also with his children’s stories. It was The Gumshoe Site’s Jiro Kimura who reminded me that, in addition to Anaya being “regarded as one of the founders of contemporary Chicano literature,” he had penned a quartet of mysteries starring a Mexican-American high school teacher turned private eye, Sonny Baca. Three of those novels were published in the 1990s, beginning with Zia Summer (1995). The fourth, Jemez Spring, didn’t appear until 2005.

• It’s been almost half a dozen years since novelist P.D. James passed away at age 94. If you need an introduction to her oeuvre or a reminder of her significant contributions to the genre, click onto this terrific piece from Neil Nyren, in CrimeReads.

Really, “emoticons” date back to 1881?

• This is good news: Vienna Blood, the BBC-TV drama based on Frank Tallis’ Max Lieberman historical mysteries, and set in early 20th-century Vienna, has been renewed. “Three feature-length episodes have been ordered for the show’s second run,” says The Killing Times, “and BBC Two will once again serve as the UK broadcaster.” The show’s return is expected in Britain in 2021. There’s no word yet on when Americans might enjoy these fresh Vienna Blood stories.

• A six-episode ITV-TV adaptation A Spy Among Friends, Ben McIntyre’s 2014 non-fiction book about the Cambridge spy ring, will bring together an assortment of stars and writers with “some serious spy experience on their résumé,” according to Double O Section. That blog’s Matthew Bradford writes that “Damian Lewis (Our Kind of Traitor) will reunite with his Homeland producer Alexander Cary (the Taken TV show) to star as [Nicholas] Elliott. Dominic West (The Hour, Johnny English Reborn) will play [Kim] Philby, who has been portrayed in the past by Toby Stephens, Tom Hollander, Anthony Bate, and Billy Cruddup.” The show is scheduled for broadcast in fall of 2021.

• Our favorite genre is offering succor to many Brits forced inside by COVID-19. “Britain’s readers have been emerging from lockdown to restock their bookshelves, with book sales—and particularly crime novels—booming in the three weeks since booksellers were allowed to open their doors,” reports Alison Flood of The Guardian.
The print market continued its healthy run since England’s bookshops reopened on 15 June, with 3.8m books sold in the last week, for £32.6m, up from 3.1m (making £26.9m) at the same time last year. This is a 15% increase in value on last week and 21% year-on-year.

Sales in the last three weeks are up 19% on the same period in 2019, according to book sales monitor Nielsen, with almost 11m titles worth £94m sold over the period. Readers have been pouncing on stories of murder and revenge, with nearly 120,000 more crime and thriller books bought in the last two weeks of June, when compared to the same point last year.
• Just as the COVID-19 crisis was beginning, back in March, blogger Evan Lewis brought us a four-part BBC Radio adaptation of Hammett’s early Secret Agent X-9 yarns. (If you missed those, click here, here, here, and here to listen.) Last weekend he followed up by posting the four-hour, 13-episode, action-packed entirety of a 1945 film serial starring future Sea Hunt hunk Lloyd Bridges as Phil Corrigan/X-9. When you have enough free time, tune it in here.

Chicago Tribune film critic Gene Siskel really didn’t like the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye, the first in the series to star ex-Remington Steele lead Pierce Brosnan. “I think he isn’t an interesting Bond,” said Siskel. “I like [Sean] Connery and everybody else has been nothing compared to Connery. Frankly, Roger Moore has a more commanding physical performance than this guy. I thought this was an average picture. … I can’t recommend this picture at all.”

• Incidentally, GoldenEye premiered 25 years ago this coming November. Do you think it might be time for a rewatch?

• Why crime fiction might be the perfect genre for our coronavirus times: “Through crime fiction,” explains author Sulari Gentill (A Dangerous Language), “we have faced all manner of peril, defended the unjustly accused, protected intended victims. We have been selfless and fearless, we have been seekers of truth and justice, someone’s last hope. We have trained for crisis.”

• It was a couple of weeks ago that I announced my tally of favorite U.S. crime novels published during the first half of 2020. Last weekend, librarian-turned-blogger Lesa Holstine issued a comparable list of her own. Holstine’s picks extend beyond mystery fiction, but she does include Tracy Clark's What You Don't See, Paul D. Marks’ The Blues Don’t Care, and Katharine Schellman’s The Body in the Garden.

• This item comes from In Reference to Murder:
Killer Nashville is the latest event to announce it’s canceling for 2020 due to the pandemic, … the new travel bans and the recent upsurge of cases in Tennessee. They’re going to postpone Killer Nashville 2020 and roll everyone’s registrations forward to KN 2021 (August 19-22, 2021). Founder Clay Stafford added that “It was a hard choice, but the safety and well-being of our friends is our most important consideration. These are tough and uncharted times.” This year’s special guests were to be Lisa Black, J.T. Ellison, and Walter Mosley.
• Other conventions are seeking ways to carry on. Mystery in the Midlands, for instance, has scheduled a live Webinar for Saturday, July 25, that will include appearances by Charlaine Harris, Jeffery Deaver, Tara Laskowski, Art Taylor, and Dana Cameron. Register here.

• If you didn’t catch it already, here’s my Killer Covers gallery of artist James Bama’s splendid paperback fronts showcasing “teenagers either causing trouble or trying to find their own way in a confusing new world of sex, drugs, and yes, rock ’n’ roll.”

• As you’re probably already aware, Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz have co-authored a new criminal history, Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher: Hunting America’s Deadliest Unidentified Serial Killer at the Dawn of Modern Criminology (Morrow), due out in August. (It’s a follow-up to their 2018 collaboration, Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago.) What you may not know, is that Collins has also signed with Las Vegas-based Wolfpack Publishing to reissue his four Eliot Ness historical thrillers, beginning with a new omnibus edition released earlier this month. In his blog, Collins explains that this relationship with Wolfpack—a “hybrid” house that “place[s] primary importance on e-books and secondary importance on real books, which are Print-on-Demand”—will give him the chance to resurrect backlist titles, publish new short-story collections, and add to existing or discontinued series. “I can do a Jack and Maggie Starr or a Mallory or a ‘disaster’ or a Perdition prequel or a Black Hats sequel or even—should the current publishers stop doing them—new Spillane titles. Wolfpack is interested in whatever I might want to do. This feels incredibly liberating.”

• I have enjoyed the blog Paperback Warrior almost since the day it debuted seven years ago this week. And one of its most engaging ingredients is the much-newer Paperback Warrior Podcast, focusing on vintage adventure and crime novels as well as the authors behind those works. A couple of recent entries have been particular standouts: Episode 50, which looks back in part at Thomas B. Dewey’s life and writing career; and Episode 51, addressing the work of “CIA operative, Watergate burglar, and vintage genre fiction author [E.] Howard Hunt.” You can catch up with all of the podcasts here.

• Speaking of Hunt, I see that a couple of the novels he wrote pseudonymously (as “Robert Dietrich”) about “two-fisted, hard-drinking CPA detective, Steve Bentley,” are available again in print, thanks to Lee Goldberg’s new imprint, Cutting Edge Books. The House on Q Street, originally released in 1959, can be purchased here, while The Calypso Caper (1961) is newly obtainable right here. Cutting Edge is offering additional Dietrich works in e-book format only. For more info, click here.

• I somehow missed the welcome news that Steeger Books is reissuing—in both softcover and e-book formats—the 1952-1973 Milo March series, starring “a high-flying, globetrotting investigator for Intercontinental Insurance.” “Written by Green Lama creator Kendell Foster Crossen under the [M.E.] Chaber pen name, the Milo March thrillers are fondly recalled by paperback collectors for the spectacular Robert McGinnis paintings on the covers of the 1970s series,” explains the publisher. “These remastered, uniform editions include the original texts, restored by Kendra Crossen Burroughs, her father’s literary executor and the series editor. New bonus articles, interviews, and rare images are featured in most of the volumes.” Steeger is already selling six March titles, with 17 more to come by the end of this year—“including the final, unpublished March novel,” Death to the Brides.

• Mick Finlay, Glasgow-born author of the new mystery Arrowood and the Thames Corpses, reconsiders the 2007 book Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters and pronounces it “a real treat for Sherlock Holmes fans. The letters were written to Doyle’s family, publishers and others, but most of them are to his ‘Mam,’ who he was very close to all his life. He describes her as a wonderful storyteller, and attributes his own gifts to her influence, while his gift for dramatic effect came from his father, an artist whose alcoholism led to lengthy stays in sanitoria and asylums in the latter part of his life. As well as some fascinating insights into Conan Doyle’s personal life and politics, they also provide some background to the development of the Sherlock Holmes stories.” Finlay’s full essay can be enjoyed at this link.

An unusually nice photo cover for a crime-fiction mag.

• British actor Peter Cushing, said to have been “a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes,” starred in the 1959 big-screen production The Hound of the Baskervilles. He later returned to sleuthing in a 1968 run of the BBC-TV series Sherlock Holmes. (See the show’s opening titles here.) Cushing apparently played Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous consulting detective in 15 installments of that hour-long series, taking over from Douglas Wilmer. However, only six were known to have survived, the remainder said to have been wiped “to allow tape stock to be re-used.” Now, though, The Killing Times brings word that at least some clips from those missing episodes have been found, thanks to “an intense search” by Yorkshire Post reporter Tony Earnshaw.

• Because I’ve long been a fan of the 1971-1977 NBC Mystery Movie series McMillan & Wife, starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, I must draw your attention to Steve Lewis’ generally complimentary review, in Mystery*File, of that show’s first regular installment, “Murder by the Barrel.” The full-episode video is included.

• This is curious: Midnight Atlanta, the third book in U.S. author Thomas Mullen’s outstanding series about mid-20th-century Georgia police officers Lucius Boggs, Tommy Smith, and Denny Rakestraw, is already available in the UK, from Little, Brown. However, there’s no American edition of the novel. Both of Mullen’s previous series entries appeared in the States (from 37 Ink, an Atria Books imprint) months before the were released in Britain. Why is Midnight Atlanta the exception? So far, I see no word on the Web about when Mullen’s new novel might reach U.S. bookshops.

Bloomberg Businessweek has studied the murderers in Agatha Christie’s mysteries, and charted the age, sex, profession, relationship to the victim, and homicidal methods used by each of them. The bottom line: “In Agatha Christie’s novels, murder and financial fraud are often intertwined. The murderers are more likely to be men, are partial to poison, and frequently commit the crime as part of a scam such as winning an inheritance.” See all of the results here.

• I’ve never read Joel Townsley RogersThe Red Right Hand. But with Penzler Publishers having recently brought that acclaimed 1945 novel back into print as part of its American Mystery Classics line, I have another chance to do so. Joe R. Lansdale’s introduction to this edition leaves me further intrigued. As he observes: “At times, while reading Rogers’s peculiar book, I felt as if I were seeing the world through a dark and grease-smeared window pane that would frequently turn clear and light up in spewing colors like a firework display on the Fourth of July. At the same time there was the sensation of something damp and dark creeping up behind me, a cold chill on the back of my neck. Clues and odd impressions pile up like plague victims, and from time to time the answer to the riddle seems close at hand, as if you could reach out and grasp it. Then the answer that seemed so clear wriggles from your grasp like an electric eel and slithers into darkness.”

• Has it been a while since you last consulted The Rap Sheet’s inventory of Summer 2020 crime-fiction releases? Then you might want to revisit it, as I have made many additions over the last month.

• There’s nothing secret about my fondness for Olivia Rutigliano’s contributions to CrimeReads. I favor her work partly because so much of it glances back at the history of this genre, in all media. Case in point: her recent piece about the jailing of Dashiell Hammett, after the quondam Pinkerton agent and private-eye novelist ran afoul of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in 1951. Another Rutigliano piece that won my immediate attention remarked on “the endless symbolism of Jaws, which owes its dark soul to Moby Dick.” (The 45th anniversary of that movie’s release was June 20.) Her spoiler-filled essay begins:
I watch Jaws every year on the Fourth of July, in view of its timelessness as well as its seasonality. Jaws is specifically set during Independence Day. It also generally invented the ‘summer blockbuster,’ a detail which makes its 1975 premiere on midsummer’s eve seem quite significant, in hindsight. Like the shark that arrives off the coast of Amity Island in the film’s famous opening scene, Jaws arrived unassumingly at the start of the season and caused a frenzy that would ripple out far past Labor Day. It became one of our greatest filmmaking touchstones: a marvelously intellectual monster movie, an arbiter of cinematic summer, a technical origin story for the boy-genius director who would become Steven Spielberg. It is also a touch prescient. It is one of those eerie films that, to me, feels a little sibylline, a little otherworldly. It seems to sit at the nexus of everything—the past, the future, high art, popular entertainment, mythology, history—as a film whose deliverance certainly revolutionized filmmaking and scared everyone from going in the ocean, but also stands as a vessel for the summoning of mankind for reflection and atonement.
New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis offers her own take on the initial impact and enduring legacy of Jaws here.

• Could a motion picture based on Luther, the popular BBC psychological crime drama starring Idris Elba, finally be in the offing? While speaking with Deadline about his new Sky-TV comedy, In the Long Run, Elba said: “I’ve made it very clear that I’d like to see Luther come back as a film. And I can tell you this, that we are this close to making a film of Luther.” Of course, as Deadline notes, this is “not the first time Elba has talked about the BBC Studios show heading to the big screen. He told [the British newspaper] Metro in 2018 that Luther writer Neil Cross has been ‘beavering away’ on a feature script.” Will such talk ever amount to something?

Vulture talks with writers, directors, and others about the challenges of presenting TV cop dramas in the post-George Floyd era.

• How might school history textbooks of the future summarize and try to make sense of this crazy year, 2020? Historian James West Davidson speculates on that subject in The Atlantic.

• Real people have spent the months-long COVID-19 lockdown in different ways, not all of them worth reporting or free of embarrassment. But what about some of our favorite crime-fiction protagonists? What have they been up to amid this health crisis? Scott Montgomery, of Bookpeople, in Austin, Texas, asked Joe R. Lansdale, Laura Lippman, Mark Pryor, Craig Johnson, and Megan Abbott to imagine their creations’ self-quarantine escapades.

From Elizabeth Foxwell’s The Bunburyist: “The In GAD We Trust podcast chats with short-story sleuth Tony Medawar, who has uncovered unknown or neglected works by authors such as Christianna Brand, John Dickson Carr, Agatha Christie, Anthony Berkeley Cox, Edmund Crispin, Ngaio Marsh, and Dorothy L. Sayers. Medawar talks about his favorite mystery finds and other discoveries he has made. A new volume in Medawar’s Bodies from the Library series will be out in October in the United States.”

• A few other writer exchanges worth finding: For his Author Interviews blog, Marshal Zeringue talks with J. Todd Scott (Lost River) and Chris Nickson (The Molten City); Speaking of Mysteries podcast host Nancie Clare quizzes Cathi Stoler (Bar None) and Michael Elias (You Can Go Home Now); Jeff Rutherford pitches questions at T.R. Ragan (Don’t Make a Sound) for his Reading and Writing Podcast; and Do Some Damage’s Steve Weddle chats with Jay Stringer about the latter’s new book, Marah Chase and the Fountain of Youth.

• In another episode of Open Book on Location, authors Lee Goldberg, Nicholas Meyer, and Leslie S. Klinger got together virtually to talk about their writing processes, movie/TV tie-in novels, their respective reading histories, Hollywood, and more.

• I forgot to mention this before, but The Nick Carter & Carter Brown Blog spent the month of May saluting—with book covers—the prolific work of , who wrote under the Carter Brown pseudonym. Those fronts can all be seen here.

• At the Villa Rose’s Xavier Lechard muses on Golden Age investigators who occasionally took justice into their own hands.

• Finally, Flashbak offers a sometimes-shocking selection of vintage crime-scene images, taken by the Los Angeles Police Department and barely saved from destruction. “In 2014,” the site explains, “Los Angeles-based photographer Merrick Morton (a onetime LAPD reserve officer) spotted a derelict stash of LAPD crime photos dating from the 1920s to 1970s. The cellulose nitrate-based film and negatives were decomposed and deemed as fire hazard. … Now spruced up, the macabre collection includes photographs of crimes, many of them violent. … There’s an unusual photo of Maila Nurmi dressed as Vampira, pictures of comedian Lenny Bruce’s overdose in March of 1966 and images of the Manson Family arriving at their arraignment in 1970.” That post is definitely not safe for work.

1 comment:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Whew! Took me a long time to read it. Writing it must have been a days' work.