Thursday, June 24, 2021

Bullet Points: Back from Vacation Edition

I spent last week in Minneapolis, Minnesota, visiting my best friend from college, Byron Rice. The break from work was much appreciated. Beyond sampling a new restaurant or two, imbibing some novel local beers, and engaging in a bit of birdwatching, we also did touristy things, such as visiting George Floyd Square, the memorial created at the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, where in the spring of 2020, a white cop knelt fatally upon the neck of a 46-year-old hip hop artist and mentor, setting off social-justice protests worldwide. (See the photo above; that’s yours truly on the left.) We paid an extended call on Once Upon a Crime, a fine indie bookshop in the Whittier neighborhood, specializing in mystery fiction, where—among other things—I procured a couple of William Campbell Gault books not already in my collection. And we swung by Magers & Quinn Booksellers, on Hennepin Avenue, to browse its broader array of works.

Oh, and of course, we spent a lot of time reading out in Byron’s backyard—in shade whenever possible, as temperatures ranged from the high-80s to the mid-90s. I made my way through four books: The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer, by Dean Jobb (Algonquin); People of Abandoned Character, by Clare Whitfield (Head of Zeus); The Killing Hills, by Chris Offutt (Grove Press); and Ridley’s War (FriesenPress), the second novel by sometime Rap Sheet contributor Jim Napier. I might have read more, but I felt the need periodically to toss tennis balls around with Byron’s dog, Shiloh—an endeavor that resulted in my sailing a couple over the back fence, never to be seen again. (Whoops!)

One weird thing happened on the flight back to Seattle. About half an hour before we landed, cabin attendants were summoned to assist a guy—maybe in his 40s—who was seated at the window two rows forward of me and on the left. He seemed to have stopped breathing, and a quick call was put out to anyone aboard with medical training. An evidently experienced older doctor and several younger men and women rushed to help, moving the patient out into the aisle at my feet, where they began administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The patient was eventually relocated to the rear galley, where there was supposed to be more room. When we landed, emergency personnel rushed onto the plane and carried the man into the airport terminal. The rest of us were kept onboard for most of the next hour, and eventually off-loaded down a movable staircase onto the tarmac. We never did hear what had happened to the man, though I caught the end of a comment from one of the flight attendants, who said something about how it had been “too late by the time we got to him.”

Since my return home, I’ve searched for news online about this incident, but have come up with absolutely nothing.

I have, however, turned up a number of recent crime-fiction-related stories. In the absence of more information about that man on the plane, I’ll share some of those leads and tidbits here.

• A month after announcing its four shortlisted nominees—and sooner than the July 1 deadline previously set—Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association has declared a winner in the 2021 Margery Allingham Short Story Mystery Competition. She’s Netherlands resident and novelist Camilla Macpherson, whose tale “Heartbridge Homicides” was judged to fit Allingham’s definition of what makes a great story: “The Mystery remains box-shaped, at once a prison and a refuge. Its four walls are, roughly, a Crime, a Mystery, an Enquiry and a Conclusion with an Element of Satisfaction in it.” As this year’s victor, Macpherson will receive £500 as well as a pair of passes to CrimeFest 2022.

• Meanwhile, independent-press-oriented Foreword Reviews has made known the recipents of its 2021 INDIES Book of the Year Awards, in multiple categories. As far as Thriller/Suspense works go, Kevin Doherty’s The Leonardo Gulag is the Gold Winner, with Michael Pronko’s Tokyo Traffic being the Silver Winner, Michael Bradley’s Dead Air being the Bronze Winner, and Honorable Mention going to The Spiderling, by Marcia Preston. Mystery category champs are: A Child Lost, by Michelle Cox (Gold); The Burn Patient, by Sue Hinkin (Silver); Glass Eels, Shattered Sea, by Charlene D’Avanzo (Bronze); and Honorable Mention given to Andrew Nance’s Red Canvas. UPDATE: I neglected to mention, additionally, that Ann Parker’s seventh Silver Rush mystery, Mortal Music, was the Bronze winner in the INDIES’ Historical Adult Fiction category.

• Steve Aldous, author of The World of Shaft (2015), notes in his blog that June 23 marked the 50th anniversary of Richard Roundtree’s debut as New York City private eye John Shaft, in the 1971 movie Shaft. “Whilst by no means perfect,” Aldous remarks, “the film (based on Ernest Tidyman’s novel published the previous year) is rightly regarded as a landmark in cinema history. Shaft opened Hollywood up to black filmmakers, actors and technicians, and an explosion of ‘Blaxpolitation’ movies dominated cinema for the next two or three years. … Shaft was recognised at the 1972 Academy Awards, with Isaac Hayes’ theme winning the Oscar for Best Song and his soundtrack also nominated. In 2000, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.’” Aldous adds, “Here in the UK, the 50th anniversary is being celebrated by screenings of Shaft at a number of Everyman theatres across the country on Monday 28 June at 8.45 p.m.” If it has been some time since you last saw Shaft, maybe it’s time you watched it again yourself.

• After being brought down weeks ago by computer hackers, the Web site Shots appears to be back up and running.

• Speaking of Shots, its affiliated blog carries word of the four rookie novelists best-seller Val McDermid will showcase during her “New Blood” panel discussion at this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (July 22-25). Her choices:

— Greg Buchanan, Sixteen Horses (Mantle)
— Lara Thompson, One Night, New York (Virago)
— Patricia Marques, The Colours of Death (Hodder)
— Anna Bailey, Tall Bones (Doubleday)

“The unveiling of McDermid’s selection has become one of the most anticipated moments of the publishing calendar,” says Shotsmag Confidential, “with readers on the lookout to uncover their new favourite author and add the ‘next big thing’ to their bookshelves.”

• Making a welcome comeback, as well, is The Columbophile, whose unnamed author had been offline for months, due to a health crisis involving his/her young daughter. While I was away in the Midwest, though, what should appear but a piece about the Season 10 Columbo episode “Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health” (1991). Guest-starring George Hamilton, it’s described as “a tale of resentment, blackmail, pornography and murder set against the backdrop of hit network TV crime show Crime Alert.”

• Did you know director John Huston’s 1941 big-screen adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon was, at one time, slated to be retitled as The Gent from Frisco? Blogger Evan Lewis has the newspaper clippings to prove it.

• As In Reference to Murder reported last week, “On June 8, mystery pioneer Anna Katharine Green (1846-1935) was inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame in a ceremony that included an appearance by Rebecca Crozier, Green’s great-great granddaughter. Green’s The Leavenworth Case is one of the first mysteries penned by an American woman, and she is credited with developing the series detective in the form of Ebenezer Gryce of the New York Metropolitan Police Force (although in three novels he is assisted by the nosy society spinster, Amelia Butterworth, the prototype for Miss Marple).” Video footage from those festivities can be enjoyed here.

• From that same blog comes this brief update to a story we posted here in March: “Harry Melling, best known as Dudley from the Harry Potter franchise, is set to play a young Edgar Allan Poe in the Netflix/Scott Cooper-directed murder mystery, The Pale Blue Eye. The film is a passion project of Cooper, who has tried making it for more then a decade, and also stars Christian Bale as a veteran detective tasked with solving a series of murders that took place in 1830 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Bale’s detective partners with a detail-oriented young cadet (Melling), who will later become the world-famous author we all know today.”

• It looks like the ITV/BBC crime drama Shetland is back in business. According to The Killing Times, the sixth and seventh series of that show, based on novels by Ann Cleeves, “were due to film in 2020 and 2021 in locations on the Shetland Isles and around Scotland, and will again feature six hour-long episodes each. However, it looks as though production was halted due to the COVID pandemic.” No word yet on when Shetland might return to the airwaves.

• Earlier this month, CrimeReads carried a piece about vintage Shadow films that’s well worth finding. Penned by Hector DeJean, associate director of publicity at Minotaur Books, it begins:
The crimefighter known as the Shadow was a pop-culture sensation who arrived on the detective fiction scene before Perry Mason, Nero Wolfe, and Philip Marlowe, and whose extravagant war on evildoers predated those of Superman, Batman, the Lone Ranger, and Doc Savage. Americans during the Great Depression got regular doses of the Shadow via the radio and pulp magazines, and his adventures continue to this day in comic book form. Oddly, the character was never a big hit with movie audiences, despite decades of films that create an occasionally compelling but ultimately confusing portrait of the clever, menacing protagonist. Amazon Prime subscribers can check out some of these early attempts for free, and while none of the films are astounding, there are enjoyable elements sprinkled throughout, and none demand more than roughly an hour of one’s attention.
• Finnish author Juri Nummelin, who’s composing a book about American sleaze paperback writers, has assembled a list of their works that deserve consideration as crime fiction, too.

• The Rap Sheet already presented an extensive rundown of new crime, mystery, and thriller works due for publication this season. But now comes Janet Rudolph with her own lengthy inventory of older mysteries set during the warmer summer months.

• I read and enjoyed both Come Spy With Me and Live Fast, Spy Hard, Max Allan Collins and Matthew V. Clemens’ initial two John Sand espionage novels, though I haven’t yet had a chance to write about them. And now the pressure to do so is even greater: Collins writes in his blog that the series’ third installment, To Live and Spy in Berlin, is due out on July 14, from Wolfpack. That makes three fast-paced, James Bond-ish adventures published in just nine months! No wonder I can't keep up. “Will there be more John Sand books?” Collins asks. “That’s up to you. We have left something of an incredible effing cliffhanger [in book three] that needs resolving, so it’s on your conscience not ours if sales don’t justify that resolution.”

• Asks Literary Hub:Which writers have the best tombstone inscriptions?” I’m going to go here with Billy Wilder.

• This may be just what you need: The organization Sisters in Crime has announced it “will award researchers grants of $500 for the purchase of books to support research projects that contribute to our understanding of the role of women or underrepresented groups in the crime-fiction genre. This may include but is not limited to research on women mystery writers, on the position of women writers in the crime fiction marketplace, or on gender, race, or ethnicity as an aspect of crime fiction.” The deadline for applications is July 15, 2021.

• Here’s something to look forward to. From a news release:
Titan Comics and Hard Case Crime are excited to announce Gun Honey, a new 4-part crime comic series written by Charles Ardai, the Edgar and Shamus award winner and co-founder of Hard Case Crime, with art by Ang Hor Kheng. Issue #1 launches September 15, 2021, with covers by superstar artist Bill Sienkiewicz and legendary movie poster artist Robert McGinnis.

Praised by comic creators Max Allan Collins (
Ms. Tree), Ed Brubaker (Captain America) and Duane Swierczynski (Birds of Prey), Gun Honey is a story about weapons supplier Joanna Tan, the best in the world at providing the perfect weapon at the perfect moment. But when a gun she smuggles into a high-security prison leads to the escape of a brutal criminal, the U.S. government gives her an ultimatum: track him down or spend the rest of her life in a cell. …

Gun Honey is a project I’ve been working on ever since we launched Hard Case Crime Comics five years ago, and I’m thrilled to finally get to share it with readers,” said Charles Ardai. “Anyone who loves Modesty Blaise or Alias or Uma Thurman in Tarantino’s Kill Bill will be drawn to Joanna Tan’s story the same way I was, and anyone who loves great comic book art will be floored by Ang Hor Kheng’s stunning debut.”
• A Shroud of Thoughts brings word that California-born actress Joanne Linville, “who guest starred on such classic TV shows as Studio One, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, and Columbo, died on June 20, 2021, at the age of 93.” I remember Linville best for her performance as a duped Romulan Commander in the third-season Star Trek episode “The Enterprise Incident.” However, her credits also include appearances on The Further Adventures of Ellery Queen, Have Gun—Will Travel, The Defenders, The Fugitive, Hawaii Five-O, Switch, Barnaby Jones, and L.A. Law. “Joanne Linville played a wide variety of roles throughout her career,” observes Terence Towles Canote, “and she gave a good performance nearly every time.”

• Finally, a few author interviews deserving of attention: Virginia writer S.A. Cosby chats with Do Some Damage’s Angel Luis Colón about his soon-forthcoming novel, Razorblade Tears; Texas’ Murder by the Book YouTube page hosts an entertaining conversation between Gytha Lodge (Lie Beside Me) and Chris Whitaker (We Begin at the End); former President Bill Clinton and James Patterson speak with Lee Child about their second joint thriller, The President’s Daughter; and if you’re a Twitter user, you can watch a recent CBS This Morning segment about Laura Lippman and her new standalone, Dream Girl.

1 comment:

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Roughly two weeks ago, I saw pictures posted on FB that were purported to be from the set of Shetland as filming was underway. I saw three or four different sets of pictures over a couple of days that appeared to be of different points in filming. If memory serves, there was something about the expectation that the next season was coming March 2022 over there and would be here in the States sometime next summer.

Clearly, things are always fluid and something may have been changed.