Thursday, July 29, 2021

Bullet Points: Another Overstuffed Edition

• Let’s have a show of hands: Who remembers Sammy Davis Jr. playing private investigator Larry Miller in the 1969 movie The Pigeon? I would’ve counted myself among the uninformed until the other day, when I happened across that 90-minute ABC Movie of the Week on YouTube. (Watch it here, while you can!) Scripted by Edward J. Lakso (The Mod Squad, Mission: Impossible, Charlie’s Angels) and Stanley Roberts (Mannix, Petrocelli, Police Woman), the teleflick “is great,” according to an IMDb review, “because Sammy … doesn’t take himself too seriously and the dialogue uses a number of clichés from the 60’s. Sammy is searching for a girl who doesn’t want to be found. I especially love the scenes between Sammy and Roy Glenn, the veteran actor who plays his dad, a police lieutenant.” Why Wikipedia doesn’t list The Pigeon among Davis’ motion-picture and TV credits, but does include Poor Devil, an awful NBC comedy pilot from 1973, is really anybody’s guess.

• Speaking of forgotten crime-solvers, how about Valerie Bertinelli in the 1990 CBS-TV series Sydney? As Wikipedia recalls, that erstwhile One Day at a Time actress headlined as Sydney Kells, “the daughter of a now-deceased policeman, [who] brings her New York City detective agency (in which she is the only investigator) back to her hometown and her family.” Matthew Perry (later of Friends) held forth as Kells’ rookie-cop brother, while Craig Bierko portrayed an attorney “with whom she shares sexual chemistry.” This spring replacement series lasted only 13 episodes. The best thing about it may have been its opening theme, “Finish What Ya Started,” by Bertinelli’s then-hubby Eddie Van Halen. Clickety-clack right here to watch the main title sequence from Sydney, paired with the introduction to her 1993-1994 sitcom, Café Americain.

• One more YouTube discovery: The Blue Knight, a 1973 NBC mini-series starring William Holden, Lee Remick, Sam Elliott, and Joe Santos, and based on Joseph Wambaugh’s 1972 novel of that same title. It’s been many years since I saw this teleflick with Holden as William “Bumper” Morgan, a 20-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department—long enough that I didn’t even remember it was originally broadcast in one-hour segments over four consecutive nights. The production was popular enough to spawn a subsequent series, likewise called The Blue Knight (but on CBS, rather than NBC), starring George Kennedy as Morgan; it ran for two seasons, from 1975 to 1976.

• Oh alright, here’s another: Jigsaw, a 1968 film (“originally made for television,” says Wikipedia, “but shown first in theaters”) starring Bradford Dillman, Harry Guardino, Hope Lange, Michael J. Pollard, and a young Susan Saint James. “After someone places sugar cubes laced with LSD in his cup of coffee,” the YouTube plot synopsis reads, “Jonathan Fields [Dillman] regains consciousness, only to find a woman drowned in his bathtub and flecks of blood on his hands and clothes. Suffering from amnesia, Fields can't think of anyplace else to turn, so he hires Arthur Belding [Guardino], a private detective, to help him find out what happened.” Jigsaw is a remake of 1965’s Mirage.

Dexter: New Blood, the 10-episode revival of Michael C. Hall’s 2006-2013 drama, Dexter, is now expected to appear on Showtime come November 7. Wikipedia says this show will open “approximately ten years after the original series’ finale.” In the meanwhile, Hall’s Dexter Morgan “has moved to the fictional small town of Iron Lake, New York, hiding his identity under the name of Jimmy Lindsay, a local shopkeeper. He has developed a relationship with Angela Bishop, the town’s chief of police, and has suppressed his serial killing urges. A string of incidents around Iron Lake cause Dexter to fear that the ‘dark passenger’ within him will reveal itself.” The Killing Times offers a 90-second trailer for Dexter: New Blood, which incorporates a version of Del Shannon’s 1961 hit song, “Runaway” (previously employed as the theme for the 1986-1988 NBC police drama Crime Story).

• Almost five years ago, NBC-TV optioned Ben H. Winters’ Edgar Award-winning 2012 science fiction/mystery novel, The Last Policeman, with hopes of creating a series from it. Nothing came of that deal. Now, reports, writer-producer Kyle Killen (Awake, Mind Games) is working on a pilot for Fox-TV, based on the same book, the resulting series—to be retitled The Last Police—expected to debut as part of the 2021/2022 season. Deadline explains that this show will follow “a small-town police detective, who, as an asteroid races toward an apocalyptic collision with Earth, believes she’s been chosen to save humanity, while her cynical partner can’t decide what he’ll enjoy more: her delusional failure, or the end of the world itself.” In Winters’ “existential detective novel,” the protagonist was a young male police detective in New Hampshire, one Henry Palace. In 2012, the author suggested that the role go to Jim True-Frost (The Wire, Manifest); no word yet on who might headline Fox’s adaptation.

• This is splendid news, from In Reference to Murder: “The new season of BritBox’s modern cozy mystery series, McDonald & Dodds, premieres on August 3rd. The series follows newly promoted DCI McDonald and veteran sergeant Dodds as they investigate complex mysteries with a web of clues that has everyone guessing who are the real victims and villains. Ahead of the new season, BritBox dropped a trailer, which you can view here.”

• Actress Jessica Walter, who died in March at age 80, has been nominated for a posthumous Emmy Award “for her voice-over work in FX/FXX’s animated comedy series Archer,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. “Walter voiced the toxic matriarch Malory Archer, the abrasive mother of H. Jon Benjamin’s Sterling Archer. She’s being recognized for her work in the sixth episode of the 11th season, ‘The Double Date.’” Should Walter secure this Emmy, it would be the second of her career; in 1975, she won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series honors for her portrayal of San Francisco’s first female chief of detectives in the NBC Mystery Movie rotator Amy Prentiss.

• In the latest edition of her newsletter, The Crime Lady, author and New York Times crime-fiction columnist Sarah Weinman gives us a sneak peek of her latest true-crime book, Scoundrel: How a Convicted Murderer Persuaded the Women Who Loved Him, the Conservative Establishment, and the Courts to Set Him Free. Due out in February 2022, it tells the bizarre story of Edgar Herbert Smith, who killed a 15-year-old New Jersey honor student in 1957, subsequently contested his case in the media—being given special support by conservative pundit William F. Buckley Jr.—and, after winning a retrial and release, kidnapped and tried to kill another woman, this time in California. “By the time Scoundrel is published next year,” Weinman explains, “more than seven years will have passed since I first began researching and reporting the project. I can’t wait to fill you all in on what that entailed, the voluminous trove of documents and letters I consulted across multiple archives, the people I spoke with, and the strange juxtaposition of criminal justice, conservative thought, and book publishing that connected the crimes and misdeeds of one man who fooled so many into looking past his worst instincts to see what was never really there.”

• The Southern California town of Agoura Hills has selected Lee Goldberg’s Lost Hills (2020), his first novel featuring Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide detective Eve Ronin, as its One City One Book 2021 honoree. “That means,” says Goldberg in his blog, “the local libraries, schools, etc. will be encouraging everyone to read the book and to come to City Hall on Sept. 30th to see me in conversation, buy a copy of my book if they haven’t already … and get their copies signed. Past honorees include Michael Connelly and Dick Van Dyke.” Admission to Goldberg’s Thursday, September 30, appearance will be free, but space is limited and advance registration is required; click here after August 1 to find out more.

• A big change for Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association:
For the first time in its 68-year history, the prestigious Crime Writers’ Association will allow self-published authors to join its ranks. The move comes after the CWA consulted its members, who voted with an 84% majority in favour to accept self-published authors.

Maxim Jakubowski, Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association, said: “The founding mission of the CWA was to support, promote and celebrate the crime genre and its authors. In the past, we only accepted traditionally published authors into the CWA, as this was the best indicator of quality. The publishing landscape has changed in recent years, and self-publishing has become a route for professional writers, and indeed there are many trailblazers in this field. The time is right to update our membership criteria.”
The news release adds: “Self-published authors wishing to become a CWA member will need to demonstrate a level of professionalism through a simple-to-complete application form. This will be available on the CWA website from 13 September, when the CWA will first accept applications.”

• It sounds as if this year’s Killer Nashville convention, expected to take place in Franklin, Tennessee, from August 19 to 22, is coming along right on schedule. Keynote speakers at this in-person event will be Walter Mosley, J.T. Ellison, and Lisa Black. More information is available here for anyone who would like to participate, but hasn’t yet registered. The full four-day registration will set you back $419.

• “Mystery Writers of America (MWA) is honoring the memory of its 2020 Grand Master, the late Barbara Neely, with a scholarship to new Black writers …,” writes Mystery Scene magazine’s Oline Cogdill. “MWA will annually present two scholarships of $2,000 each. One scholarship will be for an aspiring Black writer who has yet to publish in the crime or mystery field, and another for Black authors who have already published in crime or mystery.” September 30, 2021, is the deadline for applications (available here); a winner will be declared “in the late fall.” Click here for more information.

• Like millions of other Americans, my wife and I have been watching Season 4 of Unforgotten, part of PBS-TV’s Masterpiece Mystery! summer schedule. There are three additional Sunday-night installments yet to come, but already, Crimespree Magazine’s Erin Mitchell has declared Unforgotten, which stars Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar as London-based cold-case detectives, “the best show on television.” She continues: “Unforgotten is one of those rare shows that does not tell a story at its surface, doesn’t just lead us on a step-by-step procedural journey. The procedure is there, of course, but the subtlety of the remarkable performances addresses the characters’ motivation to allow us to experience the often painful journey though the case. In that way, the experience of watching it is more akin to reading a book, which is the highest praise I can give a TV show.” A 90-second introduction to Season 4 is embedded below.

• Regé-Jean Page, a popular alumnus of the Netflix series Bridgerton, is set to star as The Saint, aka Simon Templar, in a new film based around that Leslie Charteris-created, “Robin Hood-esque criminal and thief for hire.” Deadline says the forthcoming Paramount picture “will be a completely new take that reimagines the character and world around him.” Author-screenwriter Lee Goldberg, nephew of Saint authority Burl Barer (The Saint: A Complete History in Print, Radio, Television, and Film), opines on Facebook that Page “will make a great Saint, but I hope they don’t stray too far from what we all loved about Leslie Charteris’ books, the George Sanders movies, and the [1962-1969] Roger Moore TV series.”

• With the abundance of resources provided in The Rap Sheet’s right-hand-column blogroll, you can be excused for not noticing when a new site is added. But let me direct your attention to one in particular: The Ross Macdonald Blog. Composed by Neil Albert, author of the Dave Garrett series (The January Corpse, etc.), it’s turning the critical microscope on every one of Macdonald’s novels, in chronological order, beginning with his non-Lew Archer yarns. Albert—who calls Macdonald (aka Kenneth Millar) “one of the three greatest writers in the genre of the hardboiled private eye, along with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler” (no argument from yours truly)—has been working on this site primarily since the end of last year, and has so far progressed to The Three Roads (1948), Macdonald’s fourth novel. Each book is being considered in detail, over a succession of postings, The Dark Tunnel (1944) and Trouble Follows Me (1946) having each generated 11 entries. (Hat tip to Kevin Burton Smith.)

• Nobody who reads this page regularly should be surprised to hear that I own the 30th-anniversary edition of Mark Dawidziak’s The Columbo Phile: A Casebook, a work originally published in 1989. But now comes word of Bonaventure Press’ Shooting Columbo: The Lives and Deaths of TV’s Rumpled Detective, due out this coming September and written by David Koenig. Although somewhat shorter than Dawidziak’s book (only 248 pages, compared with 410), Shooting Columbo promises behind-the-scenes intelligence about that iconic Peter Falk series, plus “a blow-by-blow account of the making of all 69 classic mysteries, from the first [figurative] pilot, Prescription: Murder, to the last special, Columbo Likes the Nightlife.” The question is, do I need Koenig’s book on my shelves, too?

• Caroline Crampton hosts the podcast Shedunnit, but she’s also the author of a map and guide called Agatha Christie’s England, from London-based Herb Lester Associates, which years ago produced The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles. Already out in England, and due for a September release in the States, Crampton’s publication focuses on “the real and fictional locations in the Queen of Crime’s canon,” as she writes in her e-mail newsletter. “There are dozens of places included, and for each I’ve researched why and how Christie wrote about them. I certainly felt like I gained a greater understanding of her work in the process of putting the guide together, and if you read it I hope you will feel the same.”

• From the “everything old is new again” department: TV Guide critic Matt Roush recently included this exchange in his blog:
Question: Will some forward-thinking Hollywood executive reboot the George Peppard vehicle Banacek? —Steve O.

Matt Roush: Would a reboot of a 1970s private-eye series really be forward-thinking? I loved the randomness of this suggestion, because there were so many higher-profile spokes of NBC’s “Mystery Movie” wheel:
McCloud, McMillan and Wife, and, of course, Columbo. Seriously, though, because Banacek is lesser known, reviving a show and a hero that had a sense of humor about itself wouldn’t be the worst idea. In the bigger picture, I’d like to see a network try the “mystery wheel” format again, rotating its series on a weekly or monthly basis. Something like that could air year-round with fewer episodes per series, and that might be refreshing.
While I cringe a bit at Roush labeling Thomas Banacek a “private eye” (he was actually a Boston insurance investigator), I applaud his optimism on the matter of resuscitating television’s once-widespread “wheel series” format (about which I wrote last summer in CrimeReads). And Banacek—with its suave, totally immodest lead and supposedly impossible crimes—might, indeed, make for a fun reboot. But who do you think should fill Peppard’s loafers?

• Bay Area author-photographer Mark Coggins is out with Season 2 of his podcast, Riordan’s Desk. He launched this project in May 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a chapter-by-chapter reading of his seventh August Riordan private-eye novel, 2019’s The Dead Beat Scroll. Earlier this month, he packaged up the final installment of Season 2, a full reading (35 chapters in all) of his 2015 Riordan yarn, No Hard Feelings. And Coggins has already begun reading from Candy from Strangers (2006), his third Riordan mystery. Listen to the complete run of Riordan’s Desk by clicking here.

Listen up, Bosch fans!The Everybody Counts Podcast talks Bosch Season 7, Episode 5 and interviews Michael Connelly.”

• Charlie Chan authority Lou Armagno informs us that 92-year-old actor James Hong, who portrayed “Son No.1 to J. Carrol Naish’s Charlie Chan in The New Adventures of Charlie Chan [1957-1958], is to be honored next year with a star on Los Angeles’ Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hong, born in Minneapolis to Hong Kongese parents, and “the last living actor to star as a primary Chan character, either in film or television,” will be the third Chan cast member honored in this fashion; Keye Luke and the aforementioned J. Carrol Naish both won stars before him. Hong’s list of credits extends well beyond The New Adventures of Charlie Chan to include roles in everything from Richard Diamond, Private Eye and Hawaii Five-O to Kung Fu, Harry O, The Rockford Files, Switch, and the 1974 film Chinatown.

• “Edgar Allan Poe: Self-Help Guru”?

• From a patron of The Rap Sheet’s YouTube page: “I’m not making light of the condominium disaster in Florida, but every time a reporter who is covering that story says ‘Surfside,’ this song pops into my head.” Learn more about this other Surfside here.

• The blog maintained by History (formerly The History Channel) recently highlighted what it claims are “the most influential classic shows” from the 1950s, “TV’s “Golden Age.” In the category of crime (click here, then scroll to the bottom of the page), it mentions Martin Kane, Private Eye (1949-1954), Man Against Crime (1949-1954), and Dragnet (1951-1959). But what about Naked City (1958-1959, 1960-1963), Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (1958-1959), M Squad (1957-1960), Richard Diamond, Private Detective (1957-1960), Decoy (1957-1959), Have Gun—Will Travel (1957-1963), 77 Sunset Strip (1958-1964), Perry Mason (1957-1966), and Peter Gunn (1958-1961)? Today’s younger viewers may be unaware of this, but the ’50s brought us myriad TV detective shows that are still worth watching.

• On the subject of vintage small-screen shows, how about T.H.E. Cat (1966-1967), which starred Robert Loggia as a San Francisco cat burglar named Thomas Hewitt Edward Cat, and spun off a quartet of comic-book adventures?

• Was this really a good idea? You may recall that Deadline reported last year, “James Patterson and Condé Nast are teaming to revive vintage crime fighter The Shadow in a series of books that will also aim to be adapted for the screen.” Hachette Book Group imprint Little, Brown will publish the original series … The Shadow [aka society gadabout Lamont Cranston], a signature New York vigilante, originated in the 1930s as a series of pulp novels by Walter B. Gibson. A popular radio drama based on the books featured the voice of Orson Welles. In 1994, Universal released a feature film adaptation starring Alec Baldwin.” Anyway, Patterson’s introductory entry in this new series, set in the late 21st century and simply titled The Shadow, came out on July 13, and was greeted with more than a modicum of skepticism. San Francisco tour guide and author Don Herron remarks, “I had thought about giving it a shot, and then I saw the cover [shown on the left]. The only thought I could process was Where the fuck is HIS HAT???

• Yellow Perils is no more enthusiastic about the book.

• Dashiell Hammett’s first novel, Red Harvest (1929), has inspired a number of cinematic creations over the years, including the 1930 picture Roadhouse Nights and the 2005 neo-noir mystery Brick. But the book, which stars Hammett’s nameless San Francisco private eye, the Continental Op, has never been given a faithful adaptation. It did once come close, however, as a series of newspaper clippings in Davy Crockett’s Almanack of Mystery, Adventure, and the Wild West makes clear. In 1941, the Los Angeles Times carried word of Paramount Pictures decision not to remake its 1935 film based on Hammett’s fourth novel, The Glass Key, but to instead develop a script from Red Harvest. Brian Donlevy was slated to portray the Op, with Paulette Goddard and a young Alan Ladd helping to fill out the cast. Unfortunately, that film was first “postponed” and later abandoned. Hoping to boost Ladd’s Hollywood career, Paramount decided to remake The Glass Key after all. Donlevy was nominally the headliner, but Ladd was the real star of that production, while Veronica Lake replaced Goddard as its distaff attraction.

• Did author Hammett really break the window of a downtown department store in Miami, Florida, during a four-day visit he made to that city in 1934? The Palm Beach Post recalled the story late last year, but it may just be an urban legend.

• Talk about dropping the ball! I realized this week that, while I had reported on nominees for the 2021 Scribe Awards, I never announced the winners. In the category of greatest interested to crime-fiction readers—“General Original Novel and Adapted Novel”—Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane’s 12th Mike Hammer novel, Masquerade for Murder (2020), lost out to a video-game-related adventure, Day Zero: Watchdogs Legion, by James Swallow and Josh Reynolds (Aconyte).

• Were I able to attend this year’s PulpFest, taking place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from August 19th through 22nd, I would definitely want to be in the audience for “popular culture scholar” Doug Ellis’ presentation, “The Weird Tales of Margaret Brundage.” “Initially disguising her gender by signing her work as M. Brundage, the artist redefined sensuality for the already scandalous pulp market,” observes the PulpFest Web site. “Her work was later targeted by New York Mayor LaGuardia’s 1938 decency campaign. … Margaret Brundage [1900-1976] created 66 covers for Weird Tales between 1932 and 1945, making her the most in-demand cover artist for the fantasy, horror, and science-fiction magazine. Only Virgil Finlay was a close rival.” Ellis’ remarks on Brundage are scheduled for Friday, August 20.

• The best interview I’ve heard with T.J. Newman, the former flight attendant and author of the new thriller Falling (Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster), was conducted by Dave Davies on NPR’s Fresh Air program. You can listen to their whole conversation here.

• Powell’s Books, the Portland, Oregon, landmark heralded as “the world’s largest independent bookstore,” is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. As part of the celebration, it has assembled “a curated collection of 50 books from the past 50 years.” I’d be more enthusiastic about this list if—in addition to Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams, and Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future—it contained even one crime, mystery, or thriller novel. No such luck!

• Max Allan Collins mentions in his blog that the 13th Mike Hammer novel he’s “co-authored” with the late Mickey Spillane, is due out from Titan Books in 2022—75 years after the appearance of Spillane’s first Hammer yarn, I, the Jury. This one will be titled Kill Me If You Can.

• There have been so many crime novels backdropped by San Francisco, that Paul French was bound to fail when he determined to collect, for CrimeReads, a representative sample of their diversity. Why, for instance, does he mention Stuart M. Kaminsky’s Poor Butterfly (2012)—the only Toby Peters mystery set in the Bay Area (most of them took place in L.A.)—or Charles Willeford’s one-off, Wild Wives (1956), but completely ignore the oeuvres of Colin Willcox, Stephen Greenleaf, Kelli Stanley, and Bill Pronzini? That said, French’s piece—parked here—is entertaining, and might give you some ideas of things to read as this summer season winds to an end.

• For broader exposure to fictional offenses set in and around San Francisco, consult Randal S. Brandt’s Golden Gate Mysteries wiki.

• And how much fun is this? Blogger Evan Lewis is showcasing the covers, contents pages, copyright information, and occasional lagniappes from every early edition of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. As he explains in this introductory post, “Some months ago, my old friend and fellow book collector Jim Rogers passed away, and left behind a complete run of EQMM from 1941 to 1959. Those mags have now passed into the care of another old friend, Mr. Larry Paschelke, and Larry agreed to let me scan the covers and share them with you here. (Jim, I have no doubt, would have done the same had I asked, but I didn't know he had them!)” Click here to catch up with Lewis’ project in progress.


Mark Coggins said...

Thanks for the plug, Jeff!

HonoluLou said...

Speaking of Sammy Davis Jr., this Suntory Whiskey commercial he did in 1974 is truly unique!

(Damn, now I can't get Surfside 6 out of my head :)

Howard said...

Hmm, I guess somebody took the hint. "The Pigeon" is now in the linked-to Wikipedia filmography.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

That's great! Thanks for the update, Howard.


J. Kingston Pierce said...

The mystery of how The Pigeon finally, and suddenly, showed up on Sammy Davis Jr.’s Wikipedia page has been solved! I received this e-mail note from Rap Sheet reader A.J. Wright of Pelham, Alabama:

“‘Why Wikipedia doesn’t list The Pigeon among Davis’ motion-picture and TV credits, but does include Poor Devil, an awful NBC comedy pilot from 1973, is really anybody’s guess.’

“Well, Wikipedia didn't list it because nobody has listed it in his entry. I fixed that. The film itself does have a page:

“Nothing gets done on Wikipedia unless somebody does it. Well, unless the powers behind the curtain don't accept it. However, this change is considered a "minor edit," so hopefully it will stand.”

Thanks for the assist, A.J.!