Thursday, August 05, 2021

Bullet Points: Casting a Wide ’Net Edition

• London’s Goldsboro Books today brings us its roll of half a dozen nominees for the 2021 Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award, a prize “awarded annually to a compelling novel, of any genre—from romance and thrillers, to historical, speculative and literary fiction—with brilliant characterisation and a distinct voice that is confidently written and assuredly realized.” Four of this year’s contenders are debut novels, and three of them are quite easily classified as works of crime and mystery fiction. Here are the nominees:

The Girl with the Louding Voice, by Abi Daré (Sceptre)
The Court of Miracles, by Kester Grant (HarperVoyager)
Apeirogon, by Colum McCann (Bloomsbury)
Eight Detectives, by Alex Pavesi (Michael Joseph)
The Devil and the Dark Water, by Stuart Turton (‎Raven)
People of Abandoned Character, by Clare Whitfield (Head of Zeus)

A Goldsboro Books press release explains, “The winner, who will be announced on Thursday 30th September, wins £2,000 and a beautiful, handmade glass bell.” The longlist of candidates for this year’s Glass Bell Award was circulated in June.

• Hard Case Crime’s announcement that it is readying “the final unpublished novel” by Donald E. Westlake, Call Me a Cab, for release in February 2022 sent Fred Fitch of The Westlake Review in search of that story’s background. As he suggests here, Call Me a Cab may be an expanded version of a novella of that same title, which Westlake placed in the June 1979 issue of Redbook magazine … or else the manuscript could have been developed from “a film treatment/script that never became a film.” As to the book’s plot, here’s Hard Case’s synopsis:
In 1977, one of the world’s finest crime novelists turned his pen to suspense of a very different sort—and the results have never been published, until now.

Fans of mystery fiction have often pondered whether it would be possible to write a suspense novel without any crime at all, and in
Call Me a Cab the masterful Donald E. Westlake answered the question in his inimitable style. You won’t find any crime in these pages—but what you will find is a wonderful suspense story, about a New York City taxi driver hired to drive a beautiful woman all the way across America, from Manhattan to Los Angeles, where the biggest decision of her life is waiting to be made. It’s Westlake at his witty, thought-provoking best, and it proves that a page-turner doesn’t need to have a bomb set to go off at the end of it in order to keep sparks flying every step of the way.
Happy 10th birthday to the blog Crime Fiction Lover!

• The Rap Sheet noted the recent passing of author Mo Hayder here. Subsequently have come fine tributes from Shots as well as from her fellow fictionist Mark Billingham, writing in The Guardian.

• Sisters in Crime Australia has let it be known that many of its events, previously set to be conducted in person, are now moving online, thanks to dangers presented by COVID-19’s hyper-transmissible delta variant. Those changes affect the 2021 Davitt Awards, which had been scheduled for presentation during a dinner in Melbourne on Saturday, August 28. A press release says, “The award ceremony will [now] be available for free world-wide viewing on Saturday 28 August from 8 p.m. AEST on Sisters in Crime’s YouTube channel or Watch Party on Facebook, where you can join other crime fans for an interactive experience (and maybe even frock up or suit up).” Check Sisters in Crime Australia’s Facebook page for further details to come.

• Among the subjects remarked upon in Mike Ripley’s latest “Getting Away with Murder” column for Shots: Antarctica-set mysteries and thrillers; Maurizio de Giovanni’s Bread for the Bastards of Pizzofalcone; a 50th-anniversary edition of Goshawk Squadron, “the famous WWI Royal Flying Corps novel by veteran thriller writer Derek Robinson”; and fresh offerings from Anita Sivakumaran, Laura Marshall, Christian Unge, S.D. Sykes, and other writers.

The Strand Magazine’s new issue (#63) contains “Advice to a Secretary,” a humorous “lost work” by Raymond Chandler. “Published here for the first time,” reads a description of the issue, “the article covers everything from his contempt for grammarians to his discomfort with the employer-employee relationship. It also makes clear that, like his most famous protagonist, Chandler’s sympathies lay with those less powerful. Raymond Chandler scholar Professor Sarah Trott pens an introduction providing not only context but also an in-depth analysis of Raymond Chandler’s unpublished article.” This is evidently the third time The Strand has featured a previously unreleased Chandler piece: “It’s All Right—He Only Died” appeared in 2017, while “Advice to an Employer” finally saw print in 2020.

• What’s not to like about an Eva Lynd calendar?

• I’m not as fond of Grantchester, now that James Norton is no longer leading the cast of that British historical TV whodunit series. But I did—with some hesitation—make the transition to Tom Brittney playing Norton’s replacement, and stuck with the show through its very uneven Season 5, in large part because I still enjoy watching Robson Green in the role of Geordie Keating. It’s likely, too, that I shall tune in for Season 6, which begins showing under PBS-TV’s Masterpiece umbrella on Sunday, October 3. Series creator Daisy Coulam promises those upcoming eight episodes are “going to be kind of game-changing for a lot of our characters—we’re going to put them all through the wringer this series. And it’s a big series for [gay Anglican curate] Leonard [Fitch], where we’re going to take him to some quite dark places. Basically, we’re going to do a couple of quite big stories for our central characters that pull everyone into them. So it’s not separate strands—each strand will affect all of our lovely characters. It’s going to be emotional for all of them! I’m quite excited, actually, about the series. I feel like it could be the height of Grantchester.”

• Speaking of Grantchester, word is that Season 7 of that ITV-TV-originating show has already begun filming in earnest. “This series is set in the long hot summer of 1959,” explains the network’s Web site, “and wedding season is in full swing in the Cambridgeshire village of Grantchester. As the Reverend Will Davenport [Brittney] unites happy couples in holy matrimony, Detective Inspector Geordie Keating is busy as ever investigating a range of local murder cases. With a new decade just around the corner, the question of what the future holds is on everyone’s minds, not least Will’s, but before the ’50s roll over into the swinging sixties there are some crimes to solve and some life-changing decisions to be made that might change life in Grantchester forever.” Expect Season 7 to premiere sometime in 2022.

• On the recent occasion of what would have been Raymond Chandler’s 133rd birthday (July 23), Literary Hub revisited that wordsmith’s “most iconic lines.” One must admit, it’s damnably hard to beat such gems as “It seemed like a nice neighborhood to have bad habits in” (from The Big Sleep), “The girl gave him a look which ought to have stuck at least four inches out of his back” (The Long Goodbye), and “I’m not a young man. I’m old, tired and full of no coffee” (Playback).

• Here’s something I don’t remember hearing before. In a brief look back at “Enough Rope,” the July 31, 1960, episode of NBC-TV’s The Chevy Mystery Show that may have first brought the character of Lieutenant Columbo to the small screen—in this case played by character actor Bert Freed—Mystery*Scene contributor David Vineyard notes that “it was originally written as a vehicle for Bing Crosby.” That’s true only in part. As I understand it, in the late 1960s, when screenwriters Richard Levinson and William Link set out to sell Universal Studios on the idea of a TV series starring Columbo, they approached aging crooner Crosby to play the part of their deceptively brilliant Los Angeles police detective, but Crosby turned them down, supposedly because he wanted to do less work and play more golf. Anyway, I knew all of that. What Vineyard writes next is the new part—that Crosby was eyed as an ideal Columbo based on his turn as a “laid-back private detective in Top o’ the Morning.” That 1949 Paramount comedy found Crosby cast as Joe Mulqueen, “a singing insurance investigator who comes to Ireland to recover the stolen Blarney Stone—and romance the local policeman’s daughter” (to quote from Wikipedia). Hmm, I don’t know. Watching the original trailer for that picture, it’s hard to imagine Levinson and Link could have seen any relationship between Mulqueen and Columbo.

• There’s more about Columbo’s roots here.

• Also in Mystery*File, look for Francis M. Nevins’ excellent retrospective on F. Van Wyck Mason (1897-1978), a once-prolific, Boston-born author and historian. Nevins observes that “he was probably best known for a string of gargantuan historical adventure novels, beginning with Three Harbours (1938), Stars on the Sea (1940) and Rivers of Glory (1942),” but also penned myriad mysteries starring Captain Hugh North, “an officer in Army Intelligence but never seen in uniform and obviously intended as an American Sherlock Holmes.” The North novels run from Seeds of Murder (1930) and The Vesper Service Murders (1931) to The Sulu Sea Murders (1933), Two Tickets for Tangier (1955), and Secret Mission to Bangkok (1960). “In later novels,” Nevins concludes, “Captain Hugh tackled various problems of international intrigue in exotic locales and did so well that he was promoted to Major and then to Colonel, nimbly leapfrogging over the intervening rank of Lieutenant Colonel. These books converted him from a Holmes-like figure to something of a prototype for James Bond and perhaps for James Atlee Phillips’ American secret agent Joe Gall.” I’m not sure I have ever tackled any of Mason’s fiction. Perhaps it’s time for the two of us to get acquainted.

• The book-industry e-newsletter Shelf Awareness reports that “Kensington Publishing is launching Kensington Cozies, an imprint dedicated to the cozy mystery genre, which usually have ‘little-to-no violence, profanity, or sex; likeable amateur sleuths; tight-knit communities; and series arcs that allow the protagonists to grow in their professions and relationships.’ The first titles go on sale December 28. Over time, backlist titles that fit the cozy criteria will be folded into the imprint. Historical mysteries will remain under the Kensington Books imprint.” (Hat tip to B.V. Lawson.)

• TV streamer Netflix has greenlighted the series The Night Agent. Inspired by Matthew Quirk’s 2019 New York Times bestseller, “The Night Agent,” says Deadline, “is a sophisticated, character-based, action-thriller centering on a low-level FBI agent who works in the basement of the White House, manning a phone that never rings—until the night that it does, propelling him into a fast-moving and dangerous conspiracy that ultimately leads all the way to the Oval Office.”

Shotsmag Confidential directs me to this YouTube video, which finds “Barry Forshaw in conversation with Laura Wilson, Maxim Jakubowski, Ayo Onatade, Paul Burke and Victoria Selman, debating their best crime fiction picks of the last decade, along with the changing landscape of crime fiction over that time.” Books mentioned in that video are catalogued on the Crime Time site.

• And was 1975 really “the greatest year in the history of crime fiction”? Yes, according to short-story writer Kevin Mims, who defends his position in Something Is Going to Happen, the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine blog. In a follow-up post, Mims contends—seemingly against logic—that Quentin Tarantino’s June release, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), a novelization of his 2019 film of that same name, was “the last great novel of 1975.”

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