Friday, October 08, 2021

Bullet Points: Success in Excess Edition

• The long-overdue recent premiere of No Time to Die, Daniel Craig’s fifth and final James Bond picture, has provoked a deluge of articles, in print and online, about the actor and whoever will succeed him playing Ian Fleming’s Agent 007. Notable are this piece from Esquire’s Chris Nashawaty, and this other one by Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson. CrimeReads has gone in its own editorial direction, posting Olivia Rutigliano’s rankings of all the Bond movies (to which my sole objections are that Live and Let Die deserves more credit, while The World Is Not Enough deserves less), and Julia Sirmons’ tribute to 1969’s typically maligned On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which she insists is actually the franchise’s best entry.

• Staking out his own fringe in all this Bond coverage, author-blogger Gary Dobbs showcases “a professional Daniel Craig lookalike who actually looks nothing like Daniel Craig,” and who now—with Craig’s retirement as 007—“fears his work will dry up.”

• Film noir authority and author Eddie Muller isn’t merely a swell guy, he’s also a sterling interviewee. If you missed hearing his half-hour conversation earlier this week with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, don’t fret, because you can still tune in to the whole thing here. In addition to discussing film noir’s history, some of its landmark productions (including 1944’s Double Indemnity), and Muller’s hosting duties on Turner Classic Movies’ exalted Noir Alley series (shown on Saturdays at midnight), the pair chatted about the new and expanded edition of his book Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir; his famous boxing-writer father; and his two novels, both set in 1940s San Francisco and starring a sportswriter, Billy Nichols, modeled on his dad.

• Listening to that exchange reminded me of something I wrote about Eddie Muller on this page five years ago. My latest Kirkus Reviews column had then just appeared, its topic being “crime novels worth re-reading,” and Muller contacted me with the surprising information that he was halfway through composing a third Nichols novel, to follow The Distance (2001) and Shadow Boxer (2003). So whatever happened to that book? I e-mailed Muller for an update this week, and received the following reply:
Still working on it. Now I’m glad it’s taken so long. The reissue of Dark City is selling through the roof, #1 movie book on Amazon for over two months. I have two other books in the pipeline, with contracts—not fiction. Since novels are the hardest sell, all this other work will only help when Billy reemerges. And thanks for asking!
I, for one, shall be pleased to welcome Nichols’ return.

• Three weeks ago, I noted the passing of journalist-turned-crime writer Robert Richardson, who died on August 31 at age 80. Only now, however, is The Guardian carrying an obituary by Mike Ripley, in which he commends Richardson for penning both traditional English detective yarns and psychological thrillers, and says he “was heavily involved in organising the annual conventions of the CWA [Crime Writers Association], where members spent a weekend, usually in a seaside hotel, being treated to lectures and talks on criminology. On the social side, [Richardson] would devise and host quizzes on crime fiction, which though popular with members were invariably described as ‘fiendishly difficult.’” One thing I hadn’t known before, but that Ripley mentions: “Following a diagnosis of Lewy Body dementia, in 2017 he moved to Dore, near Sheffield, to be closer to his family.”

• Whilst we’re on the subject of Mr. Ripley, I want to direct your attention to his October “Getting Away with Murder” column for Shots. It includes remarks on the “sumptuous launch party thrown by Felix Francis for his new novel, Iced”; an “accessible and entertaining” new study of Agatha Christie and her knowledge of forensic science; and fresh fiction by Charles Cumming (Box 62), Oliver Bottini (Night Hunters), Peter Papathanasiou (The Stoning), and others.

• Critic Maxim Jakubowski (who now also serves as chair of the British Crime Writers’ Association) is out with his latest “To the Max” column for Crime Time. In it, he briefly reviews 10 new novels, two of which—Toshihiko Yahagi’s The Wrong Goodbye and Anthony Horowitz’s A Line to Kill—are already on my most wanted list, plus one book that I didn’t even realize fell under the crime classification, but that Jakubowski makes sound like a winner: Mrs. March (Liveright), “a slow-burning psychological thriller” by Virginia Feito.

• I have a paperback copy, in storage, of 1974’s Charlie Chan Returns, composed by Dennis Lynds (with splendid cover art by Howard Rogers), that I inherited from my late father-in-law. I’ve never read the yarn, but maybe I should, for the blog Bloody, Spicy, Books calls it a “curious” yet “nice, light fun mystery novel” that translates “the golden-era detective Chan to groovy 70’s New York where he gets tangled up in big case with the help of his son Jimmy, an NYPD detective. There’s a fish-out-of-water quality to the idea of a very old-fashioned man in the land of discos, dirty politics and rock ’n’ roll clubs. So, it’s like Charlie Chan replacing Telly Savalas as Kojak.”

• By the way, this novel should in no way be confused with the unsuccessful 1973 ABC-TV pilot The Return of Charlie Chan, starring The Wild Wild West’s Ross Martin as Earl Derr Biggers’ fictional Chinese-American police detective. For the nonce, at least, that two-hour movie, which imagines a retired Chan “investigat[ing] a murder case aboard the yacht of a wealthy Greek shipping tycoon,” is available on YouTube. One viewer writes: “I won’t say that this is a good Charlie Chan mystery, but it is still a pretty good mystery. Just think of Ross Martin playing an imposter, Artemis Gordon’s grandson in disguise, a ‘Charlie Chang,’ if you will, instead of the actual Charlie Chan.”

R.I.P., Frank Wheeler Jr., the Wisconsin author of Wowzer (2012) and The Good Life (2014), who passed away on September 16, cut down “after a hard-fought battle with cancer” at age 43.

• The Killing Times reminds us that ITV-TV’s new six-part suspense series, Angela Black, starring Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt, is set to debut in the UK this coming Sunday night, October 10. It finds Froggatt playing the title character, “someone who has the perfect life. Or at least it looks like it,” as the site cautions. “Angela’s life appears idyllic: a lovely house in suburban London, days working volunteer shifts at a dogs home, two beautiful sons and a charming, hard-working husband—Olivier [Game of Thrones’ Michiel Huisman]. However, beneath this façade of charmed domesticity, Angela is a victim of domestic violence. Olivier is controlling and brutal; but Angela loves him and he’s the father of her children. She can’t leave him, even though she has threatened to countless times. So, she covers her bruises with makeup and fabricates lies to explain away her missing teeth. Until, one day, Angela is approached by Ed [The Watch’s Samuel Adewunmi]—a private investigator—and he smashes her already strained domestic life to pieces. Ed reveals Olivier’s deepest secrets to Angela, and she is faced with horrifying truths about her husband and his betrayals. But can Angela trust Ed? And what truths will be revealed in the ferocious fight between Angela and her husband?” A trailer for this hour-long series—which apparently has no U.S. release date arranged—is embedded below.

• Count this as good news (if not wholly unexpected): “Helena Bonham Carter,” says Variety, “will rejoin Millie Bobby Brown and Henry Cavill for a new Enola Holmes mystery from Legendary and Netflix”—the sequel to one of Netflix’s biggest 2020 draws. “Bonham Carter plays Eudoria Holmes, the matriarch of the famous sleuthing family, in the series that is based on Nancy Springer’s beloved books. The films tell the story of Enola (Brown), the rebellious teen sister of Sherlock Holmes (Cavill), who is a gifted super-sleuth in her own right and often outsmarts her famous siblings.” As reported earlier on this page, Enola Holmes 2 (and I hope that’s not really going to be the title) is being lensed, at least partially, in the English port city of Hull.

• Season 6 of Shetland, starring Douglas Henshall as Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez and based on Ann Cleeves’ novels, is just around the corner—at least for British viewers. The first of a half-dozen fresh episodes is slated for an October 10 broadcast on the BBC. “The forthcoming new series,” says The Killing Times, “centres on the doorstep murder of a prominent local figure, a case which strikes at the heart of the Shetland Isles and its people. As Perez and his team uncover a kaleidoscope of motives for the murder, their investigation soon takes a shockingly sinister turn.” Radio Times notes that, to make up for time lost to the COVID-19 crisis, the fifth and sixth seasons of this Scottish crime drama are being filmed back to back, so another run can be expected in 2022. There’s no word at this time of when American couch potatoes might see more of Shetland.

• And a final TV morsel: “Mike Flanagan has found another house to haunt for Netflix,” says’s Andrew Liptak. “After adapting Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor (based on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw), he’s turning his sights to Edgar Allan Poe’s classic story, ‘The Fall of the House of Usher.’ … According to Deadline, Netflix has given a series order for the project, which will be ‘based on multiple works from Edgar Allan Poe.’ He’ll direct half of the eight-episode series alongside Michael Fimognari (To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You).”

• There appears to be major disagreement over whether the true identity of the “Zodiac Killer,” who taunted police and took the lives of at least five people around San Francisco Bay during the late 1960s, has finally been revealed. From In Reference to Murder:
A team of more than 40 retired and amateur investigators claim they have identified the Zodiac Killer, up to this point an unnamed serial killer that operated in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s. The team, calling themselves The Case Breakers, which consists of former law enforcement officials, DNA experts, and journalists, believe they have identified the Zodiac Killer as Gary Francis Poste, who died in 2018. But the FBI and police in California say, “Not so fast.”
• Killer Covers has posted a new gallery of classic—and very attractive—paperbacks that take their titles from the first names of female protagonists. Feast your eyes here.

• By my calculations (he was born in 1948), Max Allan Collins is now 73 years old and has been publishing books for 45 years. That’s an impressive career, but one that seems to have taken some toll on the Iowa author. In a blog post put up earlier this week, dealing primarily with his new Fancy Anders novella series and the latest installment of his literary memoir in column form, “A Life of Crime,” Collins mentioned that he and collaborator James Traylor are still hard at work on their Mickey Spillane biography for Mysterious Press. Then he wrote: “I have decided I will never write non-fiction again. I haven’t done much, but projects like The History of Mystery, the Elvgren and other pin-up books, the men’s adventure magazine book with George Hagenauer, two previous Spillane non-fiction works with Jim Traylor, and the two Eliot Ness biographies with Brad Schwartz, were just too punishing for me to consider doing non-fiction again at this stage and age. The Spillane bio is going to be something very good, I think, and will make an excellent capper to this niche of my career.”

(Right) Dilys Winn on To Tell the Truth, February 1972.

• New York City’s first independent mystery bookshop, the beloved Murder Ink, shuttered its premises in December 2006 after 34 years of operation. Last week, a Web site called I Love the Upper West Side, which covers news and entertainment happening in one of Manhattan’s tonier districts, delivered a fine remembrance of Murder Ink and its “quirky” founder, Dilys Winn. Enough time has now passed to leave an entire generation of Upper West Side (UWS) residents without knowledge of Winn’s enterprise, so this “history” piece was called for. Contributor Claudie Benjamin introduces her subject thusly:
In a 1972 segment of the popular TV show To Tell the Truth, [Irish-born former advertising copywriter] Dilys Winn wowed the panel who were grilling contestants all claiming to be her. Winn’s deep familiarity with the mystery genre, including the specifics of authors and their heroes and villains, led the panelists to correctly vote her as the real Dilys Winn.

There’s always been so much creativity and innovative impulse on the UWS, and it’s impressive when someone comes up with something that’s totally new and different. That’s just what Ms. Winn did in 1972 when she opened Murder Ink, an independent bookstore entirely devoted to murder mysteries and true crime. …

The impulse to open the shop came from her love of mysteries and hatred of her job (in advertising). Ms. Winn told the
To Tell the Truth panelists, “It was either sell them or commit one.”
Winn sold Murder Ink to her friend Carol Brener in 1976, and died in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2016 at age 76.

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine’s “Something Is Going to Happen” blog features a thoughtful new essay by Kevin Mims, remembering American author John Ball (In the Heat of the Night) 33 years after his death on October 15, 1988. “He was a writer,” declares Mims, “who was unafraid to veer out of his own lane and explore the lives of others—people whose experiences of the world were vastly different from his own. He left behind a vast body of work, but if more readers don’t seek it out, it may end up being a dead body. And you don’t want to be one of the suspects in that homicide investigation.”

• As The Deighton Dossier observes, Len Deighton (The IPCRESS File, Funeral in Berlin, etc.) “has often eschewed literary prizes and honours, believing his work speaks for itself. But as someone born in London, who lived there during much of his early life until his career as an author really took off, he might appreciate a blue plaque there in his name.” It seems the inner London borough of Southwark plans to salute one individual this year who boasts a significant connection to the area, and to do so by posting a circular blue plaque bearing his or her name and general details. The 92-year-old Deighton, “who is thought to have written the first novel typed on a word processor from his Borough home,” is among the five candidates for said accolade. (More than 50 such plaques already dot the district.) The Southwark News, which co-created this commendation with the Southwark Heritage Association, requests the public’s participation in selecting the 2021 honoree. “To vote, e-mail or, naming the person that you would like to see commemorated with a blue plaque,” the newspaper advises. “Voting closes at midnight on November 30.”

1 comment:

dfordoom said...

1969’s typically maligned On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which she insists is actually the franchise’s best entry.

You can make a good case for that. I think From Russia With Love is the best but On Her Majesty’s Secret Service might well be Number Two. Two very different Bond movies but both representing perfectly valid approaches.

There were no good Bond movies after Roger Moore departed.