Friday, September 16, 2022

Bullet Points: Hope and Hype Edition

• I first read about the possible shutting down of Mystery Scene magazine in Janet Rudolph’s Mystery Fanfare blog. Then came a bit more information in Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine editor George Easter’s post-Bouchercon round-up. There seems no escaping the truth of this matter: the Winter 2022 (mid-November) issue of Mystery Scene will be the last one produced by editor-in-chief Kate Stine (a veteran of the still-lamented Armchair Detective) and her husband, Brian Skupin, who acquired the publication in 2002 from previous owners Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg. That’s 20 years of success, marked in part by their winning an Anthony Award for Best Mystery Magazine in 2004 and, in 2006, an Ellery Queen Award for contributions to mystery publishing. But can this really be the end of Mystery Scene, a periodical so many of us have come to rely on for news, reviews, interviews, and features about the genre’s history? Stine tells me in an e-mail message that she and Skupin are definitely quitting as publishers. However, she adds, they are “putting the word out to anyone interested that the magazine is available [for sale]. We would be willing to work closely with new owners.” Anybody who could rescue this important asset to the mystery-fiction community is encouraged to contact Stine at “So, we’ll have to wait and see if the magazine ends with us or carries on,” says Stine. “We’re planning on keeping the Web site and the monthly newsletter going through the end of the year.”

• Because I was a big fan of Louis Bayard’s 2006 historical whodunit, The Pale Blue Eye, I have been following closely news about that book’s adaptation as a forthcoming Netflix film. The streaming company recently released “a first-look image” of actor Christian Bale in the role of Augustus “Gus” Landor, a lonely, alcoholic New York City detective, who—with help from cadet Edgar Allan Poe—investigates the vicious murder of another cadet at the West Point military academy in 1830. In addition, it was announced that this version of The Pale Blue Eye “will arrive on Netflix on January 6, after a limited awards-qualifying theatrical run that begins on December 23.” Harry Melling (The Queen’s Gambit) will play the young Poe, with Gillian Anderson, Toby Jones, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and the ever-lovely Lucy Boynton (Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?) helping to round out the cast.

• Meanwhile, word has spread that Enola Holmes 2, the quite unimaginatively titled sequel to Millie Bobby Brown’s enjoyable 2020 Netflix movie, Enola Holmes, is being readied for its small-screen premiere on November 4. “Enola’s newest adventure,” says Entertainment Weekly, “begins after a young girl working in a match factory hires her to locate her missing sister. Before long, Enola finds herself drawn into a high-stakes chase across London, journeying from the city’s seedy industrial underbelly to the glitzy galas of high society. In other words, the game is most certainly afoot.” Henry Cavill will again portray Enola’s elder sibling, Sherlock Holmes, with Helena Bonham Carter returning as Eudoria Holmes, and Adeel Akhtar slipping into the shoes of Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Lestrade.

• The broadcast news source Radio Times reports that Professor T., the humorous ITV-TV crime drama based on a Belgian program of the same name, will return to UK boob tubes with fresh episodes, beginning tonight. “Starring [Ben] Miller as Jasper Tempest and Harry Potter star Frances de la Tour as his mother Adelaide,” the magazine’s Web site explains, “the story will once again be set in Cambridge as the Professor continues to help the police solve unusual crimes. Season 2 may finally see the Professor get the help he needs as he embarks on therapy, which unearths more secrets from his troubled childhood.” There’s no word on when Season 2 might reach U.S. screens.

• Having concluded its run in the UK, Season 7 of Shetland premiered this week on BritBox in the States, bringing viewers the first of six final episodes to star Douglas Henshall as Shetland Islands Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez, a character created by Ann Cleeves. The plot line this time out finds Perez being cleared, after a year’s uneasy suspension, of any wrongdoing in the shocking suicide of terminally ill patient Donna Killick. He then moves on quickly to investigate the disappearance and subsequent demise of a “sensitive” young graphic novelist, Connor Cairns. The Killing Times offers recaps of this week’s episode, plus the five others to come, though you may wish to exercise caution in reading, as spoilers are on offer.

• The Killing Times also brings news that filming has begun on the third season of Grace, the ITV-TV series starring John Simm and based on Peter James’ novels about Brighton-based Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. Like Season 2 (which I watched only last week), that upcoming series will comprise three episodes. I only hope Zoë Tapper returns as forensic pathologist Cleo Moray, whose relationship with the DSU helped flesh out his character and soften his intensity.

• And with James’ 18th Grace novel, Picture You Dead, due for release on this side of the Atlantic in late September, it’s worth looking over an interview he did with The Guardian a while back. In it, the author talks about how he learned a few pointers on techniques of art forgery—a major component of this new book’s story.

• Nobody should be surprised by news that I’m a huge fan of newspaper book-review sections, so I was pleased to read this in The Complete Review: “The Washington Post’s old stand-alone Book World section was discontinued in 2009 but, as former editor Ron Charles now reports: ‘The Washington Post’s stand-alone print book section is coming back!’—on 25 September. This is certainly good to hear. With the Canadian The Globe & Mail apparently also re-making their Arts & Books section as a stand-alone (on 10 September), this almost looks like a trend … Who will be next?”

• At the end of last month, I mentioned on this page that the anonymous author of The Columbophile Blog would soon welcome into the world his new book, The Columbo Companion, 1968-78: Investigating Every Detail of All 45 ‘Classic Era’ Columbo Adventures (Bonaventure Press). Back then, there were no ordering links online, but now I see it’s at least available from Amazon.

• While we’re talking about The Columbophile Blog, let me draw your attention to a trio of posts there that deserve your notice. Two of them finally identify the mysterious actresses behind memorable minor characters in Peter Falk’s original series—the nude model from “Suitable for Framing” and the “snooty” Tricon Industries from “An Exercise in Fatality”—while the third explains the “gargantuan” task of casting Columbo. (Included are many performers who never quite made it onto that rotating NBC Mystery Movie drama.)

From In Reference to Murder: “Writing for The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik profiled Georges Simenon and ‘The Mysterious Case of Inspector Maigret.’ He concluded that the Maigret books, seventy-five in all, seem more likely to be remembered than [Simenon’s] romans durs, the ‘hard books’ often set outside Paris and meant ‘as works of more self-conscious art.’” Time will tell. Andrew Nette looked back at those romans durs earlier this year in a fine CrimeReads piece.

In its tweet touting “James Bond Day” on October 5, Ian Fleming Publications teased the coming of a major—though unspecified—announcement. Rumors are now rife that there will be a new Bond continuation novel, to follow the last three by Anthony Horowitz.

• Former James Bond portrayer George Lazenby may want to amend some of his moral positions before again seeking public attention.

• In a long, thoughtful piece for The Conversation, a news and analysis site, writers Stewart King, Alistair Rolls, and Jesper Gulddal consider “how crime fiction went global, embracing themes from decolonisation to climate change.”

• With two months or so yet to go before a winner is pronounced, Karen Meek writes in the Euro Crime blog that “31 of the 34 titles that were eligible for the 2022 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year have been entered by the publishers.” Among them are works by Anders de la Motte, Lilja Sigurðardóttir, Arnaldur Indridason, Antti Tuomainen, and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir.

• Believe it or not, there’s a certifiable whodunit on this year’s longlist of 10 National Book Award nominees in the Fiction category. It’s Shutter, by Ramona Emerson, released in early August by Soho Crime. Here’s the plot synopsis from Amazon:
Rita Todacheene is a forensic photographer working for the Albuquerque police force. Her excellent photography skills have cracked many cases—she is almost supernaturally good at capturing details. In fact, Rita has been hiding a secret: she sees the ghosts of crime victims who point her toward the clues that other investigators overlook.

As a lone portal back to the living for traumatized spirits, Rita is terrorized by nagging ghosts who won’t let her sleep and who sabotage her personal life. Her taboo and psychologically harrowing ability was what drove her away from the Navajo reservation, where she was raised by her grandmother. It has isolated her from friends and gotten her in trouble with the law.

And now it might be what gets her killed.
The competition for this annual prize is likely to be fierce, and Shutter may not triumph in the end. Still, it’s nice to see a work of crime fiction recognized for its literary excellence.

• I won’t argue with this assessment, in the blog Paperback Warrior, of Alistair MacLean’s already much-praised 1957 novel: “The Guns of Navarone is an absolute masterpiece of high-adventure, and I give it the highest recommendation. You won’t be disappointed with the story, plot development, or characters. MacLean deserved the heaps of praise his early and mid-career novels received. He was a master craftsman and you owe it to yourself to read one of his best. Whether this one is as good, or better, than Where Eagles Dare [1966] is up for debate. I love them both equally.”

• R.I.P., Elizabeth Gunn, “author of the Detective Jake Hines series and the Sarah Burke series,” and best-selling American horror writer Peter Straub (Ghost Story). Also gone is Williams Reynolds, who starred as Special Agent Tom Colby on 161 episodes of The F.B.I.

• Finally, the death last week of Queen Elizabeth II led publications worldwide to reflect not only on the real-life, 70-year career of that British monarch, but also on her numerous appearances—without her express permission, of course—in works of fiction. An Associated Press piece, for instance, recalled the queen’s role in the plots of various films and TV shows, and observed that author S.J. Bennett has turned her into a sleuth in two novels thus far, with another (Murder Most Royal) due out in November. The article might also have noted Canadian author Douglas Whiteway’s three novels, penned under the pseudonym C.C. Benison, about a fictional royal housemaid, one Jane Bee, who is infrequently called upon by Her Majesty to solve crimes at the Queen’s estates; that series’ opening installment was Death at Buckingham Palace (1996). And what of Susan Elia MacNeal’s 2021 mystery, Princess Elizabeth's Spy, in which MI5 agent-in-training Maggie Hope safeguards the young future soverign and her sister from possible Nazi provocateurs at Windsor Castle? Or William F. Buckley’s Saving the Queen (1976)? Although that first Blackford Oakes espionage novel, set in 1952, finds the undercover CIA agent in Britain protecting (and eventually bedding) a young “Queen Caroline,” that character is unquestionably based on Elizabeth, who ascended to the thrown in 1952 after the demise of her father, King George VI.

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