Friday, September 23, 2022

Bullet Points: Kicking Off Autumn Edition

• Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and country singer Dolly Parton have all claimed authorship of crime or thriller novels over the last few years, so why not James Comey? The ex-U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and onetime FBI director was bluntly fired from that latter post in 2017 by Donald Trump amid the worsening scandal over Russian influence on Trump’s 2016 presidential bid. Comey has since delivered speeches and written op-ed pieces for newspapers, but those endeavors were apparently not satisfying enough. So now he has signed with The Mysterious Press, an imprint of Penzler Publishers, to produce a pair of crime novels. As explained this week in a press release,
Central Park West, the first book of a planned series, features an assistant U.S. Attorney whose case against a high-profile mobster is derailed when a shocking turn of events reveals possible ties between the Mafia and the headline-making murder of a local politician. Drawing from the author’s personal experience, this high-stakes legal thriller reveals the detective work, backdoor dealings, and tradecraft involved as the FBI and Department of Justice attempt to build a case against an elusive member of one of the oldest criminal organizations in the world.
“I’m excited to take readers inside fascinating worlds I’ve come to know from my time in government and the private sector,” Comey is quoted as saying. “These stories are fiction, but, inspired by real work I’ve done, they will offer a rarely-seen view of interesting people and institutions. And I’m honored to be doing it with a legendary publisher.” Central Park West is scheduled for release in late spring 2023. There’s no word yet on the plot of book two.

• Literary Hub managing editor Emily Temple surveyed 25 reading lists for this fall season from 22 notable outlets (newspapers, magazines, and some Web sites) in order to come up with a tally of the 72 most-recommended books, fiction and non-fiction. Of those dozens of choices, I believe only two novels—Deanna Raybourn’s Killers of a Certain Age and Richard Osman’s The Bullet That Missed—can unquestionably be defined as crime or mystery fiction.

• The annual Irish crime-writing festival Murder One was launched only in 2018, and for the last two years—ever since the COVID-19 pandemic struck—it has had to be presented exclusively online. Not this year, though. From October 4 to 9, Murder One is scheduling events to take place at the DLR LexIcon Library and Cultural Centre in Dún Laoghaire, just south of Dublin. Among 2022’s scheduled guests will be U.S. novelists Laura Lippman and Jean Hanff Korelitz, English fictionists Ann Cleeves and Mick Herron, Irish writers Catherine Ryan Howard and Brian McGilloway, and Agatha Christie biographer/TV presenter Lucy Worsley. Many of the in-person events will also be live-streamed online. For booking details, click here.

• In Reference to Murder reports that actor Shaun Sipos (Outer Range) “has been tapped as a major lead opposite Alan Ritchson in the upcoming second season of Reacher. From writer and showrunner Nick Santora and based on the novels by Lee Child, the series follows Jack Reacher (Ritchson), a veteran military police investigator who has just recently entered civilian life. In a one-year deal, Sipos will play David O’Donnell, who served with Reacher in the Army’s unit of special investigators and is like a brother to Reacher. While Season 1 was based on the first book in Child’s Jack Reacher series, Ritchson revealed in May on Instagram that Season 2 will follow the eleventh book in Child’s series, Bad Luck and Trouble. David O’Donnell is a prominent character in that book, the only novel in the series he is featured in, which explains Sipos’ one-season deal.”

• Congratulations to the Sisters in Crime organization for 35 years spent “fighting the patriarchy.”

• How does Peter Falk’s Lieutenant Columbo compare with the great Sherlock Holmes? “Despite being a very different character, and harking from an entirely different time and space,” The Columbophile blog opines, “Columbo may be the closest to Holmes of all their peers in terms of mental dexterity. But how much do these men really have in common when making a detailed comparison? Well, despite one being an upper-crust, cynical and occasionally drug-dependent Victorian-era Brit, and the other being from humble Italian-American stock, a grafter who has worked harder than others to get ahead, there is much to connect the two detectives—and those similarities expand way beyond a mutual love of tobacco.” Enjoy the whole story here.

• So much for that dream... In answer to the question, “At what point in human history were there too many (English) books to be able to read them all in one lifetime?,” Randall Munroe, the author of What If? 2, estimates the threshold was passed “sometime before the population of active English writers reached a few hundred,” which would have been right around the year 1500.

• Sadly, my book radar sometimes fails me. For instance, I entirely missed noticing this last July’s release of The Blood Ogre, the latest novel from Craig McDonald, best known for his pulpish Hector Lassiter series. Steven Powell offers this description:
The story revolves around the reputation of two remarkably prolific writers, Lester Dent and Walter B. Gibson. Dent suffered a nervous breakdown and early death in 1959, perhaps brought on by the impossible schedule of churning out Doc Savage novels by the dozen and averaging two million words a year on his typewriter. In his final days, Dent had hallucinations in which he would see and interact with Doc Savage characters. In 1965, Doc Savage and The Shadow novels are enjoying renewed popularity. The Shadow author Walter B. Gibson has a knack for publicity rooted in his parallel career as a magician. People start witnessing a black-clad figure looming around the Greenwich Village house where Gibson penned the final Shadow novel in 1949. Gibson claims it is a ‘living mind-projection’ of The Shadow. But if a hero can rise from the pages of an authors literary output, then what other, more sinister, characters will follow him?
Powell calls The Blood Ogre “devilishly good” and “an affectionate tribute to a bygone era.” Frankly, it’s meta-fictional conceit reminds me rather too much of Paul Malmont’s The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril (2006), a novel I was unable to finish. Nonetheless, I’ve enjoyed McDonald’s books in the past, so will likely look this one up, too.

• Not long before he starred in the high-tech NBC-TV private eye drama Search, actor Tony Franciosa appeared in an unsold pilot for the same network called The Catcher. The weekly program would’ve starred Michael Witney as Noah Hendrix, a former agent with the Seattle Bureau of Missing Persons, who now operates as an investigator chasing runaways and fugitives. I’ve never seen the full pilot, but I did discover a four-minute clip on YouTube that features Franciosa, Witney, Jan-Michael Vincent as Hendrix’s associate Sam Callende, and blues musician Piano Red. See it while you can!

• My, how times—and budgets—have changed! Back in 1968, it was considered extravagant for NBC to fork out $400,000 for every 90-minute episode of the crime-drama “wheel series” The Name of the Game. Compare that with some of today’s most expensive small-screen shows. According to the Internet research company VPN Overview, the Amazon Prime production Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power costs $60 million per installment. The Disney+ programs Hawkeye (2021), The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021), WandaVision (2021), Loki (2021), and Obi Wan Kenobi (2022) each budgeted $25,000,000 per episode, while Netflix spends $13,000,000 per episode on The Crown (2016-).

• Have you ever wanted to watch the first, black-and-white, half-hour episode of Jack Webb’s police drama, Dragnet, dating back to December 14, 1951? Well, here’s your chance.

• I didn’t realize, when I applauded the recent revival of The Washington Post’s Sunday Book World section after a dozen years, that its return would coincide with the end of another Sunday Post component I have come to appreciate immensely: the nearly 68-year-old Outlook section of commentary and news analysis. “The decision to retire the Outlook section,” Robert G. Kaiser and Steve Luxenberg explained in its last edition, on September 16, “and to consolidate the paper’s opinion journalism in the editorial department, is a measure of how dramatically the newspaper business has changed in its march from print to digital publication.” Outlook was one of the models I used when I created a four-page editorials section for my college newspaper, and I’ve enjoyed reading it whenever I have been in D.C. since, or have picked up the Sunday Post from a newsstand. Rolling its variety of contents into the Opinions pages is not an unreasonable solution, but it’s also not a happy one for those of us who once traveled directly from the front section of the Post to Outlook.

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