Thursday, June 01, 2023

A Fast Five

• Vaseem Khan, award-winning author of both the Baby Ganesh Detective Agency novels and the Malabar House series, has been elected as the new chair of the British Crime Writers’ Association. He succeeds editor, writer, and critic Maxim Jakubowski in that post. As The Guardian notes, Khan is “the first person of colour to take the role in the organisation’s 70-year history.” It adds that “Jakubowski will formally hand over the Creasey Bell—named in honour of the CWA founder [John Creasey]—to Khan at the annual Dagger awards on 6 July. The bell has been passed on from chair to chair for 70 years.”

• The 69th and latest edition of Strand Magazine contains a previously unpublished short story by James M. Cain (1892-1977). Titled “Blackmail,” and for decades cached at the Library of Congress, it “tells of a blind Korean War veteran known as Johnsie; Pat, the former comrade who now employs him; and Myra, a woman from the past with some hard-boiled ideas about money, and love …,” according to the Associated Press. “The themes in ‘Blackmail’ of betrayal, violence, rough sexuality—and blackmail—echo such Cain classics as Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice.” The Strand remarks: “In just over 3,000 words, Cain offers up all the noir elements we’ve come to expect from him, complete with gritty dialogue and a cunning antagonist, but puts in an unexpected twist that turns the tale on its head, offering a surprisingly nuanced take on these supposedly hard characters.” Order a copy of the issue here.

• We must say farewell to George Maharis, the American actor/singer perhaps best remembered for playing peripatetic Buz Murdock in the first three seasons of the television series Route 66. He died on May 24 at 94 years of age. In the decades following Route 66, Maharis appeared in films such as The Satan Bug (1965) and The Desperadoes (1969); starred as a San Francisco private eye in the 1969 ABC-TV pilot The Monk (written by Blake Edwards); and—alongside Ralph Bellamy and Yvette Mimieux—headlined the 1970-1971 ABC crime drama The Most Deadly Game. He also found roles on shows such as Cade’s County, Mission: Impossible, Police Story, Shaft, McMillan & Wife, Ellery Queen, Switch, and Murder, She Wrote. Something I didn’t know until reading The New York Times’ obituary of this performer: Maharis was gay, and was arrested twice during the less-enlightened 1960s and ’70s for “cruising in men’s bathrooms.”

• Although I will be attending the 2023 Bouchercon in San Diego (August 30-September 3), the price of this banquet is a wee bit steep for my budget. According to a message from convention organizers, “The Wolfe Pack is planning a dinner in a local restaurant near the event, Friday, September 1, at 6:30 p.m. Over the course of the evening, celebrate Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories by singing pastiches; completing hilarious quizzes about the opus; and toasting Mr. Stout, Mr. Wolfe, Archie, Fritz, and ‘Other.’ Very limited seating, so register now. $175 per person.” Click here for more information.

• And this is an unlikely employment opportunity. “M16 spooks are looking for James Bond-loving cabbies to drive cars, minibuses and lorries for the secret service,” reports Britain’s Daily Mail. “The intelligence service is searching for chauffeurs to drive around the capital for £33,029 a year.” The paper goes on to explain: “The day-to-day job will be varied, with drivers picking up staff members in varying authority as well as passengers.” It adds that “experience of driving large vans, minibuses or lorries is vital for you to be successful in this role.” What sensitive materials might those oversized vehicles be transporting? Get your application in now to find out!

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