Wednesday, October 22, 2014

10 for 10

I made the mistake of checking in on Facebook today, only to discover that there’s a new meme going around. The challenge, as Brian Lindenmuth of Spinetingler Magazine presented it to me, is to name your “top 10 favorite crime books from 2004-2013. Ten only. No cheating by squeezing more titles in.” I immediately went to my annual tallies of the works I’ve read and tried to cull out one per year … which immediately turned into two or three a year … which ultimately left me with 25 titles, rather than 10. I whittled away from that point, finally coming up with this imperfect list, in alphabetical order:

The Blackhouse, by Peter May
Bye Bye, Baby, by Max Allan Collins
City of Dragons, by Kelli Stanley
House of the Hunted, by Mark Mills
Little Green, by Walter Mosley
Peeler, by Kevin McCarthy
A Quiet Flame, by Philip Kerr
Rosa, by Jonathan Rabb
The Song Is You, by Megan Abbott
Wolves Eat Dogs, by Martin Cruz Smith

I’m not going to tag anyone with the responsibility of following me in this daunting venture. But if you wish to submit your own choices, please do so under the Comments tab below.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Let Chandler Be Your Guide

Last week on this page we announced the start of a new giveaway contest. The prizes this time: four copies of “The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles” (Herb Lester Associates), illustrated by Paul Rogers, with text by Kim Cooper, author of The Kept Girl. Today we have our winners, chosen completely at random. They are:

Kenneth Koll of San Diego, California
David Origlio of Aurora, Colorado
Carol Gwenn of Hollywood, California
Larry W. Chavis of Mendenhall, Mississippi

Congratulations to all four of those lucky Rap Sheet readers. Copies of the Chandler map and guide should be mailed out to each of them within the next several days.

And if you didn’t win? You can still purchase a copy of “The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles” by clicking here. They’re beautiful.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Rush’s Hour

I haven’t yet spotted a full list of prize recipients online, but Janet Rudolph is reporting in Mystery Fanfare that Los Angeles author Naomi Hirahara has won the 2014 T. Jefferson Parker Mystery Award for Murder on Bamboo Lane (Berkley). The Parker is one of several commendations given out annually by the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association (SCIBA), recognizing “excellence in books that reflect Southern California culture or lifestyle.”

Of Murder on Bamboo Lane--released this last April--Publishers Weekly wrote:
Edgar-winner Hirahara, author of Summer of the Big Bachi and four other Mas Arai mysteries, introduces Ellie Rush, a Japanese-American rookie LAPD bicycle cop, in this highly entertaining series debut. When Jenny Nguyen, a former classmate of Ellie’s at Pan Pacific West College, goes missing and later turns up dead in a Chinatown alley, Ellie’s ties to PPW and Jenny’s friends, including Ellie’s ex-boyfriend, Benjamin Choi, prove useful. Jenny’s boyfriend, controversial artist Tuan Le, is a prime suspect, and he asks Ellie for help. Her aunt, Cheryl Toma, the highest-ranking Asian in the LAPD, also wants Ellie on the case, but has a hidden agenda. Ellie finds herself navigating a personal and professional minefield when she’s assigned to work on the case with handsome Det. Cortez Williams. Readers will want to see more of Ellie, who provides a fresh perspective on L.A.’s rich ethnic mix.
Also contending for this year’s T. Jefferson Parker Mystery Award were The Ascendant, by Drew Chapman (Pocket), and The Disposables, by David Putnam (Oceanview).

Hirahara was nominated for this same prize last year, for her Mas Arai mystery Strawberry Yellow, but the honor went instead to What the Heart Remembers, by Debra Ginsberg.

READ MORE:Naomi Hirahara on Her New Mystery Series ... and the new L.A.,” by David L. Ulin (Los Angeles Times).

Are You In?

You have only two days left to enter The Rap Sheet’s latest giveaway contest. The prizes this time: four copies of “The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles,” published recently by Herb Lester Associates. Find out more about that map/guide here.

To have a chance at winning one of these high-quality maps--especially perfect for attendees of next month’s Bouchercon in Long Beach, California--simply e-mail your name and postal address to jpwrites@wordcuts.org. And be sure to type “Raymond Chandler Map Contest” in the subject line. Entries will be accepted until midnight tomorrow, October 20. The four recipients will be chosen completely at random, and their names listed on this page the following day.

Sorry, but this drawing is open only to U.S. residents.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Bullet Points: Wheeling Around the Web

• Today brought the opening, at the Museum of London, of an exhibit called “Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die.” As Mystery Fanfare explains, this show “celebrates the world of the greatest fictional detective of all time. The exhibit will run through April 12, 2015, with a variety of rare treasures,” including “the original manuscript of ‘The Adventure of the Empty House’ (1903).”

• We’re still almost two weeks out from Halloween, but blogger Janet Rudolph has already posted a lengthy list of mystery and crime fiction associated with that celebration.

• The All Hallow’s Eve posts keep on coming. Following the success of their recent “Summer of Sleaze” series at Tor.com, bloggers Will Errickson and Grady Hendrix have launched a brand-new series called “The Bloody Books of Halloween” (which I presume will continue through October 31). Today’s entry, by Errickson, looks back at Ray Bradbury’s 1955 short-story collection, The October Country.

• A belated “happy birthday” to Sir Roger Moore! The former James Bond star celebrated his 87th birthday this last Tuesday.

• Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Tana French’s In the Woods, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, and Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale--they all feature prominently on Flavorwire’s list of “50 of the Greatest Debut Novels Since 1950.”

• While we’re on the subject of Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond thriller, let me refer your attention to The HMSS Weblog’s “reappraisal” of CBS-TV’s early, much-maligned adaptation of that 1953 novel. As I’ve mentioned previously, this small-screen version of the tale starred American actor Barry Nelson alongside Mexico-born actress Linda Christian and the familiar Peter Lorre. It was first broadcast on October 21, 1954--60 years ago next week--as part of the CBS-TV series Climax! “While Ian Fleming’s first novel was short, it still covered too much ground to be covered in a 60-minute time slot,” opines blogger Bill Koenig. “Excluding commercials and titles, only about 50 minutes was available to tell the story. … This version of Casino Royale’s main value is that of a time capsule, a reminder of when television was mostly done live. Lorre is suitably villainous. If you find him fun to watch on movies and other television shows, nothing here will change your mind.” You can watch the whole show here.

• I’m pleased to see Moonlighting and Hill Street Blues included in this piece about “The Top 20 Theme Songs of the 1980s.” But really, Highway to Heaven made it, too?

• And this latest addition to The Rap Sheet’s YouTube page should inspire happy memories of 1970s television programming.

• This Sunday night, October 19, will bring to PBS-TV’s Masterpiece Mystery! series the last installment of Inspector Lewis’ latest, three-episode season. It’s titled “Beyond Good and Evil,” and the plot synopsis reads: “Thirteen years after [Robbie] Lewis’ first successful arrest as a Detective Inspector, the forensics have been called into question and the case reopened for appeal. Lewis fears the worst, but nothing can prepare him for the resumption of the original murders with the original weapon. Did he arrest an innocent man? With Lewis’ reputation in jeopardy, [DI James] Hathaway and [DS Lizzie] Maddox race to catch the killer.” The episode is set to begin broadcasting at 9 p.m. on Sunday. You should find a video preview here.

Spicy Detective magazine must have drawn a great deal of (male) attention during its years of publication 1934-1942). If you’re interested in ogling more Spicy Detective fronts, you can do so here.

• Speaking of covers--though of the book sort this time--have you been keeping up with Killer Covers’ month-long tribute to renowned paperback illustrator Robert McGinnis? You can see all the daily posts here. This series will conclude on October 31.

The new, 600th post for the blog In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel suggests some nominees for the “Top Five Underappreciated Books.” I’ve read all but one of those listed, and would certainly have come up with far different choices, had I been assigned to the project. But each reader has his or her own preferences. So be it.

Reassessing Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry.

• I wasn’t aware of this until today, but Poe’s “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether,” a short story published in 1845, has been adapted for the big screen as Stonehearst Asylum. This movie stars the ever-divine Kate Beckinsale and is scheduled for release on October 24. Criminal Element offers the trailer.

• On top of the news that director David Lynch plans to revive Twin Peaks, the 1990-1991 cult TV series, for cable channel Showtime in early 2016, comes word that series co-creator Mark Frost is writing a book titled The Secret Lives of Twin Peaks. According to a press release, “The novel reveals what has happened to the people of the iconic fictional town since we last saw them 25 years ago, and offers a deeper glimpse into the central mystery from the original series.” It’s set for release in late 2015.

• Meanwhile, the great Twin Peaks rewatch continues.

• And novelist Megan Abbott comments, in New York magazine’s Vulture blog, on how Twin Peaks influenced her own writing.

• After an unplanned three-year hiatus, The Trap of Solid Gold--Steve Scott’s excellent blog about author John D. MacDonald and his works--has suddenly reappeared. Scott reports here that his extended quiet was attributable to family health problems. But he’s moved quickly to dust off his site and begin posting again, including on the subject of MacDonald’s 1957 novel A Man of Affairs (the paperback cover of which was illustrated by the great Victor Kalin). Let me just welcome The Trap of Solid Gold back into the blogging fold.

This comes from The New York Times: “Elmore Leonard died in 2013, but now some of his signature Hawaiian shirts will be preserved forever at the University of South Carolina, which has acquired more than 150 boxes of Mr. Leonard’s archive.”

• Who would have imagined it? “Publicity makes for strange bedfellows,” writes Jake Hinkson in Criminal Element. “So does crime. So does religion, for that matter. Add publicity, crime, and religion together, and you get the fascinating story of how the Reverend Billy Graham set out to save the soul of the most notorious gangster in the history of Los Angeles: crime lord Mickey Cohen.”

• And I must say good-bye to an old friend, Geoffrey Cowley. Many years before he took up his post as Newsweek’s health editor and was later hired as a national writer for MSNBC, Geoff attended college with me. He was also the editor of our school’s newspaper, in the year I served as its managing editor. (Most everyone on the staff called him “Gee-off,” in order to distinguish between us.) I went on to succeed him in the editor’s post. Geoff and I had not stay in close touch in recent years; there are undoubtedly many people who knew the older Geoff Cowley better than I did. But I always remember him as a fine, bright, and generous human being. We need more people like him in this world, not fewer. According to this obituary in The New York Times, Geoff died of colon cancer on October 14. Very, very sad.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pierce’s Picks: “Riders on the Storm”

A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

Riders on the Storm, by Ed Gorman (Pegasus)

The Gist: It’s 1971, and Iowa attorney/private investigator Sam McCain (last seen in 2011’s Bad Moon Rising--which was supposed to have been his final outing, but wasn’t) “is back home after a boot camp injury prematurely ends his military career as a [Vietnam War] draftee,” explains The Gazette, Gorman’s hometown newspaper in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “But the consequences of war have reached everywhere, including Black River Falls, where emotions run high on both side of the issue. One of McCain’s friends [Will Cullen] joins a group of veterans against the war [led by future Secretary of State John Kerry] and is brutally beaten by another veteran because of it. When the one who delivered the beating”--a newly minted Congressional candidate, Steve Donovan--“turns up dead, his victim is the obvious suspect. McCain doesn’t agree and begins a quest for the truth.” As Kirkus Reviews relates, “His suspicions fall on Lon Anders, Donovan’s rapacious new business partner, and on Valerie Donovan, a widow who’s one piece of work. As usual, there are plenty of other guilty secrets to discover. The final revelation, however, will take most readers by surprise, even if some of them are still scratching their heads after the curtain comes down.”

What Else You Should Know: “Ed Gorman manages to wind every messy and unruly concern that plagued America in 1971 into one taut story,” writes Terrie Farley Moran in Criminal Element. Publishers Weekly opines, “Gorman skillfully depicts Vietnam veterans’ complex, often contradictory feelings toward the war--from rabid patriotism to rage toward the government--but is less subtle in the way he presents his female characters, who are all mysterious, arousing, and wear clothes that ‘love’ their bodies (e.g., ‘A gray skirt that loved every inch of her lower body as the turquoise blouse loved the upper’).” Fellow author Bill Crider is rather more generous on the matter of Gorman’s cast descriptions: “As usual in Gorman’s books, the characters are a lot more complex than they first appear. As soon as you think you know them, you find out that you don’t. People are never simple black-or-white creations. They’re complex mixtures who will leave you thinking about them when you lay the book aside. Also as usual, the writing is clear and clean and sharp with astute observations about the times, the politics of the era, and human nature. It’s enough to make you envious if you’re a writer and prone to that sort of thing. Not that I am, of course.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Feeling Their Way Toward a Genre

I’m a few hours late in mentioning this, but my latest Mysteries and Thrillers column was posted this morning on the Kirkus Reviews Web site. My topic this time around: Otto Penzler’s energetic new miscellany, The Best American Mystery Stories of the 19th Century (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

As I explain in the piece, this volume features “32 early, often excellent stabs at employing larceny, treachery and murder--and the investigation of such misdeeds--as principal catalysts for dramatic literary storytelling.” Among the authors included: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Anna Katharine Green, Richard Harding Davis, Edith Wharton, and Ambrose Bierce. Click here to read my thoughts on this collection ... which might make an ideal gift for mystery-fiction lovers this Christmas. Make a note of it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mapping Marlowe’s Meanderings

We’re now just a month away from the opening of Bouchercon in Long Beach, California. So it seems like the perfect time to offer a little something extra to all of you mystery-fiction lovers who plan to attend that November 13-16 conference: a smartly designed map/guide showing “the neon-lit streets, mobbed-up joints, and seedy rooming houses” of neighboring Los Angeles made famous by author Raymond Chandler and his series private eye, Philip Marlowe.

London-based Herb Lester Associates, which produces a wide range of artful fold-out guides to cities around the world--from San Francisco and Stockholm to New York, Lisbon, Barcelona, Rome, and Melbourne--recently published “The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles.” It was conceived and illustrated, in the style of the classic Dell Mapbacks, by Pasadena artist Paul Rogers, who previously created the handsome cover for The Kept Girl (Esotouric Ink), a 2014 novel by Kim Cooper that features Chandler in a sleuthing role. Cooper, a local tour guide and historian, also penned the text for the back of this new map (which is 16.5 x 23.4 inches in size). As Rogers explains, his plotting of Chandlerian haunts “doesn’t include everything, no map could.
We probably missed one or two important spots, we left off some of the joints that are only memories; drive-ins with gaudy neon and the false fronts behind them, sleazy hamburger joints that could poison a toad. Los Angeles has changed a lot since Chandler’s day, when it was just a big dry sunny place with ugly houses and no style, when people slept on porches, and lots offering at eleven hundred dollars had no takers.

But you can still make the drive down Wilshire all the way to the ocean, you can still poke around the alleys and side streets of Hollywood, and the eucalyptus trees still give off a tomcat smell in warm weather. You can’t get a drink at Victor’s any more but Musso’s is still open. Park out back, only tourists and suckers go in the front door.
Cooper’s savvy text covers 50 different sites, from the Sternwood Mansion (familiar from The Big Sleep) and Marlowe’s office at Hollywood and Cahuenga boulevards, to Roger Wade’s Beach House (The Long Goodbye), Florian’s (Farewell, My Lovely), and Orrin Quest’s Rooming House (The Little Sister) in “Bay City”--which was Chandler’s name for Santa Monica. In addition, this map features a list of the assorted residences around L.A. where Marlowe’s creator lived and a timeline of important events in his 70-year life.


Paul Rogers’ art was inspired by the old Dell Mapbacks.

Copies of “The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles” usually go for £4.00 (roughly $6.40 in U.S. dollars) apiece. But now you could win one free of charge. Herb Lister has generously provided four copies to The Rap Sheet as prizes. To enter the drawing for one, all you need do is e-mail your name and postal address to jpwrites@wordcuts.org. And be sure to type “Raymond Chandler Map Contest” in the subject line. Entries will be accepted between now and midnight next Monday, October 20. The four recipients will be chosen completely at random, and their names listed on this page the following day.

Sorry, but this drawing is open only to U.S. residents.

So, if you’re going to miss out on the Bouchercon-related, all-day Raymond Chandler tour of L.A.--scheduled to leave from and return to the convention hotel on Wednesday, November 12--you can still take your own spin around local Chandler/Marlowe landmarks with a copy of Paul Rogers’ map stretched between your paws. Just don’t waste any time in entering this contest; I expect it to be very popular.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Find L.A.’s Mean Streets During Bouchercon

There’s a special treat being planned for all of those people who expect to be in Long Beach, California, for the opening day of next month’s Bouchercon. The quirky “bus adventures” company Esotouric has scheduled a special, all-day Raymond Chandler tour of Los Angeles on Wednesday, November 12, expressly for early bird arrivals.

Kim Cooper, who with her husband operates Esotouric (and is the author of The Kept Girl, a fascinating mystery featuring Chandler, released earlier this year) tells me that this extended excursion--“Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles: In a Lonely Place”--will depart from the convention hotel (the Hyatt Regency Long Beach, 200 South Pine Avenue) on Wednesday at 9 a.m. Check-in is at 8:30 a.m. The cost to participate will be $90 per person. This tour will conclude at 5 p.m. back at the Hyatt Regency. “We think it’s just the thing for the visiting mystery lover,” remarks Cooper.

A press release calls this tour “a detail-drenched exploration of the 20th-century city that shaped Chandler’s fiction, and that in turn shaped his hard-boiled times. The route stretches from the Art Deco gems of downtown Los Angeles to the mean streets of Hollywood, featuring locations where Chandler worked, drank, or set memorable scenes from his books and screenplays. Locations include The Oviatt Building (The Lady in the Lake), the Hotel Van Nuys (The Little Sister), Bullock’s Wilshire (The Big Sleep), The Bryson (The Lady in the Lake), Paramount Studios (Double Indemnity), Hollywood Boulevard (“Raymond Chandler Square”), the historic Larry Edmunds Bookshop, and beyond. Drawing on published and unpublished work, private correspondence, screenplays, and film adaptations, the tour traces Chandler’s search for meaning and his anti-hero Philip Marlowe’s adventures in detection, which lead them both down the rabbit hole of isolation, depression, and drink. The tour is a revealing time-travel journey into the literary history of Los Angeles, and a rare chance to soak up that atmosphere with others who love noir fiction.”

For more information or to register, simply click here and go to the bottom of the page, or call (213) 373-1947.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Plan Ahead for Canada’s New Crime Fest

In Canadian book-publishing circles, Alma Lee’s name is synonymous with successful book-related events. This is because way back in 1988, she was one of the first out of the box with what has become a worldwide phenomenon: the literary festival.

Lee stepped down as creative director of British Columbia’s renowned Vancouver International Writers Festival in 2005, in part for health reasons. Since then, she’s had a liver transplant followed by a successful recovery. Where other people might take the opportunity to grab a deep breath, Lee has launched herself into yet another project that shows every sign of being world-class and widely recognized: CUFFED, the Vancouver International Crime Fiction Festival. The first CUFFED is scheduled to take place March 11-13, 2016, on Lee’s old stomping grounds, Vancouver’s Granville Island. “I know it seems far away,” Lee says about the dates, “but believe me, from starting something like this from scratch, I know how long it takes.”

And Lee and company aren’t messing around. Right out of the box they can claim a stellar venue, strong support from the publishing community, and a stable of participating writers that includes Linwood Barclay, Ian Rankin, and Quintin Jardine.

Although some people will think the shift from running a literary festival to planning one focused on crime fiction is an intense about-face, Lee takes a different view. “The more I talk to people and friends about reading,” she explains, “the more I found out that people are really keen on crime fiction, so I don’t think we will have difficulty in finding an audience.”

Lee herself loves the genre and says she’s always been a strong supporter. “Many people think [crime fiction is] a ‘guilty pleasure.’ Not me,” she pronounces. “I am an eclectic reader, but crime fiction is a pleasure, not one I feel guilty about. I think some of the best writers are writing in the genre.”

Read more about CUFFED on its Web site. If you would like to support the festival’s birth, check out its crowd-funding campaign here.

Drawing Strength

Have you been keeping up with my month-long tribute to renowned illustrator Robert McGinnis, in the Killer Covers blog? It’s rolling out in association with the coming release of The Art of Robert E. McGinnis (Titan), put together by McGinnis and Art Scott. Today’s entry in the series is found here. Or see all of the covers showcased here.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Pierce’s Picks: “Cobra”

A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

Cobra, by Deon Meyer (Atlantic Monthly Press)

The Gist: Captain Benny Griessel (last seen in Seven Days, 2012) “is called in when renowned mathematician David Adair is kidnapped from a remote hideaway, his bodyguards shot dead,” explains Kirkus Reviews. “The crime is traced to the international assassin team known as Cobra, which is after a memory card containing information that could expose major worldwide financial corruption. Meanwhile, Tyrone Kleinbooi, a small-time pickpocket who steals to support his sister, inadvertently winds up with the card when he robs Adair’s assistant and lover, Lillian Alvarez. Already running from the law, Tyrone witnesses a further shooting and now finds himself a Cobra target as well.” Crimepieces blogger Sarah Ward writes that “Unlike some of Meyer’s earlier books, Cobra has a straightforward linear narrative. The story focuses on the tension that arises when Tyrone Kleinbooi ... attempts to extract as much as he can from the circumstances. While this makes the narrative fast paced, it does detract from the quality of the investigation that we would normally expect in Meyer’s books.”

What Else You Should Know: Steve Dougherty observes in The Wall Street Journal that Griessel, “descendant of Dutch colonists, is a member of the former ruling minority in a dizzyingly diverse nation with 11 official state languages and a multitude of ethnic and tribal groups among its 54 million people. Mr. Meyer takes full advantage of this diversity with his cast of characters. In Cobra, Griessel has been recently promoted to the Cape Town Hawks, one of South Africa’s elite squads of murder and violent-crimes investigators. A microcosm of the city’s ethnic mix, his Hawks colleagues include an overweight Zulu woman named Mbali, who is a passionate believer in the ideals of the new, integrated South Africa. She is also a dour, by-the-books policewoman. Her foil, Cupido, is a mixed-race, Afrikaans-speaking so-called ‘Cape colored.’ That is, a descendant of Malaysian slaves brought to South Africa by the Dutch in the 1600s who intermarried with white settlers and indigenous Africans.” Ward concludes: “Meyer is a great chronicler of modern-day South Africa and he always maintains a clear-eyed view of how justice works in the country.”

Here’s Where the Plots End

This is good and bad news. As I mentioned back in March, the editorial staff of the long-running Webzine Plots With Guns has decided to close down the publication. However, they’ve just put out one final, well-packed issue first. The contents include stories by Dennis Tofoya, Rusty Barnes, Frances Gow, and Christopher Irvin.

I’m hoping that the PWG folks won’t be foolish enough to delete their site from the Web, simply because they’re no longer publishing. The ’zine has turned out some excellent short crime fiction since its founding in 1999. Its archives can continue to entertain more people over the years, who never read it during its heyday.

So long, Plots With Guns. It’s been a kick knowing you.

(Hat tip to My Little Corner.)

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Bullet Points: Summer’s Gone (Sigh!) Edition

• The best news of the day (so far): The British crime drama Inspector Lewis will return to PBS-TV’s Masterpiece Mystery! series this coming Sunday night, offering the first of three new episodes. The plot of that October 5 installment, “Entry Wounds,” is described this way: “Faced with a crime that bridges the worlds of neurosurgery, blood sports and animal rights, [newly promoted Detective Inspector James] Hathaway works his first case as DI with the help of his new partner, DS Lizzie Maddox [played by Angela Griffin]. [Robbie] Lewis, struggling to adapt to retired life, jumps at the chance to rejoin the force when Chief Superintendent Innocent seeks his help.” The program will begin at 9 p.m. Word is that this is the final season for Inspector Lewis, which means fans like me must appreciate it all the more. Learn more and watch a preview here.

• And it should be noted that following the run of those three Inspector Lewis episodes, Masterpiece Mystery! will present Death Comes to Pemberley, a two-part adaptation of P.D. James’ novel of the same name. Wikipedia offers this synopsis of the show:
It is October, 1803, six years after the events in [Jane Austen’s] Pride and Prejudice which resulted in the marriage of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet. One evening, on their way to Pemberley for a ball, an argument breaks out between George Wickham and Captain Denny in the carriage, with Wickham’s wife (and Elizabeth’s sister), Lydia, also present. The two leave the carriage in anger and disappear into the woodland, where two gunshots are heard. Upon hearing the news, Darcy sends out a search party and Wickham is found distraught and hysterical holding Denny’s body, blaming himself for his murder.
Death Comes to Pemberley will air on successive Sundays, October 26 and November 2, both nights beginning at 9 p.m. on PBS.

• Back in April I mentioned that publisher Titan was working on a handsome new volume highlighting the work of artist Robert McGinnis. Well, that book--The Art of Robert E. McGinnis--is slated for release on October 28. In advance of that, I’m highlighting a month’s work of my favorite McGinnis paperback fronts in my Killer Covers blog. You can enjoy the series’ opening entry here.

• Anthony Horowitz, who has a new Sherlock Holmes novel, Moriarty, due out in Britain in October, has also been recruited to compose ‘the next adult James Bond continuation novel … The new book by Horowitz--a lifelong fan of Ian Fleming--will be set in the 1950s and will be unique among the modern James Bond novels, in that a section will contain previously unseen material written by [Ian] Fleming to which Horowitz has had exclusive access.” The book is due for worldwide release in September 2015.

• Mike Ripley is out with his latest “Getting Away with Murder” column for Shots. This month he writes about new novels by Martina Cole, C.J. Sansom, Colin Bateman, and Sergey Kuznetsov; a coming BBC-TV series featuring Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence; a new collection of short stories from Catherine Aird, and much more. Clickety-clack here to find all of Ripley’s news and drollery.

• I missed mentioning, on September 16, that it had been 30 years since the debut of the groundbreaking “TV cops” show, Miami Vice.

• In addition to the 50th anniversary of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’s debut--a landmark celebrated right here--last week brought with it several events of particular interest to fans of that spy drama, all recapped in this post from The HMSS Weblog.

• Speaking of that blog, it has officially gone out on its own--with a brand-new logo--after half a dozen years of affiliation with the now-defunct Webzine Her Majesty’s Secret Servant. I’d like to wish managing editor Bill Koenig and his crew the best of luck with this next phase of their venture.

• Via Facebook comes the news that Seattle-area author Bernadette Pajer, who writes the Professor Bradshaw Mysteries, “has been awarded the M & M Grand Prize for Mystery & Mayhem Awards, a division of Chanticleer Blue Ribbon Writing Competitions.”

• Congratulations to Colin Dexter! The author of the Inspector Morse mysteries turned 84 years old this last Monday, September 29.

• As In Reference to Murder reports, the streaming video service Hulu “gave a straight-to-order series thumbs-up to an adaptation of Stephen King's time-travel thriller, 11/22/63, which offers up an alternate-reality take on the JFK assassination.”

• News has been trickling in all month about who will star in the second season of HBO-TV’s popular True Detective series. We heard first about Colin Ferrell and the perpetually goofy Vince Vaughn (an odd choice, if ever there was one) being signed to the project. More recently, Variety declared that lovely Rachel McAdams would join True Detective as well, along with Taylor Kitsch. Variety explains that next season’s episodes will be “set in California and [revolve] around three police officers and a career criminal who navigate a web of conspiracy in the aftermath of a murder. McAdams and Kitsch are expected to play cops alongside Farrell, while Vaughn plays the crime boss whose empire is threatened when his partner is murdered.”

Margaret Nolan, the now 70-year-old actress who played the role of Dink, James Bond’s masseuse, in the 1964 film Goldfinger--and also features in the distinctive opening sequence to that motion picture--is interviewed briefly by Peter Lorenz of the blog Illustrated 007, while SpyVibe focuses on her images from the film.

• While yet another new U.S. TV season is still rolling out, the terrific Web site Television Obscurities looks back at the series pilot projects--successful and not so--from 40 years ago, the 1974 season. Its list is broken down between the then Big 3 networks: ABC, CBS, and NBC. In addition to the shows that made it onto the air that year, such as The Rockford Files, Harry O, and Sons and Daughters, I remember hearing about--or better yet, seeing--many of the failed pilots, including those for Doctor Domingo, starring Desi Arnez; The Law, with Judd Hirsch; Honky Tonk, featuring Richard Crenna; Purvis, G-Man, starring Dale Robertson; McNeill, with Andy Griffith; and Planet Earth, headlined by John Saxon. Television has changed tremendously since that time, not always for the better. I used to enthusiastically keep track of what programs were in the works. Now I just find myself overwhelmed by too many viewing choices, a good number of which strive to insult my intelligence. Was television-watching better in ’74? Maybe, maybe not. But it was certainly simpler.

• The American Culture Web site features a fine look at Soho Syndicate’s reissuing of Ted Lewis’ three Jack Carter novels, including the 1970 classic Get Carter.

• I look forward to reading J. Sydney Jones’ forthcoming World War I thriller, The German Agent. It’s scheduled for publication on January 1 of next year--though because it’s coming from Severn House, it could be released anytime during December.

The sad case of literary critic Ed Champion.

This first trailer from the forthcoming movie Inherent Vice makes it look just as pleasantly weird as Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel of the same name. One reader of the book told me a while back that “it’s the only story I’ve ever read and felt stoned by the last page.” Inherent Vice hits theaters on December 12.

• Learn more about Inherent Vice from The Dissolve.

• Here are three interviews worth reading: Craig Sisterson talks with Aussie Garry Disher; Ben Boulden quizzes Ed Gorman about his Sam McCain series (Riders on the Storm); and Steve Hockensmith chit-chats with blogger Jen Forbus.

• It’s appalling to me that today’s Republicans appear determined to do whatever they can to steal affordable health-care insurance from millions of Americans in need, simply for ideological reasons.

• Well, how about that? “A nearly 100-year-old silent film version of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ starring famed Holmes thespian and American actor William Gillette has been discovered at the Cinémathèque Française, the French film archive announced Wednesday.”

• As part of its just-concluded series, “Classics in September,” the blog Crime Fiction Lover offered its choices of the best Sherlock Holmes novels not penned by Arthur Conan Doyle. Works by Nicholas Meyer, Michael Kurland, and Loren D. Estleman are included. If you missed checking out all of that blog’s month-long “Classics” series, you can still catch up with it here.

• And UK mystery-fiction authority Barry Forshaw profiles, if only briefly, the half-dozen authors who will be added as “Living Legends” this year to the Crime Writers’ Association’s Hall of Fame. I’m led to believe that a formal announcement of these inductions will be made during the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards ceremony on Friday, October 24, in London.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

All That Glitters



I mentioned in my news wrap-up of September 17 that this month marks the 50th anniversary of the worldwide release of Goldfinger, the third of Sean Connery’s James Bond films. Adapted from Ian Fleming’s 1959 novel of the same name, Goldfinger turned Agent 007 from a diverting big-screen curiosity into a box-office phenomenon. “Of all the Bonds,” wrote Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert in 1999, “Goldfinger is the best, and can stand as a surrogate for the others. If it is not a great film, it is a great entertainment, and contains all the elements of the Bond formula that would work again and again.”

In my brand-new column for Kirkus Reviews, I look back at the release of that movie, but more importantly, at the book on which it was based. As I write in the article,
Goldfinger, with its wildly implausible plot so dependent on coincidences, doesn’t always rank among readers’ favorites from the Bond canon; Moonraker (1955), From Russia With Love (1957), Casino Royale (1953) and Thunderball (1961) typically score higher. Yet this 1959 thriller is a splendid companion to the Connery picture, offering a great deal of interesting background to the action taking place on-screen. We’re also given a deeper understanding, in the book, of Auric Goldfinger and the adversarial relationship with 007 than the film, for all its strengths, portrayed.
Click here to read my whole Kirkus piece.

READ MORE:Goldfinger: When James Bond Movies Truly Became JAMES BOND Movies,” by Terence Towles Canote (A Shroud of Thoughts); “Goldfinger’s 50th Anniversary: The Golden Touch,” by Bill Koenig (The HMSS Weblog); “11 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About James Bond,” by Charlie Jane Anders and Amanda Yesilbas (io9); “The Big (James Bond) Quiz,” by Rick29 (Classic Film and TV Café); “22 Ridiculously Amazing 007 Posters for James Bond Films,” by Mike Flacy (The Checkout).

That’s Mrs. Saint to You

Sadly, we must bid adieu to Audrey Long. The American actress, who appeared in such films as Tall in the Saddle (1944) and Born to Kill (1947), died on September 19 in Virginia Water, Surrey, England, “after a long illness.” A native of Orlando, Florida, Long may be best remembered for having wed British novelist Leslie Charteris--creator of the Saint series starring Simon Templer--on April 26, 1952. The couple remained married until his demise in 1993.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Come Dine for Crime

Those of you who’ve registered to attend this year’s Bouchercon in Long Beach, California (November 13-16), will want to note that details have finally been provided as to the time and location of the Private Eye Writers of America’s Shamus Awards banquet, scheduled in association with that conference.

According to PWA founder Robert J. Randisi, the banquet will be held on Friday, November 14, at Gladstone’s Long Beach (330 South Pine Avenue; 562-432-8588). Cocktails are set to be served at 6:30 p.m., with dinner following (7-8). The awards ceremony will take place afterward. Sue Grafton’s series private eye, Kinsey Millhone, is to be given this year’s Hammer Award. Winners of five other 2014 Shamus Awards will also be announced. (See the nominees here.)

For ticket information, please e-mail Randisi at RRandisi@aol.com.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pierce’s Picks: “Rose Gold”

A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

Rose Gold, by Walter Mosley (Doubleday)

The Gist: L.A. sleuth Easy Rawlins “has his hands full in this story, set not too long after the first Watts riots in 1965, that turbulent period of Vietnam veterans and protesters, free love, black militarism, and hippies …,” explains the blog Read Me Deadly. “For a change, the Los Angeles police acknowledge needing Easy’s help, and are prepared to pay for it. Roger Frisk, Special Assistant to the Chief of Police, approaches Easy, who is in the midst of moving house, and asks him to find Rosemary Goldsmith, daughter of a millionaire arms dealer. Rosemary has disappeared from her college dorm room, likely in the company of a militant young black boxer named Bob Mantle, who is calling himself Uhuru Nolicé. Mantle is wanted for the shooting of three police officers during the course of a robbery. Whether Rosemary went with him willingly or was kidnapped is a matter of conjecture. Frisk wants Easy to find Mantle and recover the girl if possible, but under no circumstances to contact her family.” Adds Kirkus Reviews: “Easy is quickly up to his neck in other LAPD officers, FBI agents and State Department officials, united only in their demand that he drop the case on security grounds. In the course of his investigations, Easy incurs numerous debts that he can pay off only by working other jobs. His trusted police contact, Detective Melvin Suggs, wants Easy to find Mary Donovan, who passed counterfeit money and stole Suggs’ heart. His ex-lover EttaMae Alexander’s white friend Alana Altman wants Easy to find her boy Alton, who she suspects may have been kidnapped by her late husband’s African-American relatives. Local crime lord Art Sugar suggests that Easy pass everything he learns about Bob Mantle on to him first.”

What Else You Should Know: “After 20 years as a private investigator,” writes author Ivy Pochoda in the Los Angeles Times, “Rawlins is uniquely able to navigate the city’s evolving landscape. He understands the shifting ethnic makeup of its neighborhoods, from East Los Angeles to Watts to the Hollywood Hills, as well as the codes of conduct that operate in each of them--no simple feat. Mosley’s novels don’t simply take place in the city or in just one section of the city; they are the city and its residents revealed through plot, dialogue and dialect, landscape and streetscape and countless vivid details of dress and demeanor.” Read Me Deadly points out that “The story [in Rose Gold] is loosely based on the Patty Hearst case of the same era. Patty, a daughter of publishing mogul Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a self-styled left-wing revolutionary group, which she later joined. She was convicted of bank robbery and served time in prison, but is still thought by many to have been a victim of Stockholm Syndrome, in which the kidnapped bond closely with their captors. … For those of us who remember those times, Rose Gold is tightly-woven, bittersweet reminder of a turbulent and exhilarating era.”

Monday, September 22, 2014

Solo Assignment

video
Opening title sequence from the seventh episode of U.N.C.L.E.'s first season, “The Giuoco Piano Affair” (November 10, 1964), featuring Jerry Goldsmith's original theme.

On September 22, 1964--precisely 50 years ago today--NBC-TV introduced a new weekly spy-adventure series titled The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It starred Robert Vaughn as American Napoleon Solo and David McCallum as his Russian partner, Illya Kuryakin, who made up a troubleshooting team in the employ of an international espionage agency known by the acronym U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement). Veteran English actor Leo G. Carroll played their organization’s head, Alexander Waverly. By the time this program went off the air on January 15, 1968, 105 episodes had been broadcast (in both black-and-white and, later, color). U.N.C.L.E. would win the 1966 Golden Globe Award for Best TV Show (and be nominated for a stack of Emmy Awards), spin off another short-lived serial (Stefanie Powers’ The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.) as well as a succession of feature films, and generate associated merchandise such as children’s lunch boxes, board games, toy weapons, and tie-in novels. In addition, the series would become an enduring pop-culture reference point. For instance, as Wikipedia notes, the Promenade directory on the 1990s TV series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine listed “Del Floria’s Tailor Shop” among its offerings, recalling one of the secret entrances to U.N.C.L.E.’s New York City headquarters.

Although Sam Rolfe and Norman Felton are credited as the show’s co-creators, British naval intelligence agent-turned-author Ian Fleming--yes, the man who gave us James Bond--also had a hand in its conception. In fact, Ian Fleming’s Solo was originally bandied about as the show’s title. But a Web site called Read the Spirit synopsizes the “unforeseen problems … that doomed the plan to personally involve Fleming in the series.
Among these problems: Fleming was near the end of his life, trying to recover from a heart attack. In the recollections of the U.N.C.L.E. creative team included [as “extras” in a 2008 complete series DVD release of the show], Fleming was difficult to corner for specific materials. In one remembrance included in the DVD set, Fleming is described as only wanting to walk around New York City (part of his physical recovery program) and talk endlessly about his own life and experiences. While fun, it didn’t accomplish a lot of solid work.

What’s fascinating about these
U.N.C.L.E. crew memories is the way they depict an Ian Fleming obviously weaving together important strands of his own life’s reflections.

One bit of Fleming’s “weaving” got him into serious trouble. He played a role in naming the lead character “Napoleon Solo” and thought the entire series should revolve around him. Unfortunately, just before Christmas 1964, the movie
Goldfinger was due to be released in the U.S. and the TV producers of U.N.C.L.E. discovered that “Solo” also was the name of an American mob boss who joins forces with [conniving gold magnate Auric] Goldfinger. This Solo is not only an evil fellow, but he meets an evil end at the hands of Oddjob--crushed inside a car. …

The TV producers were horrified. The whole thing became entangled in a lawsuit. The series name was changed to
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. And Ian Fleming quickly retreated from working with the TV team, signing away any creative ideas he had shared with them. Sadly, by August 12, 1964, Fleming was dead.
(Right) A 1966 Man from U.N.C.L.E. metal lunch box

Other obstacles faced the series in its debut year. “Airing on Tuesday nights,” The HMSS Weblog recalls, “it was up against The Red Skeleton Show on CBS, which nearly led to cancellation before a mid-season switch to Monday nights.” Furthermore, critics offered mixed opinions of the show. In 1987’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Book: The Behind-the-Scenes Story of a Television Classic, Jon Heitland explains:
The reviewers did not know quite what to make of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. The reviewer for TV Guide had apparently viewed the pilot and “The Double Affair,” and hated the show … He criticized both the writing and the casting. After this first review, TV Guide received many letters stating that he had missed the point, including a letter from a nine-year-old fan of the show stating, “I think you are a T.H.R.U.S.H. member trying to kill everyone who works on U.N.C.L.E. I also think you are trying to kill me by writing those boring articles for TV Guide.” The letter was from David Rolfe, Sam Rolfe’s son.
(T.H.R.U.S.H. was, of course, U.N.C.L.E.’s world-conquering adversary, a body that, as Napoleon Solo once declares, “believes in the two-party system--the masters and the slaves.”)

Fortunately, NBC did not give up on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. simply because a few columnists panned it. Ed Tracey of The Daily Kos remembers that the show went on to receive “critical success in its first season (1964-1965), and during its second season (1965-1966, which is when I started watching) briefly reached #1 in the ratings (ahead of Bonanza, Bewitched, and The Dick Van Dyke Show) with a 50-share rating: unbelievable in this 500-channel era. And its second season theme music was scored by Lalo Schifrin, the best version during the life of the show, in my opinion.”

By Season 2 Rolfe had left as the program’s producer, and U.N.C.L.E. took on a more tongue-in-cheek tone. Viewers seemed to respond well to that change. So did humorists. As Heitland writes, “The final indicator of the success of the series was the number of times The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was parodied. Napoleon Solo, Illya Kuryakin, and U.N.C.L.E. became household words. The title lent itself readily to parody, and thus very early on Mad magazine ran its spoof of the show, titled ‘The Man from A.U.N.T.I.E.’ … The best U.N.C.L.E. parody, however, occurred on the ‘Say Uncle’ episode of Please Don’t Eat the Daisies. The episode features cameo appearances by both Vaughn and McCallum, and the story concerned the children mistaking their father for a secret agent. The episode featured a tailor shop (although Felton declined to allow the use of Del Floria’s, to preserve the mystique--B&C Tailor shop, another set seen in [1966’s] “The Dippy Blonde Affair” was used instead) and the U.N.C.L.E. theme music, and the twin children even wore U.N.C.L.E. sweatshirts.”

video
A short but dramatic clip from this series’ pilot, “The Vulcan Affair,” guest starring Patricia Crowley.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. unquestionably benefited from its association (no matter how troubled) with Fleming and the concurrent box-office success of the Bond films (three of which were brought to the silver screen during U.N.C.L.E.’s four-season run). It also profited from its pair of telegenic leads, its often outlandish gadgetry, its quirky plots, its throng of alluring female guest stars, and its era’s real-life news about Cold War tensions and global surveillance tactics. However, by 1966 the U.S. TV schedule was thick with agents of intrigue (in such dramas as Blue Light, Amos Burke, Secret Agent, The Baron, and I Spy), all hoping to win over the same audience U.N.C.L.E. had worked to build. Combined with U.N.C.L.E.’s increasing shift toward campiness and self-parody--allegedly, the result of its effort to duplicate the success then being enjoyed by a new ABC series, Batman--The Man from U.N.C.L.E. suffered a ratings drop from which it couldn’t recover, even by restoring some of its seriousness. The show was axed midway through its fourth season.

By then, though, U.N.C.L.E. had already earned itself a prominent place in the history of American television.

A reunion movie, The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair--in which Vaughn and McCallum reprised their familiar roles--was shown on CBS-TV in April 1983. (You can watch a preview here.) A new theatrical film based on the series, starring Armie Hammer, Henry Cavill, and Hugh Grant, is scheduled for release in August 2015. And this coming weekend, September 26 and 27, will bring to Los Angeles a 50th anniversary celebration of U.N.C.L.E.’s 1964 TV premiere, open to only 100 fans hoping to “gather and share their memories and their love of this classic series.”

Clearly, U.N.C.L.E. touched a nerve--and continues to do so.

READ MORE: The Fans from U.N.C.L.E.

Revisiting the Roosevelts

I’m still feeling a pleasant information hangover after watching all 14 hours of Ken Burns’ latest documentary film, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, which was broadcast on PBS-TV over the last week. Although some other viewers might have found that seven-day immersion in America’s political past rather daunting, I have to tell you: I could happily spend every day of every week learning more about human history, and probably never get my fill.

Should you crave a bit more time in the company of Theodore Roosevelt--if only through the pages of fiction--you might want to check back on a piece I wrote for Kirkus Reviews about the 26th president’s participation in recent mystery and thriller novels. Previously, in a wrap-up of fictional works featuring John F. Kennedy, I mentioned two that place FDR in a supporting role. Beginning in the 1980s (and with the writing support of William Harrington), the 32nd president’s son Elliott produced a most entertaining series of mysteries in which his mother, the highly capable Eleanor, interrupts her duties as first lady in order to investigate misdeeds of one sort or another. And click here to revisit a post I wrote for The Rap Sheet about a 1936 film based on a mystery-story concept by FDR.

Those three real-life Roosevels were so full of personality and so important to the development of the United States, I can only assume we’ll see more of them in future fiction. Let’s hope we do.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

May’s Day

When I met for an evening drink last week in Seattle with Glasgow-born crime writer Peter May--who is in the midst of a month-long international book tour--he confided that were he still a resident of Scotland (rather than living now in France), he’d have supported his native country’s recent referendum seeking independence from Great Britain. Well, that vote did not go as he’d wished, but May might feel somewhat compensated by having won the 2014 Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award for his latest novel, Entry Island (Quercus). The announcement came tonight during the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival being held in Stirling, the onetime capital of Scotland.

The other contenders for this honor were: Flesh Wounds, by Christopher Brookmyre (Little, Brown); The Amber Fury, by Natalie Haynes (Corvus); Falling Fast, by Neil Broadfoot (Saraband); A Lovely Way to Burn, by Louise Welsh (John Murray); and In the Rosary Garden, by Nicola White (Cargo).

Congratulations to all of the nominees.

(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pierce’s Picks: “Darkness, Darkness”

A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

Darkness, Darkness, by John Harvey (Pegasus)

The Gist: “And so after 12 novels, 16 short stories, two television adaptations, and four radio plays, Darkness, Darkness marks the final appearance of John Harvey’s stalwart and long-serving detective, Charlie Resnick,” explains the blog Crime Fiction Lover. A Polish-descended detective inspector with the police in the East Midlands city of Nottingham, Resnick made his debut in 1989’s Lonely Hearts, conceived of by author Harvey as “very much in the mold of Frank Furillo,” the middle-management type in charge of the eccentric squad on television’s Hill Street Blues—only “instead of wearing smart off-the-pegs suits, [he] was outfitted by the same tailor as Columbo.” The redundantly titled Darkness, Darkness finds Resnick “even more melancholy than usual, filled with regrets and thoughts of his own mortality,” writes Adam Woog in The Seattle Times. “The rumpled, canny and jazz-loving Resnick is also retired and bored--until a young detective, Catherine Njoroge, asks for help investigating the recently discovered remains of a woman [Jenny Hardwick] who had disappeared in the mid-1980s. That period was a dark moment in England’s history: a bitter coal miners’ strike that devastated the nation. It also tore friends and family apart--as with the murder victim, a strike supporter, and her husband, a miner who became a scab rather than strike.” Harvey, says Kirkus Reviews, “seamlessly weaves together the present-day investigation into Jenny’s death--a process complicated by not only the passage of time, but also the lingering distrust stirred up by the strike and its aftermath--and the last weeks of Jenny’s life.” A secondary plot line about Njoroge’s confrontations with an abusive ex-lover adds further emotional depth to this yarn.

What Else You Should Know: Jake Kerridge, who writes about crime fiction for Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, had a nice take on Resnick’s legacy, when this book was first published in the UK this last summer:
In the early-to-mid-1990s it looked like Resnick was set to be the new star British sleuth, and although by the end of the decade he had been superseded in the public’s affections by Ian Rankin’s [John] Rebus, Harvey’s books have hogged the critics’ superlatives, even being compared by Elmore Leonard, no less, with Graham Greene, no less.

Rebus may be the greater imaginative creation, but Resnick seems to me to be the more authentic portrayal of what the average real-life copper is like. Over the years he has become more of an observer than a man of action, and indeed this book finds him retired from the fray and advising the police in a civilian capacity. There are intimations of obsolescence--he is baffled by some aspects of modern life and no longer even recognizes most of the names on the bill at Ronnie Scott’s--but unlike Ruth Rendell’s increasingly bewildered Inspector Wexford, Resnick still convinces as a competent detective.
However, it’s Raven--a pseudonymous reviewer for Crime Fiction Lover--who gets the final word here: “Obviously to avoid spoilers, I will make no reference to how Resnick bows out [at the end of Harvey’s new novel], but think I am definitely not alone in mourning the loss of this character [from the] crime fiction arena. With Darkness, Darkness, Harvey has conjured up a fitting and emotive final outing for this long-lasting and influential character. As a stolid fan of John Harvey I thank him for it--the final scene is perfect. We’ll miss you, Charlie Resnick.”

READ MORE:Author John Harvey Interview: Resnick’s Last Case,” by Lynette Pinchess (Nottingham Post).

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bullet Points: Pre-Scotland Vote Edition

• Today marks 50 years since the London debut of Goldfinger, the third big-screen action film starring Sean Connery as Ian Fleming’s British super-spy, James Bond. As I noted in a previous post--complete with the motion picture’s opening title sequence--“the American release of Goldfinger didn’t come until December 22, 1964.” The HMSS Weblog has a bit more to say about Goldfinger here.

• 2014 year marked the first time contenders for the British Crime Writers’ Association’s Dagger in the Library award were selected by readers on the Web. With the nomination process having now concluded, here’s the longlist of writers who are vying for that prize (plus the names of their usual publishers):

-- M.C. Beaton (Constable & Robinson)
-- Tony Black (Black and White Publishing)
-- Sharon Bolton (Transworld Publishers)
-- Elly Griffiths (Quercus)
-- Mari Hannah (Pan)
-- James Oswald (Michael Joseph)
-- Phil Rickman (Corvus)
-- Leigh Russell (No Exit Press)
-- Mel Sherratt (Thomas & Mercer)
-- Neil White (Sphere)

The CWA explains that “Unlike most other literary prizes, the Dagger in the Library honours an author’s whole body of work to date, rather than a single title.” A shortlist of nominees will be announced on November 3, with the winner slated to be revealed during an event at Foyles Bookshop on Charing Cross Road, London, in late November. (Hat tip to the Euro Crime Blog.)

• Steve Aldous, who in July contributed an interesting and important piece to The Rap Sheet about Ernest Tidyman and the “ghost writers” he employed to create his seven novels about black New York City gumshoe John Shaft, directs our attention toward this interview with David F. Walker. Walker has been hired to write Dynamite Entertainment’s new line of Shaft comic books. “Some good news,” Aldous says, “in that Walker is a fan of the books and [is] using them as the basis for his writing. He is effectively doing an origins story, setting the [Dynamite] series a year before Tidyman’s novel.” The first Shaft comic produced by Walker and artist Bilquis Evely is due out in December, with a cover by Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz that you can preview right here. Walker has promised to post updates about his Shaft efforts in his own blog.

• Actress Julia McKenzie will return this coming Sunday evening as Agatha Christie’s popular spinster sleuth in the first of three new episodes of Miss Marple, all set to be broadcast over two weekends as part of PBS-TV’s Masterpiece Mystery! series.

• Scott Adlerberg has a nice piece in the blog Hardboiled Wonderland about the film adaptations of Patricia Highsmith’s novels.

• News from publisher New Pulp Press:
Starting January 1, 2015, Jon Bassoff, [the company’s] founder, will be handing over control and ownership of the award-winning press to Jonathan Woods and Shirrel Rhoades of Key West, Florida. While Jon Bassoff will still be associated with New Pulp Press in an advisory role, Jonathan Woods will be in charge of acquisitions and editorial matters. Shirrel Rhoades will take the lead on business, marketing and distribution.

Jonathan Woods, as a writer, has been associated with New Pulp Press since its early days. New Pulp Press has published three of his books, including the groundbreaking
Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem. ‘Jonathan shares the same warped sensibilities that I do,” said Jon Bassoff. “I look forward to seeing where he takes this rowdy little press next.”

Shirrel Rhoades has had a long and distinguished career in publishing, including a stint as EVP and Publisher of Marvel Comics. He currently owns and manages an eBook publishing business called Absolutely Amazing eBooks that publishes a broad range of titles from horror to humor, non-fiction to mystery. “Shirrel’s marketing expertise and his existing publishing business will competitively enhance New Pulp Press and bring its writers to a wider audience,” said Bassoff.
• When you need a Mod Squad fix, check out this YouTube page.

• If you haven’t yet noticed, Criminal Element contributor Jake Hinkson has spent early September celebrating the four classic films in which Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall appeared together. Here are the links: To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1948).

• Speaking of the late Ms. Bacall, the blog Down These Mean Streets offers a link to an episode of the Lux Radio Theatre from 1946 in which she and Bogie give voice to a “wireless” adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not.

• I admit, I haven’t watched the USA Network crime drama White Collar lately, and probably not since the delightful Hilarie Burton bowed out of her recurring role on that show as insurance company investigator Sara Ellis. So I was surprised to learn, from Crimespree Magazine’s blog, that the series’ sixth and concluding season will begin on Thursday, November 6. Wow, it seems like only yesterday that White Collar had its premiere

• Happy fourth birthday to The Nick Carter & Carter Brown Blog!

• Interviews worth reading: Libby Fischer Hellmann (Nobody’s Child) answers questions from Omnimystery News; Benjamin Whitmer (Cry Father) chats with MysteryPeople; Reed Farrel Coleman (Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot) goes a round with Crimespree; and Chelsea Cain (One Kick) responds to queries fielded by LitReactor.

• Crime Fiction Lover continues its “Classics in September” series with remarks on Adam Hall’s The Quiller Memorandum, Ngaio Marsh’s best books, and a critic’s selection of the “20 Greatest Crime Movies of All Time.” Links to the whole series are being collected here.

• The Blogger software has finally forced our list of new crime fiction, due out between now and December 31, off of The Rap Sheet’s front page. (It apparently doesn’t like lengthy posts stacking up for too long.) However, you can still study that catalogue of more than 275 titles here. Prepare to expand your to-be-read pile!

Is this Nero Wolfe’s old Manhattan brownstone?

• We’d heard that new publisher Brash Books would be reprinting W.L. Ripley’s original three novels featuring football player turned troubleshooter Wyatt Storme (who debuted in 1993’s Dreamsicle). But now Brash reports that it will also bring out a brand-new Storme tale, Storme Warning. All four are due in bookstores in early 2015.

• Registration for ThrillerFest 2015, to be held (as usual) in New York City from July 7 to 11 of next year, is now open. Next year’s ThrillerMaster will be Nelson DeMille.

• Patti Abbott’s 2015 debut as a novelist (with Concrete Angel) will be abetted by a very fine-looking book cover.

• Critics At Large writer Nick Coccoma isn’t thrilled with Dennis Lehane’s new big-screen movie. “The Drop has some of the finer performances of American society’s white urban underclass we’ve seen in a long time,” he writes, “maybe even since Brando and his crew. In the end, it adds up to a frustrating, wasteful nothing.” UPDATE: Michael Carlson is much fonder of Lehane’s book version.

The Chill remains one of my favorite Ross Macdonald novels.

• And this sounds mildly intriguing. In Reference to Murder reports that “Shondaland productions and Person of Interest co-executive producer David Slack are teaming up for an ensemble [TV] cop drama titled Protect and Survive that centers on the last LAPD precinct fighting to hang on in Los Angeles after a massive disaster.”