Triple Dagger Play

 Awards 2014  Comments Off
Sep 022014
Two months after the British Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) announced the winners of its first five Dagger Awards for 2014, it has now broadcast its shortlists of nominees for three more commendations. They are as follows:

CWA Goldsboro Gold Dagger for Best Crime Novel of the Year:
The First Rule of Survival, by Paul Mendelson (Constable)
How the Light Gets In, by Louise Penny (Sphere/Little Brown)
Keep Your Friends Close, by Paula Daly (Bantam/Transworld)
This Dark Road to Mercy, by Wiley Cash (Doubleday/Transworld)

Also longlisted for this award: Stone Bruises, by Simon Beckett (Bantam/Transworld); What She Saw, by Mark Roberts (Corvus/Atlantic); The Verdict, by Nick Stone (Sphere/Little, Brown); and The Corporal’s Wife, by Gerald Seymour (Hodder & Stoughton)

CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger:
The Axeman’s Jazz, by Ray Celestin (Mantle)
The Devil in the Marshalsea, by Antonia Hodgson
(Hodder & Stoughton)
The Silent Wife, by A.S.A Harrison (Headline)
The Strangler Vine, by M.J. Carter (Penguin Fig Tree)

Also longlisted for this award: Night Heron, by Adam Brookes (Sphere); I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes (Bantam); Shovel Ready, by Adam Sternbergh (Headline); and Black Chalk, by Christopher J. Yates (Harvill Secker)

CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger:
Apple Tree Yard, by Louise Doughty (Faber and Faber)
An Officer and a Spy, by Robert Harris (Random House)
I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes (Transworld)
Natchez Burning, by Greg Iles (Harper Collins)

Also longlisted for this award: Never Go Back, by Lee Child (Transworld); 419, by Will Ferguson (Head of Zeus); The Abduction, by Jonathan Holt (Head of Zeus); and The Corporal’s Wife, by Gerald Seymour (Hodder & Stoughton)

Winners of these prizes, as well as others, will be declared on Friday, October 24, during the annual ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards ceremony.
Sep 022014
There’s every chance you haven’t yet looked at the Kirkus Reviews Web site today, so let me point out that my latest column was posted there this morning. In it, I highlight nine forthcoming crime, mystery, and thriller novels (including works by John Harvey, Walter Mosley, and Tana French)--books that I think you’d be smart to check out. In addition, I list 21 other genre entries due in U.S. bookstores between now and New Year’s Day, 2015.

I’ll follow this up in the next couple of days with a more extensive rundown, in The Rap Sheet, of crime fiction being prepared for release over the coming four months. Watch for it.

THE SAVAGES and Philip Seymour Hoffman

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Sep 022014
During my terrible, horrible cold last week, I watched seven or eight movies, on Netflix mostly. I watched MANHATTAN, great first montage and great last scene. HANNAH, geez Michael Caine stole the movie, the three Linklater movies with Hawke and Delphy--I liked the last one least, THE WORLD'S GREATEST DAD,  really spooky on so many levels, and ThE SAVAGES, one of my favorite PSH performances.

THE SAVAGES is the story of how a brother and sister cope with their father's final days in a nursing home.

The amazing thing about his performance in this film is how generous it is. In so many scenes, he does nothing to divert you from listening to Laura Linney, who has the splashier, needier role. (And Philip Bosco is also great).

In one scene where she storms into her father's nursing care room and blathers on about this and that, PSH just sits by the bed, paging through a newspaper and occasionally nodding.  He creates the role of the more passive brother and never breaks with that.

But he was great in every performance I ever saw him in including two plays TRUE WEST and DEATH OF A SALESMAN.

I think THE SAVAGES is my favorite performance.

But looking at the list on IMDB, there never was a bad one. What's your pick?
Sep 022014
Over the years we've tried to watch most of the Western TV series that came along, even the ones that weren't very good. But this one totally slipped past us somehow until recently when Livia came across the DVD set of the first season and bought it. DEAD MAN'S GUN is a Canadian production from the late Nineties that ran originally on the cable network Showtime, I believe. And besides being a

The Eye Of Heaven is now live!

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Sep 022014

My co-authored debut with legendary grand master of adventure Clive Cussler, The Eye of Heaven, is live, and selling like dollar meals at McDs (or like they used to when a dollar bought anything but a stick of gum).

Clive Cussler Eye of Heaven

I of course attribute this to my name on the cover, although clearly someone at the publisher got the font size and color confused. But no matter, in this day of internet magic, word has apparently spread of the literary merit of my unique prose stylings, hence the rush of excitement.

Seriously, though, I love the opening of this book. Towering waves, a storm so brutal it’s palpable…exactly the sort of beginning I always admired when I was reading the genre oh so many years ago. I’m proud of how our effort turned out, and I hope that readers enjoy it – every chapter sought to raise the bar while hopefully increasing readers’ pulses.

So what’s next, you ask? Well, we’re working on another Fargo novel and enjoying the process, so I think we can expect to see one more Russell Blake/Clive Cussler collaboration, in, oh, about a year.

Those who are new to my work would be well advised to read The Voynich Cypher, for a racing treasure hunt in the mold of Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, or if you want breakneck action, JET, which is my bestselling series. JET is unapologetically over-the-top fun, described as a female Bourne on steroids. The first book in the series, the prequel, JET – Ops Files, is free, and as good a place to start as any. Give it a shot, and if you like it, rest assured there are seven more volumes available, with number 8 releasing in December.

In the shameless self-promotion department, I was also just informed that JET has made it to the finals of the Kindle Book Review’s annual awards contest, with winners announced Oct. 1! Just finishing as a finalist is more than enough for me, unless of course winning comes with a huge check or a hottie in a lambo, in which case, get outta my way cause I’m a gonna take you out.

Here’s the badge I got. I intend to lord it over my enemies as I dance on their cold graves in my boots, chortling at their misery. And my critics, who are clearly bitter, angry malcontents deserving of nothing but mockery.


In other news, I’ll be interviewing Hugh Howey on Authors On The Air radio on Sept. 4th at 8 pm EST, and we’ll be talking about a host of subjects, all of which will be a complete surprise to both of us since we’ve done no preparation. If you want to hear two bestselling indies winging it and shooting the breeze, tune in. And if you have any questions for Hugh, leave them in the comments. With any luck at all that will provide the basis of the show. Otherwise, it’s likely to degrade into arguments about boats and the cost of beer, and nobody needs to listen to that for an hour. You’ve been warned. This is on you if that’s what happens.


Sep 022014
Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

ED McBAIN – The Gutter and the Grave. Hard Case Crime #15, paperback, December 2005. First published as I’m Cannon — for Hire, as by Curt Cannon (Gold Medal #814, 1958), with the leading character also named Curt Cannon.

   Ed McBain’s The Gutter and the Grave is a quick, entertaining read and quite good, if not overly complicated, murder mystery. It’s also a time capsule of sorts, an enchanting mirror looking backward to late 1950s Manhattan, an age when jazz was king, the Bowery was for bums, and there were down and out and hard drinking private eyes like the book’s protagonist, one washed out thirty-something, Matt Cordell.

   Cordell, as the narrator of the work, lets us know early on who he is and what he is. “I’m a drunk. I think we’d better get that straight from the beginning.” (Page 13.) Our “hero” spends his days hanging out around Cooper Union in lower Manhattan. Then one day, a friend—of sorts—from the old neighborhood uptown — way uptown — shows up and wants an investigative favor.

   Enter Johnny Bridges who wants Cordell to look into some fishy goings on in the tailor shop he runs with a guy named Dom Archese. Maybe Dom’s fishing from the cash register late at night.

   All fine and good, until the duo head uptown only to find Dom Archese dead. Worse still, at least for Bridges, are the initials “JB” scrawled in chalk. Bridges, to no one’s surprise, becomes the chief suspect and ends up in police custody. It’s now up to Cordell to figure out what’s going on and to exonerate his so-called friend, if possible.

   Along the way, Cordell meets up with Dom’s wife, Christine (who also ends up dead), Christine’s sister, who is an aspiring musician by the name of Laraine Marsh, a Manhattan cop named Miskler, and sundry other colorful characters including a rival PI and his sultry employee. All the while, Cordell is reminded of his ex-wife, Toni, his one true love who ended up in the arms of another man.

   Cordell’s world is not a happy one, but it’s an extraordinarily vivid one. At least that’s how Ed McBain paints it. And what a painting! Reading The Gutter and the Grave transports you to a specific time and a specific place. It’s sometime in the late 1950s and Manhattan’s a crowded, hot city in the summer. The murder and the lies all around Cordell only make it hotter. Recommended.

       The Matt Cordell/Curt Cannon short stories (as by Evan Hunter) –

“Die Hard” (January 1953, Manhunt)
“Dead Men Don’t Dream (March 1953, Manhunt)
“Now Die in It” (May 1953, Manhuntt)
“Good and Dead” (July 1953, Manhunt)
“The Death of Me” (September 1953, Manhunt)
“Deadlier Than the Male” (February 1954, Manhunt)
“Return” (July 1954, Manhunt)
“The Beatings” (October 1954, Manhunt)

   The first six of the above were collected in I Like ’em Tough, as by Curt Cannon (Gold Medal #743, 1958).

 Posted by at 1:46 am
Sep 012014

CURSE OF THE UNDEAD. Universal International, 1959. Starring Eric Fleming, Michael Pate, Kathleen Crowley, Bruce Gordon. Written & directed by Edward Dein.

   What could have been a campy disaster emerges as an off-beat effort with some memorable moments. Not a complete success, but much better than you’d expect from a Vampire Western.

   Things start quickly, with writer/director Dein showing off a fine sense of pace as a young lady dies mysteriously with (you guessed it) bite-marks on her neck — an escaping demon suggested by a shade flapping violently in the bedroom window, in a neat bit of understatement.

   From here we move on to some typical Western range-war dramatics, but no range itself, as if the budget couldn’t be stretched to include any wide open spaces. Or maybe Dein just wanted to keep things creepy and claustrophobic in this town-bound gothic.

   Whatever the case, the stock characters hang around saloon and offices going through their usual paces, with the Big Rancher pushing on the smaller ones, the Sheriff standing tough in the middle, the hot-head edging towards a showdown, and pious Preacher Dan (Eric Fleming) trying to keep everyone above ground and unperforated while casting eyes on the local Rancher’s Daughter (Kathleen Crowley.)

   (PARENTHETICAL NOTE: A critic once pointed out that B westerns are rife with ranchers and ranchers’ daughters, but a positive dearth of ranch moms — either life on the prairie was hard on a woman, or else it was just too much bother and expense to hire another actress.)

   Things don’t have time to get dull before the mysterious stranger we’ve been expecting all along shows up in a memorable moment, rearing his horse in the moonlight in spooky slow motion. And it’s not long after that till he makes himself known to the locals as a sinister gun-for-hire in a scary shoot-out, which is one of those scenes I said you’d remember.

   The ghoulish gunman is played very ably by Michael Pate, an Aussie with a lean-and-thirsty look typed as a bad guy in Hollywood but capable of much broader range. In Curse he comes off as equal parts Cowboy and Creep: lean, graceful, and suggesting a certain complexity of character ably conveyed in a script that paints him more love-lorn than blood-thirsty but nonetheless deadly.

   Curse proceeds to ride a tricky trail between the conventions of the horror film and the clichés of the B-western. There’s a bit too much talk at times, but things finish off with a nifty round-up combining the best of both genres: When Preacher and Demon face each other on a dusty street, we pretty much know what’s going to happen — but how it happens, is immensely satisfying for fans of monsters and cowboys.

 Posted by at 9:45 pm
Sep 012014
"This thing haunts and, so far as I may say it, disgusts me as something obscene," Raymond Chandler wrote. "I am not referring to the trial, of course, but to the medieval savagery of the law . . . I have been tormented for a week at the idea that a highly civilized people should put a rope round the neck of Ruth Ellis and drop her through a trap and break her neck. This was a crime of passion under considerable provocation. No other country in the world would hang this woman."

Chandler wrote this while working in London in 1955, just before the hanging of Ruth Ellis. The nightclub hostess Ellis shot her lover David Blakely outside the Magdala pub in South Hill Park, Hampstead on Easter Sunday 1955. With shocking speed, she was executed at Holloway only three months later, aged 28. Ellis became the last woman in Britain to be hanged.

The story leading up to the murder was documented in a film, Dance with a Stranger in 1985. The film is part noir, part docudrama. It's a star-making turn for the leads Miranda Richardson and Rupert Everett. It's one of Mike Newell's first film, and it's a knock out.

Not a noir in structure, but instead it borrows film noir visuals. Characters can be seen walking out of the shadows. Moody and atmospheric images -- subdued lighting and almost surreal colors-- helps tell the grim tale. The main character Ellis is often shown via mirror reflections.

Whenever Richardson is on the screen it's hard not to stare at her. Her presence, beauty and physical acting as the obsessive b-girl is something to behold.

The film doesn't get into the most controversial part of the whole story-- the speedy trial and execution brought about possibly because of the unforgiving social class system.

Instead, you might want to see the Diana Dors starrer Yield to the Night released right around the time of the hanging.  The film is more sanitized than Dance with a Stranger but quite good in it's own way. Dors, surprisingly, gives a strong performance playing a woman clearly based on Ellis. (The filmmakers at the time denied the movie is anyway connected with the true story in the headlines every day- which I don't believe for a second. It was penned by director J. Lee Thompson's then wife Joan Henry who spent time in prison for receiving bad checks.) Yield to the Night (renamed -- and totally missing the point -- in the US as Blonde Sinner) tells the story of a young woman on death row after shooting her lovers wife on the street. The story is about how she deals with knowing the exact date she's going to die while serving her last days in a lonely prison.

Trivia: The real-life Ruth Ellis while still a party girl appeared uncredited in a Diana Dors film Lady Godiva Rides Again five years previous to the film.

Almost 60 years later, the execution of Ruth Ellis still fascinates. Numerous true-crime books have been written about Ellis, but no film has really captured the whole story. Luckily, the fantastic Dance with a Stranger and the better-than-normal Brit Noir Yield to the Night are a good place to start.

Sep 012014
I've been trying get back to work on a regular basis after the long summer holiday. We did quite a bit of travelling, mainly in Finland, but we also paid a visit to Denmark (Copenhagen and Legoland), where we'd never been. We also bought a summer cottage, so we spent lots of time there. (It's not actually a cottage, but the long explanation might be too difficult.)

Even though July and August were supposed to be a vacation, I had to read work-related stuff: I've started doing a book on the history of Finnish western literature. I also reread lots of Tolkien, since I did a non-fiction book on Tolkien with a friend of mine. I finished it up late last week and sent it off. Now I'm finishing some other lesser books, such as a small anthology of western-themed horror stories by Finnish writers. Then I'm rushing off to finish a book on Finnish war-time photography. Then I'll be able to concentrate on my book on Finnish westerns.

Sounds like I'll be busy, eh? I'll try to get back to regular blogging, but don't expect much, since I'll be loaded with work. Our son went to a fourth grade and comes back home at two p.m., so the working hours are a bit short. Maybe some Overlooked Movies and Forgotten Books every now then.

Oh, I started Nic "True Detective" Pizzolatto's novel Galveston and it seems really, really good. I also read Gillian Flynn's Dark Places (came out in Finnish as Paha paikka) and I liked it a great deal. It's almost like a private eye novel in which the protagonist is herself in the middle of the mystery. Every move, every inquiry she makes affects her own life. Highly recommended, even more so than her celebrated Gone Girl.