J. Kingston Pierce

Aug 302014
Liam McIlvanney, a professor of Scottish Studies at New Zealand’s University of Otago, has won the 2014 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. Judges of this year’s competition applauded his tale Where the Dead Men Go (Faber and Faber, 2013)--the second entry in his series about Glasgow journalist Gerry Conway--as a “fascinating, brilliant, and challenging” work of fiction. The declaration of McIlvanney’s triumph was made on Saturday evening, following the Great New Zealand Crime Debate event at the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival. McIlvanney is the son of “Tartan Noir” novelist William McIlvanney (Laidlaw).

Judging convenor Craig Sisterson says of McIlvanney’s success: “In a year where we had our strongest, deepest, and most diverse longlist ever, and four truly fantastic finalists, Where the Dead Men Go got the nod for its terrific, page-turning storytelling powered by superb prose, fascinating characters, and an evocative sense of place. It’s the kind of book that lingers in your mind beyond the final page.”

A press release announcing the 2014 Ngaio Marsh Award results synopsizes the plot of McIvanney’s latest novel this way:
In Where the Dead Men Go, Glasgow stands on the precipice: of the Commonwealth Games, a national vote on Scottish independence, and an explosive rekindling of a brutal gangland war. Gerry Conway is a jaded, jobbing journo, the golden child fallen, clinging to the coat-tails of his former protégé, Martin Moir. When Moir’s body is discovered as a big story breaks, Conway steps into his shoes; a very dangerous place, as gangsters, politicians, and other predators swirl around.
The book is finally set for release in the United States on October 2.

To capture the Ngaio Marsh Award, Where the Dead Men Go had to surpass three other shortlisted works: My Brother’s Keeper, by Donna Malane (HarperCollins); Frederick’s Coat, by Alan Duff (Vintage); and Joe Victim, by Paul Cleave (Simon & Schuster). “In addition to the award itself,” press materials explain, “McIlvanney wins a set of Dame Ngaio’s novels, courtesy of HarperCollins, and a cheque for $1,000 from the Christchurch Writers’ Festival Trust.”
Aug 292014
I was a bit surprised, but pleased, to find that The Boston Globe’s just-published remembrance of 66-year-old author Jeremiah Healy--who took his own life on August 14--includes several quotes he gave me during an interview I conducted with him more than a decade ago for January Magazine:
John Francis Cuddy, the Hub-based hero of his 13-book mystery series, “is a man who keeps his promises, but isn’t afraid to use violence to do so,” Mr. Healy said in an April 2000 interview with January magazine. He added, however, that “the reason why I’ve been blessed with so many female readers is that Cuddy isn’t sexist. He’s also honorable in his dealings with the women in the books.”
The piece, by Globe staffer Bryan Marquard, goes on to say that “Within the community of crime writers, Mr. Healy was as loved for the time he invested as a mentor to aspiring writers as he was respected for his 18 novels and dozens of short stories.” It adds, “As a teacher [at the New England School of Law], he modeled himself after Charles Kingsfield, the Harvard Law professor portrayed by John Houseman in the film ‘The Paper Chase.’ Mr. Healy addressed students formally, by honorific and last name, and insisted they stand while answering questions.” And Marquard explains that
In a blunt, informative essay posted on his website, Mr. Healy wrote about being treated for prostate cancer a decade ago and apparently planned to write about depression, too. A week ago, [his fiancée, fellow author Sandra] Balzo was going through papers on his desk and discovered a note on a legal pad: “JH memoir on depression: Can’t see the sun even in June. A lifetime of fighting--and beating--depression.”

“Sadly, Jerry didn’t beat it,” she said by e-mail Sunday evening. “But he sure as hell did fight it.”
Click here to read the Globe’s entire report.

“Longmire” Cut Short

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Aug 292014
This news comes as something of a surprise:
Longmire, A&E Network’s most-watched original drama series of all time, will be ending its run on the cable network after three seasons. In a surprising move, the network has opted not to renew the series for a fourth season. I hear Warner Horizon, the studio behind Longmire, will be shopping it immediately. “We would like to thank the phenomenal cast, crew and producers of Longmire, along with our partners at Warner Horizon, for their tireless work on three seasons of quality dramatic storytelling,” A&E said in a statement. “We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved together.”
That Deadline Hollywood report, by Nellie Andreeva, notes Longmire’s viewer numbers declined somewhat during its recently concluded third season, but observes that fans of the show are unlikely to take this cancellation casually. “Especially since they are being left hanging by the recent Season 3 finale, which ended with a cliffhanger, the sound of a fired shotgun.” You can read the whole piece here.

I hope some other network does pick up Longmire, which Andreeva says “logged A&E’s largest viewership for any series this year behind only flagship Duck Dynasty.” Although I am still two or three episodes short of having watched all of Season 3, Longmire--starring Robert Taylor, Katee Sackhoff, and Lou Diamond Phillips, and based on Craig Johnson’s best-selling mystery series--has certainly proved itself to be among the boob-tube’s more interesting, least predictable crime dramas of recent years. It deserves a longer run.

(Hat tip to Crimespree Magazine.)
Aug 262014
(Editor’s note: Ohio journalist and fiction writer Craig McDonald has been a periodic guest here at The Rap Sheet. He’s penned two previous “Story Behind the Story” essays, one about his 2010 novel, Print the Legend, the other focusing on 2011’s One True Sentence. Below, he not only introduces us to Forever’s Just Pretend, his fifth and latest novel featuring historical writer-cum-detective Hector Lassiter--he also kicks off a competition specially made for veteran Lassiter fans. If you’d like to read more from McDonald, check out his blog here.)

For the uninitiated, the Hector Lassiter novels usually incorporate historical events and figures, including Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, and myriad other 20th-century luminaries who interact with the main character.

The series returns this month, though not with just a single new novel, or with a re-launch of the previously printed four entries centered on crime novelist and screenwriter Lassiter, “the man who lives what he writes and writes what he lives.” Instead, European publisher Betimes Books will unveil the entire series of Lassiter novels, released in an aggressively accelerated combination of “old” and new titles. Within a matter of just a few months, the whole of the Lassiter saga will be available for the first time.

I’m fairly certain we’re headed into uncharted publishing territory here, strategically speaking. But then the Hector Lassiter series has always been a genre maverick.

In a kind of premonition of this unusual publishing schedule, the Lassiter series was written in rapid-fire fashion, one book after another, long before the original second novel in the series, Toros & Torsos, was even contracted for publication. I had written the books with an eye to an overarching storyline that would bind the series into a larger tale focused on Hector’s life journey and climaxing with the mystery of whatever became of Hector, the author and the man.

After all the first drafts were completed, I went back over them en masse, polishing and pulling the series together in meticulous detail. To be clear, while other authors carry a series forward one book at a time, I plotted and wove the Lassiter novels together to form that larger story, from the jump.

Several of the individual Lassiter installments sprawl across decades. So a novel here may at points intersect or overlap with a novel or even two over there. Most series treat life as a chain of compartmentalized episodes, each book standing more or less alone. Real life more closely resembles an oil spill, of course. Events and episodes bleed together. I aimed to come closer to that mixing of mile-markers in shaping the Lassiter series.

At conception, it seemed this strategy allowed readers to tackle the novels in any order they chose. In their original publication sequence, the “first” Lassiter novel, the Edgar Award-nominated Head Games, opened in 1957. Its sequel took flight in 1935. The third novel, Print the Legend, explored the death of Ernest Hemingway and was largely set in 1965. The fourth, One True Sentence, was a Lassiter/Hemingway origin story, of sorts, set in 1924 Paris.

But as the series extended to four published novels, increasing numbers of new readers reached out, craving a recommended reading sequence. A striking number told me they wanted to read the novels in something approaching chronological order. I came to see readers’ attitudes toward Hector were dramatically affected by which Lassiter novel they read first.

When Betimes proposed publishing the entire series in a concentrated burst, and it was suggested we present the books in something like chronological order, I immediately embraced the notion.

Strictly speaking, the fact that some of the novels cover three or more decades makes truly chronological presentation of this series an impossibility. We’ll therefore be offering the novels in order of when each book opens.

In this new publishing sequence, One True Sentence--a story encompassing one week during February 1924--is now novel No. 1. OTS was released last week, followed by its never-before-published sequel, Forever’s Just Pretend, which is set across successive holidays in Key West, Florida, circa 1925.

Those two installments will appear simultaneously with a re-release of Toros & Torsos, which opens in 1935. A few weeks later, two more previously unpublished, World War II-era Lassiter novels will debut: The Great Pretender (1938) and Roll the Credits (1942). The remaining novels, a similar mix of old and new installments, will quickly follow.

I wrote an essay for The Rap Sheet about One True Sentence when the novel debuted in February 2011. That tale traces aspiring novelists Lassiter and Hemingway as they confront a cult of nihilist artists.

One True Sentence also introduced the character of Brinke Devlin, a fetching female mystery author who resembles sultry screen siren Louise Brooks but writes like Craig Rice. Brinke was established in OTS as the woman who shaped or even “created” the Hector Lassiter we come to know.

The previously unseen Forever’s Just Pretend delivers on the promised Hector-Brinke reunion teased in the final pages of One True Sentence.

Forever’s Just Pretend breaks the Lassiter template in significant ways. Most notably, for the first time, there are no historical figures; the focus is kept squarely on Hector and Brinke. Also, for the first time, we meet a Lassiter blood-relative.

This new novel introduces Hector’s paternal grandfather, a thinly veiled homage to a beloved, recently passed actor who helped inspire the meta-fictional, sometimes irreverent tone of the Lassiter series.

While no overt historical personages haunt the pages of Forever’s Just Pretend, the crimes that drive the plot are based on a real cycle of murders and arsons that rocked 1920s America.

Now, here’s a challenge to all you Lassiter series readers: the first three people who can correctly identify the inspiration for the “Key West Clubber” killings in Forever’s Just Pretend will be rewarded with signed and numbered copies of the now über-rare, limited-edition hardcover version of Toros & Torsos, complete with the “booking sheet” for yours truly and a personalized fingerprint. Submit your answer in an e-mail note to jpwrites@wordcuts.org. And please be sure to write “Key West Clubber Contest” in the subject line. We’ll let you know when we have our three winners.
Aug 262014
Although the first four (of seven) television movies inspired by Robert B. Parker’s novels about Boston private eye Spenser have been available in DVD format for some time now, the 1985-1988 ABC-TV series, Spenser: For Hire, starring Robert Urich and Avery Brooks, has been gathering dust, waiting for its own release. But it appears that wait is finally coming to an end.

TV Shows on DVD reports that Warner Archive Collection recently offered a novel spin on the widely publicized ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in order to announce the coming debut of Spenser: For Hire--The Complete First Season (22 episodes). “The title isn’t up for pre-order yet, so we don’t have a date or a cost for you right now,” the site explains. However, the cover art can be seen in a video here.

UPDATE: There’s now a link to Spenser: For Hire--The Complete First Season on the Warner Archive site. The set is priced at $39.95.
Aug 252014
A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

The Silent Boy, by Andrew Taylor (HarperCollins UK)

The Gist: “Taylor’s new novel utilizes two of the characters from his last book, The Scent of Death,” explains a review of The Silent Boy featured on the Web site of The Forest Bookshop, in Coleford, England. “In 1778, London clerk Edward Savill was obliged to turn detective in the desperate last days of British colonial New York, posted there by his patron Mr. Rampton, his wife Augusta’s uncle. Now, 14 years later, Savill’s estranged wife has apparently been murdered in the midst of the post-[French] Revolution Terrors, which splattered guillotine-riddled Paris with torrents of blood in 1792. But a murder mystery isn’t the thrust of this story--rather, it concerns a child-custody battle involving, on one side, [Augusta’s 10-year-old son] Charles’ claimed aristocratic father, holed up in a ‘Somersetshire’ mansion to which he and his Parisian retinue have fled with the child, versus Savill acting on behalf of Rampton and also Savill’s daughter--Charles’ half-sister. … What is a mystery are the protagonists’ motives for wanting custody of Charles--it certainly doesn’t appear many of them have the child’s interests at heart.” Writing in Shots, critic L.J. Hurst carries the plot line further: “Then early one morning the boy, Charles, disappears, at just about the time a stranger has been spied on the edge of the estate. Savill produces his warrant and invokes his powers on the local magistrate, but they can do little more than follow the strangers back to London. It is in London that events develop James Bond-style: breaking-and-entering, mysterious cabs driving by, doors left open to overhear what is being said, knives used, pistols fired. Or to put it another way: double-crossing, triple-crossing, returns from the dead, simpletons more trusting than they should have been.”

What Else You Should Know: A recipient in 2009 of the Crime Writers’ Association’s Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement, Andrew Taylor is also the author of the Lydmouth stories, the Roth Trilogy, and Bleeding Heart Square (2008). His novels rarely fail to impress, though they may start out slowly; give them a chance to prove their value, and you shouldn’t be disappointed. I haven’t yet read The Silent Boy, but some of the blurbs convince me that I shall relish the experience. “I enjoyed this book very much indeed,” says C.J. Sansom, the author of Dominion as well as the Matthew Shardlake historical mysteries. “I found the evocation of late 18th-century England, and the French exiles, effortlessly authentic, the hunt for Charles gripping, and the portrayal and first-person narrative of the helpless, traumatized, yet strong and resourceful little boy moving and believable. An excellent work.”

“The Hard Liquor of Crime Films”

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Aug 252014
In a piece for The Dissolve about Mark Fertig’s new book, The 101 Best Film Noir Posters from the 1940s-1950s, Noel Murray writes:
There’s something bracingly adult about noir. Even the best Hollywood movies from the 1940s and 1950s sometimes feel incomplete, because they’re populated by characters who never appear to feel any lust or shame. Film noir was a corrective to that lack. While still working within the limits of Hollywood’s written and unwritten production codes, noir directors like Anthony Mann, Fritz Lang, and Samuel Fuller acknowledged the shadow America where desperate men and women made bad choices. These people aren’t all that different from anybody else. They’re driven by sexual desire and greed, and they wear the stain of guilt that human beings carry with them like a birthmark--even though most have learned how to keep it concealed.

The posters for these movies are startlingly brazen. None of the artists and designers working in the studios’ advertising and promotions departments tried to hide what film noir was all about, because that would’ve defeated the purpose. The whole idea was to advertise seductive women in form-fitting dresses, rough-hewn men holding smoking guns, and underlit neighborhoods far from the local Bijou. To extend Fertig’s analogy, the best posters for noir films were, for some moviegoers, the equivalent of seeing a skull and bones on a bottle of rotgut. “
This,” the posters whispered, “is what you’re really looking for.”
Click here to see nine examples of posters that, in Murray’s opinion, are “especially evocative.”

Honoring Healy

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Aug 242014
It’s been just over a week since news broke that novelist Jeremiah Healy committed suicide at age 66. Now, the Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter is collecting fond remembrances of the man who created series private eye John Francis Cuddy.

A note posted this morning in Mystery Fanfare asks that friends and colleagues of Healy send their tributes “of 250 words or less” to author Elaine Viets at eviets@aol.com. The deadline for such submissions is short: You have to send them in by this coming Tuesday, August 26. “Favorite photos (jpg and gif files) are also welcome.”
Aug 212014
(Editor’s note: This is the 50th entry in our “Story Behind the Story” series. Today we bring you Sean Gleeson, who writes below about an unusual short-story collection he and his siblings in Chicago put together to honor their late lawyer father. Asked for a few biographical details, Sean explains: “I was born in Chicago in 1966. Worked at advertising agencies from 1987 to 2004, where my duties ever-so-gradually morphed from old-school art direction with marker layouts and paste-up to Web site development and programming. One day--I’m not sure when--I realized I was no longer an ad man, and had not been one for awhile. From 2005 to 2011, I was an adjunct professor teaching Web design and game creation. Today I am senior programmer at a defense contractor in Oklahoma City.” He and his family live outside of Arcadia, Oklahoma.)

In my fifth-grade classroom in 1977, an old nun was telling us kids about the radio shows she used to love. “Ooh, The Shadow was very exciting. It always started with a creaky door …” My hand shot up. “No, sister, The Shadow started with organ music and laughter. Inner Sanctum had the creaky door!” The good woman must have wondered, How did this ill-mannered 11-year-old become annoyingly familiar with old time radio dramas? That was from my father.

Paul Francis Gleeson loved stories. He loved hearing them, loved reading them, loved telling them. He was a successful lawyer in Chicago, but for one brief season in 1979-1980 he was something more. He was a pulp writer. He wrote well-crafted short stories of murder and intrigue, twisted tales ending with ironic justice, or sometimes ironic injustice. Witty and unsettling vignettes of the human condition.

I can tell you his literary influences, because he continued to enjoy them--and share them--long after they vanished from the rest of the world. He kept old radio dramas on tape, and played them often. “So, kids,” he’d say, “you want to hear Suspense tonight? Or X Minus One?” He loved publisher EC Comics’ Crime SuspenStories and The Vault of Horror, and television’s Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.

He submitted his tales to the pulp mags of the day. The sci-fi he sent to Amazing Stories. The murders went to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen--as well as to Mike Shayne, the less-popular alternative to those. Besides the fiction, he submitted humorous essays to the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times; the Tribune printed one as a guest column. But none of the pulps would buy any of his stories. Every manuscript kept coming back, rejected. Until one did not: finally, Mike Shayne accepted the story “Unhappy Hour,” and printed it in their May 1980 issue. If you have trouble finding a copy of that back-issue now, it may be because my dad bought so many of them.

In the next issue, the magazine printed a letter from one Bruce Moffitt, a janitor in Brookfield, Missouri, who began his epistle quite dismissively, admitting he only bought Mike Shayne “to keep my file complete” and generally held the magazine in low regard. But he continued, “Then I began reading ‘Unhappy Hour’ by Paul Gleeson. This tale deserves to be anthologized. I’ve been smiling at my mop for the last hour.” I never saw Dad happier than when he read that letter, aloud, five or six times.

Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine went on to publish a second Paul Gleeson story, “Don’t Touch That Dial,” in the October 1980 issue. It was starting to look like Dad was actually on the cusp of achieving his goal of being a full-time lawyer and part-time world-famous pulp writer. But that is not how this story goes.

Sean’s brother Kevin Gleeson (left) with their father in 1980.

A few of the rejection letters contained handwritten notes from helpful editors who explained their decision. “We already run too many of these domestic murders,” said one. “Having the X’s turn out to be Y’s instead of Z’s was just not enough of a twist ending for me,” said another (except I redacted three nouns from that sentence, because, you know, spoilers). But most of them were generic and impersonal photocopies: “Your story has been read by one or more members of our staff, but we regret …” “We regret …” “… we regret …”

How much regret can a man take? Each must have his own limit, and while it is easy enough to say to aspiring authors, “Don’t be discouraged! Just keep at it, champ!,” it must also be said that Paul Gleeson had ample sources of regret in his life without volunteering for more. And so, sometime in 1980, he stopped writing. These stories, these thrilling tales of crime and folly, these fables for an amoral world, were consigned--with the rejection letters--to a cardboard box under Dad’s desk. While they sat, unseen and untouched, turning more yellow and brittle each decade, he never mentioned them again, but he never discarded them either.

After Dad died in March 2012, at 70 years of age, that box of old stories turned up, and my two brothers, my sister, and I had to figure out what to do with them. We decided that we would turn those 10 short stories and five humor columns, everything Dad had ever tried to get published, into a book. We also decided that we four surviving Gleesons would make this book together, each of us taking on a role suited to his or her talents. Kevin, the oldest, would write the foreword, explaining who Dad was and how these stories came to be. Colleen would be the editor, transcribing and correcting the manuscripts. Brendan, who had attended New Jersey’s Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, would illustrate the cover. None of us had ever produced a book before, but we knew we had the skills, the smarts, and the inspiration to do this one.

My job was to publish. Having labored in advertising, I knew about design and print production, but I had never published a book before, so I had to teach myself how. I studied the specs for the CreateSpace print-on-demand platform. I acquainted myself with such terms as folio, running head, and front matter. I figured out how to get an ISBN, and the difference between a preface, an introduction, and a foreword. I also had to learn how to format a book for the Kindle, but this was a pleasant surprise: it turns out that Kindle books are made with essentially the same code as Web pages, which I already knew.

(Left) Sean Gleeson today

Not wanting to make any mistakes on Dad’s book, I did a dry run. All by myself, I edited and published a little volume titled Subjective Grounds: Writings by Persons with the Initials S.G. (Really, it’s a whole book of short works by 11 authors with my initials. Pretty good stuff, too.) That process went smoothly--it only took two weeks from start to finish, and cost nothing--and helped me navigate all the stuff you need to do after a book is launched: Amazon controls for adding descriptions, fixing prices, running promotions, and other settings. So now, I was a real honest-to-God publisher.

But I also felt that a book should have “blurbs” on its cover. You know, quotes from prominent persons saying this author is a new star in the firmament, and that you are indeed fortunate to be about to read this wondrous literary triumph, and so forth. I figure they’re easy enough to get at large publishing houses; the bosses probably shoot a text message to Stephen King, saying, “Sent new galley, fax me blurb by Monday,” and go golfing on their yachts. But I had no idea how to go about getting blurbs. So I just asked nicely, and found that David Cranmer, the editor of Beat to a Pulp, was happy to supply a great quote. Dad’s brother Tony Gleeson, who works as an illustrator in Los Angeles, helped me get a second blurb from Terrill Lee Lankford, the author of Earthquake Weather as well as dozens of other works. (He even wrote the screenplay for Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers.)

We did it! Except for some guys at the bindery, I was the first man on earth to hold Screams from My Father: Stories by Paul F. Gleeson. The book my dad sired, and his children birthed. A dream come true after death. I am not exaggerating when I say it is beautiful. And I have to be honest, the very first moment I held it, all I could think was how damned sorry I am. I’m sorry he’s gone, and I’m sorry he was not happier in this life, and I’m sorry we didn’t think of publishing this book years ago (print-on-demand has been offered since about 2006) so Dad could have held it in his hands, and seen how much people love to read it. I held back a tear, maybe two. But I got over it; regret is a killer. And frankly, I doubt my dad would have allowed this book to exist while he lived. I imagine he has a better view of things now.

There will be no author tour, for obvious reasons. And we have no promotion budget, because I am not that kind of publisher, so you will see no ads for Screams from My Father. I have been sending copies of the book to various strangers, some in the media, some not. Every day I try to find a person I think should like the book, and I mail him one.

I even tried to look up Bruce Moffitt, the letter-writing janitor. I wanted to send him the anthology he wished for in 1980 while smiling at his mop. I was too late; he died in 2014. Mr. Moffitt, wherever you are, I want you to know your letter made my father smile too.
Aug 212014
• American political thriller writer Vince Flynn passed away in 2013 at the painfully young age of 47. “At the time,” explains Shotsmag Confidential, “he was only two chapters into his next Mitch Rapp book, The Survivor.” The blog notes that fellow author Kyle Mills has recently “stepped in to complete the story of the famous undercover CIA counter-terrorism agent. The Vince Flynn Estate has signed a three-book deal with Mills and Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books to complete The Survivor and deliver two new books in the series.”

• Readers who are sorry to discover Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason bringing his Detective Erlendur series to an apparent close in Strange Shores (due out from Minotaur in late August) should take heart from this short piece in Crime Fiction Lover, which explains that Erlendur won’t be gone for very long. Indridason’s Reykjavik Nights--scheduled for release this month in the UK, with a U.S. edition set for publication in April 2015--is “the first of three planned books which cover Erlendur’s early years as a detective.”

• Janet Rudolph reports that a memorial service will be held in Victoria, British Columbia, on Sunday, September 14, to celebrate the life of Lou Allin. The author of the Belle Palmer and Holly Martin mysteries died in mid-July. She was 69.

• As someone who purchased and valued several versions of Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide over the decades, I am sorry to hear that the next edition will be its last.

• Well, that’s something, anyway ... Although I’ve never resided in any of The Economist’s 10 most livable cities, I have at least visited most of them--including both Melbourne and Perth, Australia, which figured prominently in my honeymoon itinerary years ago.

• Not being someone who uses an e-book reader, this news from The Christian Science Monitor seems pretty abstract to me. But others might find it more surprising. A new study reveals that people “who read a novel on paper remember more about the story than a person who used an e-reader to peruse the same text.”
The Guardian reports that lead researcher Anne Mangen of Stavanger University in Norway said at a recent conference in Italy that she and those she worked with presented 50 people with a short story by writer Elizabeth George. Of those 50 readers, 25 received a paper copy and 25 used a Kindle e-reader and then all were then asked questions about the story’s setting, characters, and other details.

“The Kindle readers performed significantly worse on the plot reconstruction measure, i.e. when they were asked to place 14 events in the correct order,” Mangen said, according to the Guardian.

Why would Kindle readers be worse at putting steps of the story in order? Mangen suggested that it’s the process of reading a physical book. “When you read on paper you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages on the left growing, and shrinking on the right," she said. "You have the tactile sense of progress, in addition to the visual. … Perhaps this somehow aids the reader, providing more fixity and solidity to the reader’s sense of unfolding and progress of the text.”
Don Quixote--private eye?

• In the wake of Lauren Bacall’s death earlier this month, at age 89, The Bogie Film Blog recaps the onscreen roles she played opposite Humphrey Bogart, including in To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, and the whistle-perfect Key Largo.

• Margot Kinberg looks at the ways in which crime and mystery fiction have portrayed the turbulent, change-propelling era of the 1960s.

• Check out this interesting article in The Huffington Post by Åsa Larsson, the Swedish crime writer, about women as fictional victims.

• Oh, great. Republicans are already planning more costly federal government shutdowns, should they win a majority of seats in the U.S. Senate this coming November.

• This comes from Deadline Hollywood: “Keanu Reeves is making a foray into television with Rain, an hour-long series from Slingshot Global Media based on the best-selling book series by Barry Eisler. The Matrix star will topline the globe-trotting action drama and will executive produce alongside Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, his directors in the upcoming feature John Wick, as well as Eisler and Slingshot Global Media, which will distribute the show. Rain marks Reeves’ first major TV series acting and producing gig.”

Every Alfred Hitchcock film cameo--finally compiled.

• Not an unreasonable question to ask:Why can’t any recent Sherlock Holmes adaptation get Irene Adler right?” That said, however, I did enjoy Lara Pulver’s sometimes under-dressed portrayal of Adler in Season 2 of BBC-TV’s Sherlock.

• Jake Hinkson concludes his excellent six-part series for Criminal Element about “film noir’s landmark year,” 1944, with an assessment of William Castle’s When Strangers Marry, starring Dean Jagger and Kim Hunter. He wrote previously about Double Indemnity, Laura, Murder My Sweet, Phantom Lady, and The Woman in the Window.

• Kelli Stanley does a dream-casting of her new Miranda Corbie mystery, City of Ghosts (Minotaur), for the blog My Movie, the Book. I must confess, I had to look up her choice to play the magnetic Ms. Corbie. Michelle ... who?

• By the way, if you missed seeing the column, City of Ghosts was among my half-dozen selections--in Kirkus Reviews--of crime novels worth reading this summer.

• A few recent author interviews worth reading: Ben Winters (in As the Plot Thins); Giles Blunt (in Crime Watch); and James Lee Burke and Dana King (in Omnimystery News).

• And get ready for NoirCon 2014! That annual Philadelphia event devoted to “examining some of the darkest--most nourish--aspects of life” (or at least of fiction) will kick into gear come Wednesday, October 29, and conclude on Sunday, November 2. You can find the schedule of events here. Registration costs $250.