Apr 182015
Scott D. Parker

Two movie trailers dropped this week, both for movies I’m really looking forward to paying money to see. One thrilled me with euphoria, the other, frankly, fell a little flat.

The first long trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens broke on Thursday. I saw it just after lunch. I was in my office/cube and had only access to my iPod and earbuds--which I blasted.  I’m not ashamed to say that I got goosebumps as soon as  the force theme played across that vast desert landscape. Then, when Luke Skywalker himself spoke, those bumps multiplied. The image of Vader’s burned mask was a surprise but, in retrospect, probably not. Then the images of all the new characters who I will meet in December. Then, after a fade to black, the voice millions of kids adored: Han Solo himself said, “Chewie, we’re home.” And Chewbacca warbled his response.

I was over the fourth moon of Yavin with happiness. And was that some sort of dust in my eyes? I won’t hide the fact that I got a little misty. Think about it: those were voices I hadn’t heard in 32 years. Thirty-two years since the last words spoken at the end of Return of the Jedi, when Leia told Han that Luke was her brother. (Odd when you think about all the remaining moments of the film and there were no words.) Thirty-two years since I had heard from some old friends who helped to shape my childhood and the childhoods of millions of kids over multiple generations.

Just take my money now. Some worry that the hype won’t live up to the expectation, that JJ Abrams can’t deliver on the dreams of millions. I think he will. Now, I’m fully aware that nostalgia plays a big role in this. Understood, but the look, the feel, the vibe of the trailer tells me that we are in good hands.

The other trailer was leaked footage on the internet. It was for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, still a mouthful of a title. I don’t care that court cases don’t use the ‘s’ in vs.,’ they should have used an ‘s’. Anyway, I watched the footage as shot by a hand-held camera. And it was dark. Very dark. Both in tone and in visuals. A day later (Yesterday), the official version was released. The visuals were not as dark as the hand-held footage but the tone remained the same.

Lots of night shots, the better to hide the full look at Ben Affleck’s Batman. No vocals from Superman, which is a shame. I like Henry Cavill in the role. He can convey a lot with his face and those nuances go a long way to making his a good Superman. And, from what I saw, Affleck’s Batman looks really good. He’s even got the white eyes that we’ve seen for decades in the comics. And the robotic, modulated version of his voice was a nice addition. The Flash, on TV, modulates his voice and it’s a good effect, the better to avoid the Christian Bale growl.

By the end of the trailer, Batman and Superman meet, Supes hovering in the sky, Bats in armor on the ground. And they’re gonna fight. And they’re gonna be friends in the end so that they can form the Justice League. The question that entered my head was this: Can’t we just skip ahead to the friend part?

I get that BvS is going to be a reaction to the wide-scale destruction from Man of Steel. This is a post-9/11 world after all. I get that. I get that Bats will stand in for humankind and confront Superman. I get that. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I just hope that the battles between the two will be somewhere in the middle so we can get some smiles and sunshine in this movie. As I wrote on Jay’s Facebook page: “I love Batman and I can find good things in just about every property out there re: Bats. Now, yesterday, we had the Star Wars trailer and that sent me over the moon. Euphoria. This morning, I saw the leaked BvS footage. I clicked with high expectations. I was...I'm not sure. I'm not sure why it is that trailer almost did nothing for me. Yes, I like the themes (i.e., voiceovers) presented, and I liked Bats's metallic voice. But... after the bright excitement of Star Wars, all I'm seeing is dark, dark, dark. Yes, I will see it, without a doubt. I don't hate MoS. But what does it say about that movie and/or franchise when someone like me is almost indifferent? What it just poor timing? Will future trailers reveal more? Why the heck do heroes ALWAYS have to fight?”

Still, there was that moment, the moment when Superman and Batman were on screen, live action, for the very first time. That was indeed tres cool.

Another Facebook friend started a new thread saying “This is my Superman.” It started with a picture of Christopher Reeve and a Harlan Ellison quote. Here it is.

After that, I got to thinking: if Snyder is re-imagining Superman for the 21st Century--and the 1938 Superman/1950s TV Superman/1978 Movie Superman say one thing about him and us as a society in those respective years--what does MoS and BvS say about us now? Is this who we've become?
Apr 182015
Every Secret Thing, the film based on Laura Lippman’s 2004 standalone novel of that same name, debuted at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival and is being prepared for a nationwide release on May 15. But until today, I hadn’t spotted a trailer for this picture starring Elizabeth Banks, Dakota Fanning, and Diane Lane. Click here to see the preview in Janet Rudolph’s Mystery Fanfare blog.

• The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books begins tomorrow on the University of Southern California campus and continues through Sunday. If I lived in L.A., I’d be present for all the festivities, especially since they’re free to the public. But at least I can report on the 2015 Times Book Prize competition, the winners of which will be announced on Saturday night. Here are the five contestants in the Mystery/Thriller category; a list of all the nominees is here.

• Earlier this week I was paging through The Seattle Times, when I happened onto this front-page story about Roy Price, the 47-year-old vice president of Amazon Studios, which you’ll know is behind the Michael Connelly-created crime drama Bosch (covered here and here). What most interested me, though, was this sentence: “His grandfather, Roy Huggins, was a legendary television writer who created such classic series as Maverick, The Fugitive, and The Rockford Files.” Holy crap! I’ve long been a fan of Huggins’ work, both his television projects and his early endeavors as a novelist. I didn’t know I was living in the same city--Seattle--where his grandson can often be found laboring over a desk. I might have to come up with some way to interview Price in the very near future …

• I need the first volume mentioned in this Bookgasm review!

• Bouchercon organizers announced on their Facebook page that they’ve chosen a “brand-new logo for Bouchercon National! Each year--including 2015 in Raleigh--will still have their own logo, but this one will cover the organization as a whole.” I’ve embedded that new artwork on the left.

• As somebody who was very fond of British author Paul Johnston’s series of near-future-set thrillers starring Edinburgh senior cop-turned-private eye Quintilian Dalrymple (last seen in 2001’s The House of Dust), it’s pretty exciting to know the author is returning with a new, sixth installment of that series, Head or Hearts, out this month in the UK from Severn House and due in U.S. stores come July. Euro Crime has posted a synopsis of the new yarn.

• By the way, if you haven’t read Ali Karim’s 2003 interview with Paul Johnston, in which they talk about the Quint books, do so now.

• I never owned a Pet Rock, but I do remember when those low-commitment companions first rolled onto the market in the mid-1970s. So I was saddened to hear that Gary Dahl, the creator of the Pet Rock fad (which Newsweek called “one of the most ridiculously successful marketing schemes ever”) died recently at age 78.

• Over in the Killer Covers blog, we have posted a look back at the “sexpionage” novels of Ted Mark, published mostly during the 1960s and ’70s, as well as the latest entry in our still-new “Friday Finds” series, which highlights “context-free covers we love.” Today’s pick: The Flesh and Mr. Rawlie (1963).

• Back in February, I mentioned that the blog Criminal Element was launching a regular short-story competition called “The M.O.” The initial deadline for tales was March 6 and the theme for all submissions was “Long Gone.” Readers of Criminal Element were asked to vote for their favorite entries. Today the blog has posted the winner of its first “M.O.” contest, “Fix Me,” by Los Angeles “writer and drummer” S.W. Lauden. According to its schedule, Criminal Element will announce its next short-story contest--with a new theme--on May 1.

Honey West star Anne Francis melted hearts looking like this.

• MSNBC-TV host Rachel Maddow did an excellent interview last night with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), during which they talked about Reid’s long political history, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “historic candidacy” for president of the United States in 2016, and the current Republican leadership in Congress (“I think they’ve been absolute failures”). You can now watch it all here.

These are some of the most spectacular aerial shots ever! They come from a Web site called AirPano, where you can find still more breathtaking photos. Copy them to your computer now!

• California author J. Sydney Jones has made an excellent reputation for himself over the last half-dozen years penning mystery novels set in early 20th-century Vienna. However his new release, Basic Law (Severn House)--the first entry in a trilogy--is a more contemporary thriller featuring “expat American journalist Sam Kramer.” To better acquaint readers with Kramer, he’s just posted “Body Blows,” a short story featuring the same protagonist.

• Author Declan Burke recently introduced me to a new blog called Crime Fiction Ireland, which he says “pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin. Edited by Lucy Dalton, the blog covers crime and mystery fiction of all hues, TV and film, provides author profiles and a ‘What’s On’ slot, and also offers a Short Fiction selection.” I’ve added Crime Fiction Ireland to The Rap Sheet’s selection of links.

• I haven’t yet seen any notices about PBS-TV’s Masterpiece Mystery! umbrella series picking up the concluding three-episode season of Foyle’s War, the wonderful Michael Kitchen/Honeysuckle Weeks period drama from British broadcaster ITV that debuted in 2002. That last season began showing in the UK back in January, and is available to people who subscribe to the online viewing service Acorn Media. (You’ll find all Foyle’s War episodes here.) National Public Radio’s John Powers posted a fine wrap-up of Foyle’s final run here, and you can purchase a DVD set of the series’ last three eps here. But for Americans like me who prefer to watch Kitchen’s show on Masterpiece for free, all of this just adds up to a painful reminder of what we’re missing. C’mon, PBS, step up and add this one last Foyle’s War run to your summer 2015 schedule!

Here’s one reason why you can’t trust amateur online reviews.

• Finally, my old friend Matthew, who has spent years talking up Sinbad and Me, the 1966 adventure/mystery novel for children by Kin Platt (author of the Max Roper detective series), reports that the book is back in print this month after being commercially unavailable for decades. Sinbad and Me captured the 1967 Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery Fiction. The new edition is available from Amazon in both hardcover and paperback, but Matthew--who shares my adoration for books--asked me to “encourage your readers to order from their local independent bookseller.” I can’t but endorse that suggestion. Amazon, for all the purchasing advantages it offers, has proved to be a killer of small neighborhood stores, whether they sell books or other goods. I provide links from The Rap Sheet to Amazon pages, but that’s simply for the convenience of my readers. I always try to buy from independent bookstores. And you should too.

Booklist review of my latest novel Elimination

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Apr 182015
This was just published in the UK and will be here July 1. Probably sooner on KIndle.

Gorman, Ed (Author), Jul 2015. 192 p. Severn, hardcover, $27.95. (9780727884664).
Illinois Congresswoman Jessica Bradshaw is beautiful, rich, progressive. She is nearing the end of a fang and-claw reelection battle with an opponent who represents the forces of darkness in Gorman’s cosmology. Michael Dorsey waves the flag, hates abortion, loves guns. And he is gaining in the polls. During their final debate, somebody fires a shotgun blast at Jessica. She is not hurt, but the shooter escapes, and theories bloom. Must be a Dorsey backer, they’re murderous crazies. Wait a minute. Suppose Jessica’s gang did it, missing her on purpose and assuming the blame will automatically fall on one of Dorsey’s gun nuts. Dev Conrad, the novel’s narrator, is Jessica’s political consultant- turned-detective, seeking the truth in this hall of mirrors. Inevitably, there’s another layer: right-wing groups united in their hatred of blacks and the federal government. And they’re attracting police officers. Gorman tells his story in a style both expert and weary, knowing that sometimes the darkest deeds have their origin in hurt feelings. He knows, too, that often the best the good guys can do is hang on. Give this one to fans of the great Ross Thomas, whose political fixers were equally savvy and equally weary.
Apr 172015

By Erin Mitchell

Wow…it’s been a crazy few weeks. Lots going on, and so it seems like a good time to round up some observations…

Book Expo America

BEA. The Rumble in the Javits. Book Nerds Unite. However you look at it, BEA is a big deal if for no other reason than there are a ton of people there, each of whom has some connection to book world. While I’m far from a fan of the locale (the combination of pigeons flying around the show floor at $6 for a Diet Coke doesn’t blow my skirt up), I love the energy. I say it every year: if someone tells you books or reading or stories are dead or dying, suggest she or he come to BEA.

If you are a member of Mystery Writers of America (and if you’re not, why not?), be sure to familiarize yourself with the fantastic member benefits around BEA. It’s a fantastic place to meet librarians, book bloggers, media, and booksellers…and if you buy me a Diet Coke, I’ll be your friend for life.

Help-An-Author Lists

If you have been so lucky as to avoid these lists, here’s one…they’re basically all the same.

How I hate these lists. You know why? As a reader, I find both their tone and content offensive. But they keep showing up…on blogs, in Facebook posts…they’re hard to avoid. The thing is, I have no problem with authors asking readers for their help in spreading the word about their books. You can and should do this. But to do so in a way that implies some kind of obligation on the part of readers? That’s not cool.

Assuming a reader has purchased your book (that is, not shoplifted it or stolen it electronically), she or he has no obligation to the author. None. Nada. If said gentle reader enjoys the book and wants to go write a review somewhere? Wonderful. If you want to remind them that so doing is helpful? That’s great too. Authors who make lists, though, veer into the territory of obnoxious—this is entirely different from a specific request—and always come across like they have no respect whatsoever for their readers. Please cut that shit out.


Don’t worry…if you haven’t seen it, I’m not going to spoil it for you.

In my less-than-humble opinion, Justified is one of the finest television series ever produced, in no small part because it was always true to the Elmore Leonard short story on which it was based and also the history of Harlan County. I wasn’t gaga about the finale, if I’m honest, but it sure was classy. I think Mr. Leonard would have been proud. That last scene was one for the ages, and gave us a new phrase to put on the shelf next to GitOffMyLawn:

We dug coal together.


Apr 172015
Paperback 870: Award Books A122F (PBO, 1964)

Title: Saigon
Author: Nick Carter (who is fictional, so … I don't know)
Cover artist: Uncredited

Estimated value: $7

Best things about this cover:

  • Nothing says "Saigon" like a white lady in lacy lingerie on a candy-striped couch. I always say.
  • Nick Carter is the Ellery Queen of spy "chillers." Is he the author? The character? Both? Neither? The Smug Floating Head of Nick Carter says "Don't overthink it, baby. Just chill on my couch and I'll bring you a drink. [looks at her hand] OK, five drinks."

Best things about this back cover:

  • Spy vs. Spy > this.
  • If you're a big fan of torture / rape, then … "Saigon," I guess. Jeez.
  • Nick Carter went on to make millions in the exercise equipment market, though sales didn't really take off until he changed "Killmaster" to "Thighmaster."

Page 123~

The blade flicked from the narrow haft without a whisper. Nick crouched. Sighted. And threw. The head turned slightly. Beautiful!

Nick Carter: Eroticizing Ice-Pick Death Scenes Since 1964


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]
Apr 172015

2015 FlyerAs we did at our 2014 convention, PulpFest will be offering early-bird shopping in the PulpFest dealers’ room on Thursday, August 13th, from 6 PM until 10 PM. For those who prepay for their memberships, it will cost an additional $25 over the regular membership fee. Early-bird shopping privileges will cost $30 if paid for at the door.

But wait! There’s an even better deal for those who want an extra four hours of shopping at PulpFest 2015! To reward loyal attendees who help to defray the convention’s substantial costs by staying three nights at our host hotel–the Hyatt Regency in the heart of ColumbusPulpFest is pleased to offer free early-bird privileges. That’s a very significant savings of at least $25! Only staff, dealers, and early-bird shoppers will be allowed into the dealers’ room during Thursday evening, August 13th. Please realize that due to travel conditions and other contingencies, PulpFest cannot guarantee that each and every registered dealer will be available during our early-bird hours.

But free early-bird shopping isn’t the only way you can save by staying three nights at the Hyatt Regency. On Saturday, August 15th, PulpFest will be holding a drawing at the close of our annual business meeting for two full membership fee refunds. Two lucky convention attendees who prepay for their membership, book a room for three nights at our host hotel, and choose to attend our business meeting will receive full refunds of their membership fees to PulpFest 2015. You must provide proof of your stay at the Hyatt Regency Columbus and be present at the drawing to receive your free membership refund. Bingo!

Please remember that PulpFest will be sharing downtown Columbus with Matsuricon in August. Therefore, we are urging all of our members to book their hotel rooms for PulpFest 2015 as soon as possible!

The best deal for PulpFest members is to reserve a room at the Hyatt Regency Columbus. Our host hotel is offering a room rate of $116 plus tax per night that includes a complimentary parking pass with in-out privileges and free Wi-Fi. Additional parking passes for people sharing rooms are available for $10 each. You can call 1-888-421-1442 to book a room by telephone. You must register by July 1, 2015 and mention PulpFest to get the special convention rate. Alternately, you can register online by clicking here or the “book a room” button on our home page.

The room rate offered by the Hyatt to PulpFest members is one of the best in the downtown area. Matsuricon members will be paying $123 per night to stay at the Hyatt, plus an additional $12 a day for parking. Dollar-for-dollar, the PulpFest rate at the Hyatt pretty much stifles the competition.

So what are you waiting for? Book a room for three nights and register now for “Summer’s Great Pulp Con.” You’ll get a great deal on a room, free early-bird shopping on Thursday evening, August 13th, from 6 to 10 PM, and a chance to win a full membership refund to PulpFest 2015. It’s a deal you can’t afford to miss!

(Join us August 13th – 16th at PulpFest 2015 for a celebration of H. P. Lovecraft and WEIRD TALES and a salute to the Thrilling Group of pulp magazines.)

 Posted by at 12:45 pm
Apr 172015

We are still shaken by the death earlier this week of Ron Scheer (BUDDIES IN THE SADDLE) and here is a tribute from Brian Busby who notes books set or written by Canadian authors. Here is another by B.V.  Lawson. They are many more if you google his name. We will not forget him quickly or easily. I wanted to post a poem for him. Most poems had mention of religion and I'm not sure how Ron felt about it. But this one leaves it open. It is slightly altered. And next a poem by a famous cowboy poet, which also seems apropos.

The time has come to say
Good-bye to all my cowboy friends.
Though our trails may be many miles apart.
May our friendship never end.

This gather's going to be my last,
For soon I'm headed South.
When spring brandin' smoke's in the air
I'll shed a tear no doubt.

You all have meant so much to me,
Of my life you're now a part.
Each one of you has bunkhouse space
That's deep here in my heart.

Good-bye to you where ere we met
For you see I'm Prineville bound.
No more my pony's feet on rocks
They'll tread a softer ground
And though I'll never ride again.
Up here where the eagles scream
I'll ride forever with each of you
Through these mountains in my dreams!

by Kendra Tyler

And this: 

Now back to Friday business:
from the archives - 

Al Tucher is the author of over 30 stories about the delightful Diana. The newest one is in BETTY FEDORA.


By George Harsh.

Since 1986 I have worked as a cataloger at the Newark Public Library, which has existed since 1883. The library has some very deep collections, and exploring them is both my job and a perk of my job. A recent project in the biography section brought me into contact with Lonesome Road, a 1971 memoir by George Harsh.

In 1928 Harsh was a rich, arrogant, idle young college student in Georgia. He and other rich, arrogant, idle young men spent much of their time discussing their superiority over the masses and the uses to which they should put that superiority. This was only four years after the Leopold and Loeb case, but it seems part of the “superman” pathology to dismiss possible lessons from anyone else’s experience. The young men in Harsh’s circle decided that they were able and therefore obligated to commit the perfect crime.

For the thrill of it they began a string of armed robberies. When a store clerk resisted, Harsh was the one holding the gun and the one who fired the lethal shot.

The police easily caught the young supermen, and Harsh was sentenced to death. His codefendants received life sentences, and the prosecutor, troubled by the disparity, succeeded in having Harsh’s sentence commuted to life. Writing years later, Harsh is unsparing toward his young self. He deserved to hang, he says, but he received more mercy than he had shown with the gun in his hand.

He spent the next several years on a Georgia chain gang that was brutal even by the standards of the time and place. Eventually, he became a trusty with a job as an orderly in a prison hospital.

Here we encounter the first of several plot twists that only reality can get away with writing. When an inmate needed an emergency appendectomy, a freak ice storm kept the staff physicians from reaching the hospital. Harsh, who had assisted at several such operations, performed the surgery and saved the man’s life. The governor of Georgia pardoned him.

The year was 1940. George Harsh felt undeserving of peace and security while so much of the world was at war. He traveled north and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. Harsh flew numerous bombing missions over Germany. His luck ran out in 1942, when he was shot down. His captors sent him to Stalag Luft III.

Fiction writers, try getting away with that one. In the 1963 film The Great Escape, the character called Intelligence, played by Gordon Jackson, is based on Harsh. He was not one of the 80-plus POWs who made it through the tunnel before it was discovered, which was just as well. Only a handful made it to safety. The rest were recaptured, and the Gestapo summarily executed more than fifty of them.

Harsh survived a brutal forced march westward, away from the advancing Red Army. His narrative ends there.

His story does not. In 1945 he was in his mid-thirties and had spent mere days as a grown man neither incarcerated nor at war. In another twist that in its own way might be the strangest of all, he worked for a while as a publisher’s traveling sales representative. The experiment in freedom was not a success. The memory of his crime tormented him, and he attempted suicide. Later he suffered a stroke, and in 1980 he died.

No collaborator in the writing of this book is named. If it is Harsh’s work, it counts as a remarkable achievement. He knows when and how to make his writing as terse and urgent as Morse code in the night, and his meditations on freedom, imprisonment, violence and war come with a hard-earned authority.

Did George Harsh atone for his crime? It’s a tough call that will vary from reader to reader. Does his book deserve a place on the shelf? In my mind, beyond all doubt.

Sergio Angelini, CRIME ON MY HANDS, George Sanders and Craig Rice
Mark Baker, GRAND CANYON, Sandy Dengler
Joe Barone, PREY ON PATMOS, Jeffrey Siger
Bill Crider, DEATH ON THE CHEAP, Arthur Lyons
Martin Edwards, DEATH ON THE AGENDA, Patricia Moyes
Curt Evans, TOPER'S END, GDH Cole
Ed Gorman, BONJOUR TRISTESSE, Francoise Sagan
John Hegenberger, THE SOUND OF DETECTION, Francis M Nevins and Martin Grams Jr.
Rick Horton, BOUND TO RISE, Horatio Alger, Jr. 
Jerry House, SCALPS, Murray Leinster
Randy Johnson, TOUCHFEATHER, Jimmy Sangster
George Kelley, THE FORERUNNER SERIES, Andre Norton
Rob Kitchin, BLACKLANDS, Belinda Bauer
B.V. Lawson, MORSES' GREATEST CASE, Colin Dexter
Evan Lewis, FIVE BOOKS REVIEWED by Dashiell Hammett
Steve Lewis/William Deeck, THE GREEN ARCHER, Edgar Wallace
Todd Mason, SUPER WHOST, Margaret St. Clair
Patrick Murtha, BLIX, Frank Norris
James Reasoner, HOUSE OF LIVING DEATH, Arthur Leo Zagat
Richard Robinson, THE SAINT WANTED FOR MURDER, Leslie Charteris
Gerard Saylor, HEADS IN BEDS, Jacob Tomsky
Kerrie Smith, TRACKING NORTH, Kerrie McGinnis
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang A JADE IN ARIES, Tucker Coe

Apr 172015
I'm fudging a little calling this a book, since it first appeared in the pages of the pulp magazine TERROR TALES (in the September 1934 issue) and is available now in a partial replica of that issue. But at least it's a complete novel; the editor says so right on the...No, wait, it's more like a 25,000 word novella. But it is forgotten by most of you, more than likely, and I had a great time