Jul 242014
Following James Garner’s death last weekend, I started rummaging through my storage room for a particular edition of Mystery magazine that I remembered featuring Garner in one of his most famous TV roles, that of Los Angeles gumshoe Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files. Naturally, this was no easy endeavor; it required my unpacking and then repacking more boxes than I (or my sore muscles) care to recall. But I did finally find the item I sought.

For those who don’t remember Mystery, it was founded as a full-size mag in 1979 by Stephen L. Smoke (who, under the pseudonym Hamilton T. Caine, went on to produce at least two novels about Southern California gumshoe Ace Carpenter). The contents combined non-fiction and fiction, and there were several contributors to the publication whose names are still familiar, among them Robert J. Randisi and Paul Bishop. Mystery’s other claim to fame might be that it was headquartered in downtown L.A.’s landmark, 1893 Bradbury Building, which had featured prominently in Garner’s 1969 film Marlowe, and provided office space for the protagonists in such small-screen gems as Banyon, City of Angels, and 77 Sunset Strip. I was pretty young at the time, but I managed to get two profiles into Mystery after it shrank to digest size (and before it folded in 1982), one of Stuart M. Kaminsky, the other of Collin Willcox. (I’ll have to dig up both of those sometime, too.)

Anyway, the January 1981 edition of Mystery boasted a cover story, written by Bob Randisi, that looked back at “the best TV private eyes of the 1970s.” He highlighted a number of prominent shows from that decade, including Mannix, Barnaby Jones, Harry O(“my personal favorite of all the TV P.I.s I’ve seen”), Charlie’s Angels, and Cannon. He also noted, however, that a survey taken of “writers, readers, editors, and TV viewers from all sections of the country” had determined that the most popular shamus of the ’70s was … Garner’s impecunious but loyal Rockford. Randisi explained:
The reason for the success of [The] Rockford Files was simple: James Garner. Rockford was probably one of the more humanly portrayed P.I.s of all the TV “eyes.” He was not a superman, and preferred to talk his way--or con his way--out of a tight spot rather than fight his way out--which doesn’t mean he didnt fight when he had to. He just preferred not to.”
I’m embedding the whole story below, just for your entertainment. Click on the images to open more readable enlargements.

Jul 232014
So, Hermes Press has just collected their Buck Rogers miniseries by Howard Chaykin. I didn't read the individual comics, but I pre-ordered it in trade, and expect it to arrive in a week or so. I don't always like Chaykin's comics, but when I do, I tend to like them a lot. In the 80s, I adored American Flagg, and the writer/artist is responsible for creating one of my all-time favorite comics characters - Atlas Comics' The Scorpion. I also dug his 80s Shadow miniseries (and will probably pick up his recent return to the character eventually), among many other titles.

I've read online that this version of Buck Rogers hews more closely to the original Philip Francis Nowlan pulp novellas, Armageddon 2419 A.D. and The Airlords Of Han.... and I think that's a great approach. Hey, I love the 70s TV series as much as anyone (and more than most), but it's about time to get back to the character's roots.

Here are Chaykin's covers for the four issue miniseries.

Jul 232014

Adventure 46-03In his introduction to The Worlds of Philip José Farmer: Voyages to Strange Days, editor Michael Croteau writes, “A child of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, Farmer wrote many of the same types of stories as his contemporaries during the last half of the twentieth century: tales of space exploration, alien planets, fantastic journeys, alien invasions, time travel, artificial worlds, the afterlife, space opera, alternate history, mad scientists, robots, dystopias, list worlds, feral humans, displaced men, artificial intelligence, the future, the distant future, and the realy, really far distant future. Name a science fiction trope and Farmer almost certainly tried his hand at it, sometimes playing it straight, sometimes turning it on its head.”

Although noted for his “pioneering use of sexual and religious themes,” Philip José Farmer was, in short, a pulp writer. This year FarmerCon IX, our “convention within a convention,” turns its attention to the pulp elements found in Peoria’s Grand Master of Science Fiction‘s canonOur annual FarmerCon panel presentation will begin at 10 PM on Thursday, August 7th.

In The Farmerian Vision: Pulp Meets Science Fiction, moderator Paul Spiteri–editor of the Farmer collection Pearls from Peoriaand panelists Jason Aiken and Christopher Paul Carey will discuss the unique way in which the Hugo award-winning author blended pulp elements and themes with his science-fictional works.

Jason Aiken became interested in the pulps and works of Philip José Farmer in 2009. He is the host of the Pulp Crazy podcast and video blog where he reviews classic and new pulp fiction. Christopher Paul Carey, one of our 2014 New Fictioneers, coauthored Gods of Opar: Tales of Lost Khokarsa with Mr. Farmer, and authored Exiles of Kho, a prelude to the Khokarsa series.

Since 2011, PulpFest has hosted FarmerCon, a convention that began in Peoria, Illinois, the hometown of Philip José Farmer. Originally a gathering of Farmer fans figuratively, and literally, right outside Phil’s back door, FarmerCon offered presentations, dinners, and even picnics at the author’s house.  After the passing of Phil and Bette Farmer in 2009, it was decided to take FarmerCon on the road to broaden its horizons. By holding the convention alongside events like PulpFest, Farmer fans get a variety of programming and a room full of pulp and book dealers to enjoy. As always, PulpFest is  pleased to welcome FarmerCon IX members to the Hyatt Regency Columbus.

Picky, Picky

 Awards 2014  Comments Off
Jul 232014
Adding to the anticipation surrounding this year’s Iceland Noir festival in Reykjavik (November 20-23), organizers have announced their finalists for the inaugural Icepick Award celebrating translated crime fiction. They are:
La Vérité sur l'affaire Harry Quebert [The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair], by Joël Dicker; Icelandic translation by Friðrik Rafnsson
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn; Icelandic translation by
Bjarni Jónsson
Panserhjerte [The Leopard], by Jo Nesbø; Icelandic translation by Bjarni Gunnarsson
Människa utan hund [Man Without Dog], by Håkan Nesser; Icelandic translation by Ævar Örn Jósepsson
Veljeni vartija [My Brother’s Keeper], by Antti Tuomainen; Icelandic translation by Sigurður Karlsson
The winner will be announced at Reykjavik’s Nordic House on November 22 (which, were he still alive, would be author Raymond Chandler’s 126 birthday).

(Hat tip to Shotsmag Confidential.)

Charging Into the Darkness

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Jul 232014
I didn’t even have this birthday marked down on my calendar, but Criminal Element contributor Jake Hinkson evidently keeps better track of some things than I do. He explains:
This year film noir turns 70. While there had been some intermittent films leading up to the birth of the classic noir, in 1944 the dahlia bloomed with six key films: Double Indemnity, Laura, Murder My Sweet, Phantom Lady, When Strangers Marry, and The Woman in the Window. In these films you have many of the key figures in noir making some of their first forays into the genre (directors Billy Wilder, Otto Preminger, Fritz Lang, and Robert Siodmak; writers Raymond Chandler, Cornell Woolrich, Vera Caspary, Phillip Yordan; actors Robert Mitchum, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Bennett, Dana Andrews--just to name a few). This onslaught of darkness came in the wake of the bleakest days (from the American perspective, anyway) of WWII. The basis of many of these films were older properties, but it is the way these films came out--physically darker, psychologically denser, and ultimately more pessimistic--that marks the real birth of film noir.
By way of celebrating, Hinkson today posted the first of half a dozen articles, this one recalling the many strengths of Double Indemnity, the Fred MacMurray/Barbara Stanwyck/Edward G. Robinson picture that he says “might well be the most famous of all film noirs.” Stay tuned for the remaining installments of Hinkson’s series.

READ MORE:When Lightning Strikes,” by Thomas Kaufman
(The Rap Sheet).

Pro-File: Ariel S. Winter

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Jul 232014

Ariel S. Winter
August 2012
ISBN: 978-0-85768-581-0
Cover art by Chuck PyleRead A Sample Chapter
Order Now

1. Tell us about your current novel.

It's a bit of a stretch to call The Twenty-Year Death current since it came out in the summer of 2012, but it's just come out in a completely new format that I'm very excited about. The book as a whole tells of the twenty-year descent of the great American novelist Shem Rosenkrantz from bestselling literary darling to out-of-work Hollywood hack. The story is told through three separate mystery novels each in the style of the greatest crime writer of the decade in which that part of the story is set: Georges Simenon, Raymond Chandler, and Jim Thompson. It was important to me that each of the books operated independently from each other, as though each section was a lost novel of its respective era. That way if a reader read just one portion of the novel, he would feel as though he had read a complete novel, but if he read the whole thing as intended, it added up to a greater work. My original vision of the novel was as a boxed paperback set, and my editor Charles Ardai agreed. For cost reasons, however, and to make the biggest splash, we put it out as a single hardcover. This month all three books were released as independent mass market paperbacks. Now some readers might only experience a part of the story, or read the books in a different order than in the single-volume edition, and it will be interesting to hear how those experiences are different.

2. Can you give a sense of what you're working on now?

My next novel is a robot romance in the Bronte tradition. Set in a dystopic future in which humans are a small minority, it tells of an aged robot who rents a beach-side cabana to contemplate his future. He's been in a terrible accident, and the societal expectation is that he should deactivate himself, but he's not ready to die. While at the beach, he becomes obsessed with the robot family that lives in the big house that overlooks the beach from the top of the cliff. Through a series of interlocking narrators, he learns the terrible secrets that separate this family from robotkind.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

Now that I have a real published book out, there's some comfort that there's tangible evidence that I existed. If I die tomorrow, even if my book goes out of print, it still exists out there, to be found, worthy of a footnote at least.

4. What is the greatest DISpleasure?

The years and years of toiling with very little encouragement, and the shock that even after you publish a novel to critical acclaim and with good sales figures, it doesn't mean that anyone will rush to publish you again. The uncertainty with the years and years between paychecks.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

Don't forget the booksellers. The booksellers are who sell the books. Not only is it important to cultivate a relationship with as many booksellers as possible, but publishers should help to publicly champion booksellers, emphasizing the role they serve in the literary culture. If the general public began to feel that a bookseller should be consulted like a sommelier, it would help save bookstores, and it will ensure the understanding that there's a reason that 99% of books that should be read are published, not self-published.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in print again?

I'm not knowledgeable enough to know of any forgotten mystery writers. NYRB, Hard Case, and other presses like them seem to be doing a great job of bring deserving authors back into print.

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that moment.

I was cooking dinner when my agent called. I don't remember what I was cooking, but I remember I was using a frying pan on the front right hand burner, and it was something time-sensitive, and there was a lot of noise in the kitchen, my daughter, my wife at the sink, so I was distracted. The months of trying to sell had worn me down, so that it was almost as though the news passed right by me that it had happened. There was a delay in the excitement for some reason. Of course, my wife would probably tell me that I have all of these details wrong. In any event, the moment is hyper-real for me, like the world shrunk into me at that moment. You're right that you don't forget it, but I'm not sure I remember it either. It was epochal.

Help Making the Leap

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Jul 232014
Are you an aspiring crime, mystery, or thriller writer looking for professional assistance to get you on the right literary track? Then the 2014 Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference--to be held in Corte Madera, California, from July 24 to 27--might be an event worth your attending. Writers and others leading workshops will include Ace Atkins, Cara Black, David Corbett, Anne Perry, literary agent Amy Rennert, and Judge Peter J. Busch of the San Francisco Superior Court. The conference schedule is here. To register, click here.