Nov 252014
 
I don't know if this image is official or fan-made, but it made this long-time Bond fan smile... and with the rumors that Christophe Waltz is playing SPECTRE mastermind Ernst Stavros Blofeld in the as-yet-untitled film, I'm hopeful that we can put that QUANTUM idiocy behind us and welcome the original evil empire back to the series.
Nov 252014
 
Having finally come down from all the excitement at Bouchercon in Long Beach, and after putting the last touches on a couple of unexpectedly challenging editorial assignments, I am ready for a wrap-up of recent crime-fiction news. How about you?

Publishers Weekly has posted a list of its critics’ 12 favorite mystery and thriller novels from 2014. They are:

-- The Black-Eyed Blonde, by Benjamin Black (Holt)
-- Memory of Flames, by Armand Cabasson (Gallic)
-- Sting of the Drone, by Richard A. Clarke (St. Martin’s/Dunne)
-- The Sweetness of Life, by Paulus Hochgatterer (MacLehose Press)
-- The Devil in the Marshalsea, by Antonia Hodgson (Mariner)
-- The Good Girl, by Mary Kubica (Mira)
-- The Iron Sickle, by Martin Limón (Soho Crime)
-- The Forgers, by Bradford Morrow (Mysterious Press)
-- Desperate, by Daniel Palmer (Kensington)
-- Soul of the Fire, by Eliot Pattison (Minotaur)
-- The Farm, by Tom Rob Smith (Grand Central)
-- The Martian, by Andy Weir (Crown)

• Crime Fiction Lover chooses its “Top 10 Crime Debuts of 2014,” including Someone Else’s Skin, by Sarah Hilary; Spring Tide, by Cilla and Rolf Börjlind; and The Lying Down Room, by Anna Jaquiery.

• With the American version of Thanksgiving coming up on Thursday, check out this list in Mystery Fanfare of crime fiction related to the occasion. Who knows, you might like to pick up a copy of Kate Borden’s Death of a Turkey or Rex Stout’s Too Many Cooks to while away the time as you wait for your holiday feast to be done.

• Former Norwegian police investigator-turned-author Jǿrn Lier Horst has won the 2014 Martin Beck Award for The Hunting Dogs (Sandstone Press), his third English-translated police procedural starring William Wisting. The Martin Beck Award is presented annually by the Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy (Svenska Deckarakademin) for the best crime novel in translation. Last year, The Hunting Dogs won the Glass Key Award
from the Crime Writers of Scandinavia. Maybe it’s time I actually found a copy of that novel and sat down to read it.

• Several additions have been made in recent days to The Rap Sheet’s YouTube page, including the video embedded above: the opening title sequence from Tropical Heat, a 1991-1993 Canadian action-adventure series starring Rob Stewart as an ex-DEA agent turned Florida gumshoe. Other new clips include the introductions from Cool Million, Shell Game, and Jigsaw John.

• Can you dig it? Author and sometime Rap Sheet writer Gary Phillips dropped me a note over the weekend, saying that he and David Walker--the latter of whom is writing the new Shaft comic-book series for Dynamite Entertainment--“are putting together the first-ever anthology of [John] Shaft short stories … set in the ’70s of course.” As somebody who, over the years, has developed an unexpected fondness for Ernest Tidyman’s Shaft series, I look forward to seeing that black private eye’s return in any form possible.

• A recent interview with David Walker can be heard here.

• Jake Hinkson, author of The Big Ugly and a regular contributor to Criminal Element, has kicked off a new succession of posts for that blog about “standalone novels by mystery writers who are better known for their big-time franchise characters.” Hinkson begins his series with a look back at I’d Know You Anywhere, Laura Lippman’s noirish thriller, published in 2010.

• Are you in the mood for an “oddball detective book”? Jeff Somers showcases five such works--by Thomas Pynchon, Isaac Asimov, and others--in this piece for the B&N Book Blog.

• This qualifies as good news: Despite doubts voiced by many people, the TV series Longmire--inspired by Craig Johnson’s acclaimed series of novels and starring Robert Taylor as Wyoming county sheriff Walt Longmire--will return for a fourth season. This, after A&E cancelled the show in August. ComingSoon.net reports that Netflix has ordered “ten new episodes of the series [to] premiere exclusively in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand in 2015.” It adds: “Season four of Longmire picks up moments after season three’s exciting finale. Longmire, having found out who was behind the murder of his wife, succumbs to his darker impulses and takes off in pursuit of the killer with murder on his mind. Meanwhile, Branch Connally ([played by Bailey] Chase), the deputy who Walt fired for erratic, violent behavior, believes he has already figured out who the real culprit is. But during his confrontation with this suspected killer, a gun goes off. Now the audience will finally learn what happened, and whether Walt can be stopped before he makes a fatal choice.”

• Did you know that independent bookstores across the United States will celebrate Small Business Saturday on November 29 by hosting author and illustrator appearances--just in time for holiday gift-buying? A state-by-state listing of participating shops can be found here. I’m pleased to see that my local bookseller, Phinney Books, is among those taking part. (Hat tip to Life, Death and Fog.)

Better Call Saul, the Breaking Bad spin-off series starring Bob Odenkirk, will be given a two-night debut on February 8 and 9 of next year, after which it will settle into its Monday time slot on AMC-TV.

What’s your favorite John Dickson Carr mystery?

• A couple of interviews worth reading: Clinton Greaves talks with Roger Smith, South African author of Man Down, while Omnimystery News chats with Les Roberts about his new novel, Wet Work.

• If the short-lived, 1972-1973 TV series Madigan, starring Richard Widmark (an early element of The NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie “wheel series”), is available in a DVD set from Amazon France, why is it still not for sale in the States?

• Winners of the 2014 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards are to be declared this coming Wednesday, November 26. Among the nominees are six works competing for Irish Crime Novel of the Year. Declan Burke reacquaints us with those contenders here, and then suggests eight other “tremendous novels published that didn’t, for various reasons, feature on the shortlist”--among them Adrian McKinty’s The Sun Is God and Conor Fitzgerald’s Bitter Remedy.

• This last weekend’s Iceland Noir conference in Reykjavik received some important coverage from the blog Crime Fiction Lover. An overview can be found here, but look also for CFL’s post about new authors who took part in the event and this item about “a tour guided by Iceland’s own queen of crime, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, to the west of the island and out onto the Snaefellsnes peninsula.” You’ll find links to all of CFL’s Iceland Noir articles here.

Are you ready for Cozy Crime Week, December 8-13?

• And “after about ten years of work, and a year-and-a-half online serialization,” the Webcomic Gravedigger is done--“at least for now,” says its writer, Christopher Mills. “‘Digger’ McCrae will probably be back, though. He’s a tough sonuvabitch. I’m already talking to publishers about print editions and digital download versions of both ‘The Predators’ and ‘The Scavengers,’ and I’m hopeful that we’ll be seeing said versions sometime soon.” In the meantime, if you missed any of the 49 chapters of “The Predators,” put together by Mills and illustrator Rick Burchett, you can still find them online, beginning here. “The Scavengers” is still available, too, beginning here.

Hitchcock; Black Wings

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Nov 252014
 

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 2007

Hitchcock; Black Wings

"When I see a Hitchcock movie, as when I read a novel by Graham Greene, I feel I have entered a universe in which evil exists."

The new issue of American Heritage has a fine lengthy overview of Hitchcock's movies (and their collective theme of justified paranoia) by David Lehman. The above quote is one of Lehman's most telling points.

Understandably, much of the piece deals with Hitchcock's biggest successes, from Shadow of A Doubt to North by Northwest to Psycho to The Birds. But when I read an overview of the man's career I feel obliged to defend some of the films that weren't as successful commercially or critically.

FRENZY often gets treated as if it was Hitchcock's attempt to dabble in porno. Yes, it's surprisingly carnal coming from a man whose sexual icons were usually icy blondes. But its carnality and vulgarity seeme to me Hitchcock's way of saying to all his young imitators that he could be modern, too. The fault with this film is the script. The killer is far more interesting than the hero. This becomes even more of a problem because the actor playing the killer not only has the better part--he's a better actor than the hero.

THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY is one of the few times I've ever been able to sit through anything one could call "whimsical." Maybe it's the gorgeous glorious way H films the New England autumn. Maybe it's the simple charm of Edmund Gwen. Maybe it's the way a very young Shirley MacLain (in her first screen role) sweetly seduces the camera every time it comes near. Or maybe it's just the idea that a corpse keeps getting moved all over the county while local law enforcement tries to figure out what the hell is going on. Whatever, it has true charm.

MARNIE is a mess. I've always thought Sean Connery was miscast. The script wanders and pages go by without it focusing the way it should. But Tippi Hedren is convincing enough--and her backstory intriguing enough--that there's the kind of neurotic grit to the film you might find in a report by a social worker. Except for Connery the performances are excellent and that may be why, despite its considerable faults, I like it.

FAMILY PLOT demonstrates that H never lost his love for rear screen projection. There's a scene in here where the car in which stars Bruce Dern and Barbara Harris are in nearly goes off a cliff. It is so oviously a studio process shot that the entire sequence makes you resent Hitchcock. Was he just lazy? Did he really think he could fool modern audiences? Did he prefer (like John Ford in Liberty Valance) the look of the sound stage to the look of reality? That's the first thing I think of when somebody mentions Family Plot which is too bad because otherwise, for me, it's a very enjoyable movie. The A story with Dern and Harris is actually a very sweet tale of two para-hippies trying desperately to become con artists. The trouble comes with the B story, with William DeVane and Karen Black (her major career ended way too soon for me). Their acting is fine but the scriptwriters stumble badly in trying to merge this heist storyline with the A story. Still, Dern and Harris are so much fun who gives a damn that threst of the picture is so wobbly?

FROM OUR INTREPID REPORTER MARY COMES MORE (SHE SAYS FINAL) WORD ON THE PUBLIC DOMAIN EDITION OF BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL

LAST COMMENTS (I swear) about my purchased edition of Black Wings Has My Angel. My copy arrived today from amazon.com. It ain't pretty but, as long as all the words are there, I'm not going to complain. I checked out the (bare bones) copyright page and under "First Published 1953, Gold Medal Books," it says: "Nearly reprinted, 1990, Black Lizard." What's THAT all about???? Then there's "Blackmask.com Edition 2005" and the ISBN number and, finally, it says Blackmask Online is a division of Disruptive Publishing, Inc. (interesting name). Of course, I googled THAT and it looks as if Disruptive Publishing is connected to Fictionwise E-books......... Very interesting, I say. I would have thought there would be some mention of the Elliott Chaze estate or something but what do I know?

Ed here: In the mist of memory, I recall Barry Gifford telling me that Black Lizard had made arrangements with Eliott to publish Black Wings. But the company was sold before their edition could appear.
Nov 242014
 

A frequent visitor here, Joan Kyler, has been kind enough to point out a special sale TODAY ONLY, Monday, November 24, of Kindle e-books featuring 15 mysteries in the Mrs. Bradley series by Gladys Mitchell - on sale for $1.99 each. 

As I have said (many times) before, Mrs. Bradley is something of an acquired taste. Long regarded in the U.K. as the Golden Age equal of Christie and Sayers, Gladys Mitchell remains largely unknown in the U.S. It's good to see a lot of them back at least in electronic editions.

By the way, a cursory examination of the site shows that nearly all (maybe all) of Mitchell's Mrs. Bradley books are available - the regular price appears to be $3.99. So even if you don't go for the specials today, they're still pretty attractive at the regular price.

In looking back, I find that I've posted reviews here in the past of four of the books on sale today - The Rising of the Moon, The Devil at Saxon Wall, The Saltmarsh Murders and Laurels Are Poison. If you're interested, just click through to those posts (you'll find links there as well to the podcasts with audio reviews of the books). If you enjoy English eccentrics at their most eccentric, you may like the amazing Mrs. Bradley.

Nov 242014
 
Episode six of A Man Called Sloane (original airdate: October 27, 1979) centers around a lethal alien microorganism brought back to Earth by a Venus probe. (Funny how in reality, our interplanetary probes aren't actually ever intended to return to Earth, though they regularly do in fiction!) This "microbe" is so dangerous that the government both fears that it might get loose and salivates at the thought of using it as a weapon. Thus, they have a team working on an "antidote."

Dr. Franklyn (Alex Henteloff) is part of that team of government scientists, but KARTEL has snagged him in a honeytrap using a professional seductress named Charlene (Zacki Murphy), and turned him. He steals both the microbe and antidote with her help, inadvertently trapping a couple of his colleagues in a sealed chamber and exposing them to the microbe.

Sloane and Torque happen to be visiting the lab at the time, and chase after him. Unfortunately, KARTEL has him covered, and our heroes are attacked by an "ambulance" with a rocket launching "siren." We discover here, for the first time, that Sloane's vintage Cord has some defensive capabilities, as he employs a good old fashioned oil slick to thwart his would-be assassins. ("I guess we gave them the slip!") Unfortunately, the ambulance attack has allowed Franklyn and Charlene to escape with their deadly prize.

Franklyn turns the microbe and the as-yet-untested antidote over to casino proprietor and KARTEL honcho Jonathan Cambro (veteran character actor Monte Markham). Obviously, KARTEL needs to know the antidote works, so the sinister Cambro forces Franklyn to test it on himself. It doesn't work. Apparently the good doctor misplaced a page while transcribing the formula, and that page is now in the hands of neophyte private eye Melissa Nelson (Morgan Fairchild). Eventually, Melissa and Sloane combine forces, and with only 48 hours to recover the antidote (remember those trapped scientists?), go after the sinister Cambro.

Not the strongest episode, but Fairchild and Conrad play off each other quite well, and Markham is, as always, excellent in his villainous role. The science is ludicrous, of course, and the plot is all-too predictable, but it moves along briskly.

• Scriptwriter Marc Brandel also contributed scripts to Danger Man and Amos Burke, Secret Agent.
Nov 242014
 

If diamonds are a girl's best friend (as Carol Channing used to sing), then surely, if they are stolen, a fingerprint is a police officer's best friend? Well, perhaps not. For the young man whose bloody fingerprint was found inside the safe from which the diamonds had been stolen insisted that he had had nothing to do with the crime. And it was up to Dr. Thorndyke to show a criminal court - and the world - how that could be. You'll find the story in The Red Thumb Mark, by R. Austin Freeman, one of the earliest practitioners of the "scientific" detective story. The Red Thumb Mark is the subject of today's book review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the complete review by clicking here.

Originally published in 1907,The Red Thumb Mark is not a murder mystery. Instead, it is focused on the theft of a valuable packet of diamonds. They have been stolen from the office of Reuben Hornby's father. In the safe where the diamonds had been kept, there is a bloody thumb print – the “red thumb mark” of the title. The thumb print matches that of Reuben Hornby. The expert witnesses for the police and the prosecution say it is an open and shut case: given the enormous odds against two people having the same thumb print, its presence at the scene of the crime must mean that Reuben is the thief. Dr. Thorndyke, however, believes there is a rational and convincing explanation of what really happened – and that explanation will exonerate Reuben Hornby. Fingerprints, in 1907, were still a relatively new tool for the police, and it was up to Dr. Thorndyke to prove that the police were wrong to place so much emphasis on what they were sure was incontrovertible evidence.

The Red Thumb Mark was the first of many novels written by Freeman about Dr. Thorndyke, whose detection was always firmly rooted in scientific fact. Freeman was very influential in the development of the American detective story, and this book, while there are no murders, manages to maintain a nice level of tension. It is long out of copyright, and there are a good many inexpensive and even free sources for the book. I think you'll enjoy reading it.

The Challenge

As part of my continuing commitment to the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge under way at the My Reader's Block blog, I am submitting this to cover the Bingo square calling for one medical mystery featuring a doctor or a nurse. For details about the challenge, and what I'm doing for it, please click here.

Nov 242014
 


litrant:

Mama’s coming for you

Confessions by Kanae Minato; translated by Stephen Snyder (Mulholland Books, $15). 

 Yuko Moriguchi is a single-mother and a science teacher in the equivalent of a junior high school outside Tokyo. But she’s got a lot to avenge, and the consequences will be disastrous.

Already left by the father of her daughter, 4-year-old Manami, Yuko is further devastated when her child drowns in the swimming pool at the school where she teaches. Even though the police rule the death accidental, she is not satisfied, and with good reason: Her baby was killed by some of her own students.

A mega-seller in Japan, Minato’s debut novel (written while she was teaching home economics; it’s more complex than the straightforward, Lifetime movie sort of revenge plot. After all, these killers are only 13 years old.

And that fact makes it very difficult to know who to root for, especially once it become clear that one of the killers may be a sociopath and equally clear that Yuko’s desire for revenge is spiraling out of control and damaging people who had nothing to do with her daughter’s murder.

This is a fascinating and dark novel, a train wreck of humanity deftly recounted in alternating points of view that creates a mosaic-like portrait of blame, fault, and pain.

Confessions is turning up on several Best of 2014 lists. Have you read this tight little gem of J-horror?

Dorothy Morrison Grieb Rudisill-Gone 20 years now

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Nov 242014
 
My grandparents and mother circa 1925
Dot, Patti, Chick and cousin, Johnny circa 1948
Grandmother and me at Atlantic City
Mom, her cousin, Letty and Dot at her 80th birthday

My grandmother, Dorothy Morrison Grieb Rudisill (Dot) died 20 years ago and it is still hard to believe she is not still sitting in the chair she so often occupied. She was born in 1903, weighing only 2 pounds, but survived until age 91.
She was a women's woman if that makes sense, making her life around bridge parties, luncheons, gossip, and going out to dinner. She had a stiff drink or two every night. She never held a paying job, didn't drive.

She dominated my mother's life for 71 years, making things difficult from time to time.
But she was always fun to be with, always lively and on top of events. She married a rabid Democrat in my grandfather and then a rabid Republican with her second husband. What they had in common was the topic of politics was always in the air. Her father had been a Philadelphia politician and that was conversation to her.

She went from rich to poor to rich more than once and still managed to look good every day. She had her nails and hair done weekly.

I was in England the year she died and didn't return for her funeral. We knew before we left that she was dying and discussed this issue. I regret it still. I should have been there for my mother. It would be 15 years before I learned what losing a mother was like.


Nov 242014
 
The Guardians #2: Trial By Fire, by Richard Austin May, 1985  Jove Books It’s taken me forever to get back to the Guardians series; over two years ago I read the first volume of this post-nuke pulp, but kept putting off reading the next volume. Not that the first volume was terrible or anything, it was just sort of monotonous and overwritten, with endless sequences of the titular characters