Friday, December 09, 2016

Happy centenary, Kirk Douglas.

Kirk Douglas and Jan Sterling in
Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole (1951)
Actor-producer Kirk Douglas turns 100 today, and starting today, the Jewish Film Institute will celebrate by showing Paths of Glory, Lust for Life, Spartacus, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Ace in the Hole, The Bad and the Beautiful, Lonely Are the Brave, and The Vikings.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Strange Impersonation
(dir. Anthony Mann, 1946).

Mindret Lord (born Loeb)
in 1923
A scientist (Brenda Marshall) resorts to extreme measures after her car hits a pedestrian and she is blackmailed, while her assistant (Hillary Brooke) plots to steal her boyfriend (William Gargan). One of the film's screenwriters is Mindret Lord, who also wrote as Garland Lord with his then-wife, Isabel Garland (daughter of author Hamlin Garland); their novels include Murder's Little Helper (1941), She Never Grew Old (1942), and Murder with Love (1943). Lord committed suicide in 1955.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

For GivingTuesday:
Consider mystery collections.

Phoebe Atwood
Taylor. From
Barnard College's
Mortarboard, 1930
Today's Giving Tuesday focuses attention on charitable contributions, as people consider the organizations or causes to support or to make a contribution in someone's name during the holiday season.

Libraries and archives need support to acquire, preserve, catalog, and digitize their collections as well as to present exhibitions or other programs involving their holdings. Consider contributing to your alma mater's library or one of the following collections with significant mystery elements:

Ray and Pat Browne Popular Culture Library, Bowling Green State University

Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico (home of the papers of Tony Hillerman)

Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University (home of manuscripts of many authors such as Harry Kemelman, Jane Langton, Elizabeth Linington, Phoebe Atwood Taylor, Hillary Waugh, and Donald Westlake)

Lilly Library, Indiana University Bloomington (home of the papers of author-critic Anthony Boucher and Mystery Writers of America)

Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin (home of Erle Stanley Gardner's "plot wheel")

Rose Library, Emory University (home of one of the largest collections of Victorian yellowbacks)

Special Collections, University of California Irvine (home of the papers of Kenneth Millar, aka Ross Macdonald, and Margaret Millar)

Special Collections, University of South Carolina (home of the papers of James Ellroy, George V. Higgins, and John Jakes. An ongoing and major project of the USC libraries is the preservation and digitization of 2000 Fox Movietone newsreels.)

Wisconsin Center for Film and Television Research (home of the papers of Vera Caspary, Kirk Douglas, and Dalton Trumbo. The center has recently established a portal at the Internet Archive that includes a home movie of theater legends Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.)

The Library of Congress offers several options for supporting its work (don't forget that it houses the papers of luminaries such as James M. Cain), including the National Book Festival.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Leopold and Loeb exhibition.

Northwestern University's online exhibition "The Murder That Wouldn't Die: Leopold & Loeb in Artifact, Fact, and Fiction" examines the 1924 murder of young Bobby Franks through items such as ransom notes, confessions and psychological evaluations of Leopold and Loeb, court transcripts, trial photos, and fictional versions of the case such as Meyer Levin's Compulsion and Alfred Hitchcock's Rope.


Nathan Leopold (top) and
Richard Loeb in 1924.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Rex Stout/Bertrand Russell on civil liberties.

Top: Bertrand Russell, ca. 1936. NYPL.
Bottom: Mitch Miller, Edward Whitehead, and
Rex Stout compare beards in Feb. 1957.
Ogdensburg [NY] Journal
Mystery author Rex Stout hosted the NBC radio program Speaking of Liberty during World War II. In a July 1941 episode on civil liberties (program no. 14) with philosopher-mathematician Bertrand Russell, Russell states, "Intolerance is dangerously inconsistent with the goal of liberty." Stout replies, "Nothing is more fundamentally antidemocratic or actually more uncivilized."

Monday, November 21, 2016

The crossroads of German detective fiction.

The Virginia Gazette talked to Bruce Campbell, associate professor of German studies at the College of William & Mary, about his collection (edited with Alison Guenther-Pal and Vibeke Ruetzou Petersen) Detectives, Dystopia and Poplit: Studies in Modern German Genre Fiction. Covered in the book are intersections among crime fiction, science fiction, politics, the Nazis, and the Holocaust.

In addition, watch Campbell's Oct. 2016 W&M Tack Faculty Lecture on "The Detective Is (Not) a Nazi: German Pulp Fiction." In his lecture, Campbell discusses detective fiction, culture, and memory in Germany, and recommends some authors in English translation (such as Friedrich Duerenmatt, Friedrich Glauser, and Doris Gercke). He also points out that a German detective novel (Adolf Muellner's Der Kaliber) was published in 1828, well before Edgar Allan Poe's 1841 "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," and that the longest-running TV series in the world is the German Scene of the Crime (aka Tatort).

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Simenon's "The Old Lady of Bayeux" (1952).

Georges Simenon, May 1965.
Fotocollectie Anefo,
Dutch National Archives
In this Sept. 1952 episode of Suspense directed and produced by Robert Stevens with lots of dramatic organ music, a wealthy widow dies, and a visiting Inspector Maigret (Luis Van Rooten) doubts that a heart attack was the cause of death. The episode is based on Georges Simenon's Aug. 1952 EQMM story of the same name (trans. of "La Vieille Dame de Bayeux," 1939).

Monday, November 14, 2016

A British mystery author's work with Holocaust survivors.

Charity Blackstock.
Photo by Mark Gerson
The Neglected Books blog highlights The Children (1966) by mystery writer Charity Blackstock (pseudonym of Ursula Torday, 1912–97; 1959 Edgar nominee for The Woman in the Woods). The Children are those traumatized by the Holocaust who came for a holiday in England, sponsored by a group headed by Torday (a Gentile). The New York Times called it a "moving and remarkable memoir."

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Tourneur's "Into the Night" (1955).

Eddie Albert and Ruth Roman
in "Into the Night"
In this episode of GE Theater directed by Jacques Tourneur (Out of the Past, etc.) from a story by Charles Hoffman (The Blue Gardenia, Peter Gunn, Hawaiian Eye), a husband and wife (Eddie Albert and Ruth Roman) engage in a battle of wits with two carjackers (Dane Clark and Robert Armstrong) fleeing robbery and murder charges; Jerry Mathers appears briefly as their son. Chris Fujiwara's book on Tourneur notes the episode's parallels with Ida Lupino's The Hitch-Hiker (1953).

Monday, November 07, 2016

A silent film actor's mystery novel.

Silent film actor and author
James W. Morrison
in 1916
. . . suddenly the quiet was broken by the sharp report of a pistol, followed by the piercing sound of a police whistle.
—Woods Morrison, Road End 185
As the Daily Illini wrote on 18 June 1927, Charlie Chan creator Earl Derr Biggers stated, as the bookshelves were overflowing with mystery stories, "how pleasant it would be if all but three or four mystery novelists could be taken out and painlessly drowned. Only I can never decide as to the survivors . . . ."

However, the debut mystery of Woods Morrison, Road End (1927), had caused a rethink by Biggers. ". . . Whether I want to or not, I've got to welcome Woods Morrison. . . . [O]nce he gets going, he deals out thrills with the speed and nonchalance of a river gambler dealing cards" (4).

The first novel of Morrison (1888–1974)—a University of Chicago graduate who acted under the name James W. Morrison (including roles in the silent films Black Beauty, The Little Minister, and Captain Blood) and later taught drama at the Packer Collegiate Institute in New York—focuses on murder, the theft of a pearl necklace, strange wailing, and other mysterious occurrences at an elegant Long Island house, with a down-on-his-luck young man taking on the roles of chauffeur and sleuth. (The ending, however, is rather weak.) The book was serialized in the Philadelphia Inquirer in Feb.–May 1934 (note that some of the pages are faint, and the following are all the parts I could find):

Chapters 1–2 
Chapter 3
Chapters 5–6
Chapters 6–7
Chapters 7–8
Chapters 10–11 
Chapters 12–13
Chapters 14–15
Chapters 16–17

Silent film scholar Anthony Slide paints a sad picture of Morrison later in life crippled by arthritis, living in a small Greenwich Village apartment, and considering his silent film career to be insubstantial (despite Slide's views to the contrary).

The following are other works by Morrison:

April Luck (1932). "The moving story of a sensitive girl whom fate made into a glamorous adventuress"

• "Under Pressure" (Liberty magazine, 17 Dec. 1932)

•  "Alias Miss Williams" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 8 Oct. 1933)

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Richard Atwater on detective novels, 1930.

Illustration of Richard Atwater, frm
21 Oct 1922 Bisbee Daily Review
Richard Atwater (1892–1948) was coauthor of the Newbery Award-nominated Mr. Popper's Penguins, a classics professor at the University of Chicago, and a frequent contributor to Chicago newspapers. In a 7 Jun 1930 article in The Chicagoan, Atwater asserted that "there are only six detective novels in existence: the rest being a rewriting of the same plots" (15). The following were his picks for the two best detective novels partly because "neither . . . has a butler in it":
• G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday (1908). Chesterton's classic tale of unlikely agent Gabriel Syme infiltrating an anarchist group
• James Branch Cabell, The Cream of the Jest (1917). It is unusual to characterize this book as a detective work, as it is a satire—a fictional work with fantasy elements within a fictional work.
Tongue planted firmly in cheek, Atwater then floated his idea for a detective novel, in which a valet named Rudy offends because of his crooning (one suspects that Atwater was no fan of Rudy Vallee), and decorators "mistaking Rudy for the new wall paper, . . .  paste him to the wall of the master's study. As the master never studies, nobody discovers the error, and the crime is never known" (15).

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The Moonstone (1934).

David Manners, who plays
Franklin Blake in
The Moonstone (1934)
There's a new BBC One version of Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone, which is the seventh adaptation for the screen of the tale about a stolen gem and its effect on a family. The third screen adaptation was in 1934, with Sergeant Cuff promoted to a Scotland Yard inspector.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"The Town that Slept w/the Lights On" (1958).

Edmond O'Brien,
ca. 1954
Edmond O'Brien directs this episode of Schlitz Playhouse as well as plays a hard-hitting New York reporter investigating two murders in a small town and doubting the Hispanic suspect fingered by vigilantes. The episode (which has a hardboiled-style voiceover and discussion of domestic violence) is written by Liam O'Brien, Edmond's screenwriter-producer brother (Police Story, Hawaii Five-0, Miami Vice).

Monday, October 24, 2016

A mystery parody by Harry Stephen Keeler?

Harry Stephen Keeler, from
his 1916 passport application
In the latest issue of Keeler News, the newsletter of the Harry Stephen Keeler Society, Morgan Wallace posits plausibly that mystery/sci-fi writer Keeler wrote a 1920 PI parody, "The Keenwit Case," for the Chicago Ledger under the pseudonym Lon Riggs to make a point about the types of material that could come over the transom at a periodical. "The Keenwit Case" is reproduced in the newsletter and features such immortal statements as "[t]hen he lighted a cigar, and smoked viciously. This indicated that his brain was very active, and that without a doubt the clever criminal would be in irons before the close of another day."

Of related interest:
Link to cartoonist Al Hirschfeld's caricatures of Keeler
• "The Life and Death of Harry Stephen Keeler" by Vincent Starrett

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Frances Chesterton, wife of G. K.

Stephanie A. Mann provides some insights on poet-playwright Frances Chesterton, wife of G. K. and niece of art historian Mary Margaret Heaton, and mentions the 2015 biography by Nancy Carpentier Brown, The Woman Who Was Chesterton. Brown blogs on Frances Chesterton here. Both writers paint a touching picture of a devoted couple. According to the 13 Dec. 1938 New York Times, G. K. regarded Frances as "in all ways a kindred spirit," and longtime G. K. friend E. C. Bentley (Trent's Last Case) called her G. K.'s "right-hand in all his dealings with the world" (qtd in Brown).

Of related interest: Frances Chesterton being mistaken for The Lodger author Marie Belloc Lowndes and her response: "I am quite willing to feel honored by [the] mistake, but they [Hilaire Belloc and Marie Belloc Lowndes] might feel aggrieved." Belloc (brother of Marie Belloc Lowndes) and G. K. Chesterton were close friends.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"The Frightened Witness" (1957).

Dan Duryea, ca. 1946
In this Dupont Cavalcade Theatre episode, Dan Duryea stars as a butcher who witnesses the murder of an anti-corruption advocate and is threatened by the perpetrators. Harold J. Stone and Barbara Billingsley co-star.

The episode is based on "The Frightened Witness" (Saturday Evening Post, Aug 1952) by Mildred Cram (best known for Love Affair, aka An Affair to Remember). Read her wry article "Author in Hollywood": "I recognized only one contribution of mine, a two-minute scene. To this end I had labored eight weeks."

Monday, October 17, 2016

Paretsky companion published.

Just published is Sara Paretsky: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction (vol. 7 of the McFarland Companions to Mystery Fiction series) by MWA Raven recipient Margaret Kinsman. I edit the series. Goodies abound in this in-depth analysis of Paretsky's groundbreaking detective V. I. Warshawski and other subjects in the author's fiction and nonfiction works, including Margaret's discussion of Paretsky's first published piece (which she wrote at age 11).

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Theodore Sturgeon's "No Answer" (1958).

A con man (Donald Cook) who targets wealthy widows seems to have an unshakeable alibi when one of his victims is murdered. Keenan Wynn stars as the police officer frustrated by his previous unsuccessful attempts to nab the man. This Dec. 1958 episode of Schlitz Playhouse is based on the story "Dead Dames Don't Dial" (1956; repr. in And Now the News...) by Theodore Sturgeon (1918–85, best known for science fiction) and is directed by Arthur Hiller (Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Naked City, Perry Mason, The Americanization of Emily, etc.).

Monday, October 10, 2016

At Yale: An illustration of Edgar Allan Poe.

The Room 26 Cabinet of Curiosities blog of Yale's Beinecke Library highlights its new acquisition: postcards that reproduce paintings by artist Peter Oresick. One of them is a portrait of Edgar Allan Poe.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Lady in the Death House (1944).

In Lady in the Death House, a woman (Jean Parker) is on death row for the murder of a blackmailer, although she claims she was framed for the crime. A criminologist (Lionel Atwill) looks into the case, seeking to save her from the electric chair. The film is based on "Meet the Executioner" by Frederick C. Davis.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone (1950).

Based on "Once upon a Train, or the Loco Motive" (1950) by Stuart Palmer and Craig Rice, the comic Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone features Marjorie Main as a radio contest winner and James Whitmore as a lawyer who stumble over constant corpses on their train to New York. Note the sleuths are handcuffed together a la Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll in The 39 Steps.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Mapping Sherlock Holmes.

Violet Smith pursued in "The
Solitary Cyclist." Detail from
the Sherlock Holmes
Mystery Map (1987).
One of the treasures accessible online via Recollection Wisconsin is the "Sherlock Holmes Mystery Map" (1987) created by Jim Wolnick and Susan Lewis and published by Aaron Blake Publishers. Complete with a "Dancing Men" border, it provides a visual guide to 130 locales in the Holmes canon.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A 2001 flashback with Ed McBain.

WYSO's The Book Nook recently rebroadcast Vick Mickunas's 2001 interview with Ed McBain (aka Evan Hunter, 1926–2005) that coincided with the release of McBain's 87th Precinct novel Money, Money, Money. Mickunas describes it as one of his favorite interviews. In addition to Money, Money, Money, McBain discusses The Blackboard Jungle (the first Hunter novel), Cop Hater (the first McBain novel), The Chisholms (a Western), and Candyland (the innovative novel with the double byline of McBain and Hunter). He also talks about growing up in New York City, visiting the Apollo Theater, and working for the Scott Meredith Literary Agency (including editing P.G. Wodehouse).

Monday, September 19, 2016

Murder in song.

University of Kentucky law professor Richard H. Underwood looks at the real-life cases behind ballads featuring murder in Crime Song: True Crime Stories in Southern Murder Ballads. Individuals covered include Frankie Silver, Frankie Bailey (of Frankie and Johnny fame), Delia Green (of Delia's Gone), and Mary Phagan and Leo Frank (of The Ballad of Mary Phagan).  (Thanks to Law & Humanities blog)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

John le Carre reads from The Pigeon Tunnel.

Via BBC Radio, you can listen to John le Carre reading from his new memoir The Pigeon Tunnel (including an explanation for the title and the intersections of his life between real-life espionage and fiction):

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Happy 80th birthday, Peter Lovesey.

Peter Lovesey—story consultant for the TV mystery series Rosemary & Thyme as well as creator of Victorian detective Sergeant Cribb; present-day detective Peter Diamond; and hapless, would-be detective Bertie, Prince of Wales—turns 80 today. His latest novel is Another One Goes Tonight. He appears in this CBS Sunday Morning tribute to P. D. James.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Heartbeat (1946).

Adolphe Menjou and Ginger Rogers in Heartbeat (1946)
In Heartbeat (dir. Sam Wood), Ginger Rogers flees reform school for tutoring at Basil Rathbone's school for pickpockets. She is caught in mid-theft by Adolphe Menjou, who compels her to steal a watch from diplomat Jean-Pierre Aumont, as Menjou is suspicious of Aumont's relationship with his wife. Further complications ensue as Ginger is threatened with a return to the reformatory.

Monday, September 05, 2016

More on Conan Doyle and spiritualism.

Arthur Conan Doyle. Library of
Congress, Prints & Photos Div.
New in the journal ELT (English Literature in Transition, 1880–1920) is Angela Fowler's discussion of the post-World War I career of Arthur Conan Doyle, examining his works dealing with spiritualism (The New Revelation, the Professor Challenger novel The Land of Mist, and the horror novella The Parasite) as well as considering his belief in spiritualism in a global context.