Thursday, January 29, 2015

RIP, Helen Eustis (1916–2015).

Helen Eustis, Edgar winner for The Horizontal Man (1946) and the last living author on the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone list of essential mysteries, died on January 11 at age 98. She was also known for The Fool Killer (1954, adapted for a 1965 film with Anthony Perkins). Eustis was a member of the Yaddo arts colony, a friend of Carson McCullers and Truman Capote, and a noted translator and short story writer. Her son, Adam Genkaku Fisher, has posted on her passing here. (Thanks to Sarah Weinman for the tip.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Court of Last Resort:
"The George Zaccho Case" (1957).

Erle Stanley Gardner
The Court of Last Resort TV series (1957–58) was inspired by a project of Perry Mason creator Erle Stanley Gardner, in which experts examined cases where the defendant appeared to have been wrongfully convicted. This episode involves a Greek immigrant accused of poisoning his wife. Gardner weighs in toward the end.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Emulating Holmes.

Ad for The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)
The blog of Harvard's Houghton Library features the board game "Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective," part of its Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Exhibition: "Poisonous Nature."

A less than cuddly cobra.
Colored engraving, ca. 1792.
Wellcome Library, London
Mystery writers may find the "Poisonous Nature" online exhibition of the Biodiversity Heritage Library for Europe to be useful in research, with its facts and images on poisonous plants such as deadly nightshade and other lethal agents such as the Indian cobra and the black widow spider. There is a timeline of publications on poisons and materials in several languages.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Model Murder Case
(aka Girl in the Headlines, 1963).

Laurence Payne,
in the British TV series
The Sandbaggers (1978)
A model is shot, and Inspector Birkett (Ian Hendry) and Sergeant Saunders (Ronald Fraser) are on the case. Jeremy Brett and Jane Asher co-star. The film is based on The Nose on My Face (aka The First Body, 1961), the mystery debut of actor-writer Laurence Payne (whose credits include Ben-Hur, Ill Met by Moonlight, and a long-running role as detective Sexton Blake).


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Remembering Rod Taylor: 36 Hours (1964).

Among the film work of the dashing Rod Taylor, who died on January 7 at age 84, is 36 Hours, in which the Nazis try to gaslight American major James Garner into believing that World War II is over so he will reveal top-secret information. The film is based on the Roald Dahl story "Beware of the Dog."

Monday, January 12, 2015

Top ms-related auction prices for 2014.

Americana Exchange has posted the top 500 auctions for 2014, which include the following:

Ad for The Big Sleep, 1946
• Signed ms of Arthur Conan Doyle's  "The Adventure of Black Peter," Christie's, $317,000.

• Original drawing for the Strand by Sidney Paget for Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of Silver Blaze," Christie's, $112,500.

• Screenplay by William Faulkner and Leigh Brackett of The Big Sleep (dir. Howard Hawks), Bonhams, $81,250.

(Thanks to PhiloBiblos)

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

St. Benny the Dip (1951).

Oh, the wackiness that ensues when con artists masquerade as priests in an effort to evade the police. Roland Young, Nina Foch, Dick Haymes, Lionel Stander, and Freddie Bartholomew star.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Detective fiction and religious issues.

Alec Guinness as
G. K. Chesterton's
Father Brown
Former English instructor Chris Willerton is proposing the panel "Remapping Culture with Detective Fiction" for the 2015 Christian Scholars Conference at Abilene Christian University in Texas in June. Asks Willerton, "Does a given detective story have something to say about sin, eschatology, redemption, and other religious issues in the culture it represents?" Those interested in serving on the panel should take a look at proposed paper topics (including clerical sleuths) and submit a proposal to Willerton by January 15.

Below: The preview for Granchester, based on the mysteries by James Runcie (son of Robert Runcie, the former archbishop of Canterbury)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pimpernel Smith (1941).

This wartime update of Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel features Leslie Howard (who also produces and directs) as a mild-mannered professor and champion of those opposed to the Nazis; he was the elusive Pimpernel in the 1934 film.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Bookplate collections.

Bookplate, LAPL
The Library of Congress has created a Flickr album of bookplates from one of its collections, which includes those of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Charlie Chaplin, Jack London, spy and mystery fan Woodrow Wilson, artist Francis Millet (who died on the Titanic), and "the doctor for weak railroads" Newman Erb (which includes an illustration of Edgar Allan Poe, left).

Harvard's Houghton Library has a nifty collection, featuring items such as the Alice in Wonderland bookplate of Harcourt Amory. Another bookplate collection is housed at the Los Angeles Public Library.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Underworld Story (1949).

Small-town and city newspapers square off when a maid is accused of murder. Dan Duryea, Herbert Marshall, Gale Storm, and Howard Da Silva star. The film is based on a story by Craig Rice (Home Sweet Homicide, Having Wonderful Crime, etc.).

Monday, December 22, 2014

The many sides of Susan Fenimore Cooper.

The online Smithsonian exhibition "Early Women in Science" includes Susan Fenimore Cooper, the daughter of James Fenimore Cooper recognized as an early naturalist via her work Rural Hours (1850). The younger Cooper's novel Elinor Wyllys; or, The Young Folk of Longbridge (1846) features a mystery, although she warned in "The Talent of Reading Wisely" (Feb. 1892) of the dangers to youth of crime novels. She also did not support women's suffrage (see "Female Suffrage: A Letter to the Christian Women of America," 1870).

The exhibition also features noted garden designer Gertrude Jekyll, whose surname is so prominently featured in Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (her brother, Rev. Walter Jekyll, was a friend of Stevenson).

Related posts: Constance Fenimore Woolson
(great-niece of James Fenimore Cooper)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bad Blonde (aka The Flanagan Boy, 1953).

The Bad Blonde of the title, Barbara Payton, wants to be rid of her husband and uses her wiles to get a prizefighter to do the deed. The film was adapted from the novel The Flanagan Boy by British writer Max Catto.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The darker side of the mind.

Ad for Svengali (1954)
The Wellcome Trust's online presentation Mindcraft: A Century of Madness, Murder, and Mental Healing includes the evil power of mesmerism such as that exhibited by Svengali in George du Maurier's Trilby (1894) and the 1889 trial of Gabrielle Bompard, who asserted that her male associate had hypnotized her and that she had no memory of committing murder.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Grand Central Murder (1942).

There is no shortage of suspects when a showgirl with a fondness for money is murdered. On hand are Van Heflin (as PI Rocky Custer), Tom Conway (a producer), and Virginia Grey (Custer's wife and fellow investigator). The film is based on the novel by Sue MacVeigh (pseudonym of journalist Elizabeth Custer Nearing, a descendant of George Armstrong Custer who wrote four mysteries).

Monday, December 08, 2014

The mayor, the gangster, the waterfront boss.

William O'Dwyer, ca. Oct. 1949
Truman Library
The New York Public Radio Archives looks at the checkered career of New York mayor William O'Dwyer, who as district attorney convicted several men involved in "Murder Incorporated" but had some shady associations. The tale involves mafioso Frank Costello.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Private Detective 62 (w/William Powell, 1933).

In Private Detective 62 (dir. Michael Curtiz), private investigator William Powell tries to protect a socialite from a blackmail plot.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Presidential mistress and spy?

Carrie Fulton Phillips, LOC
The Prologue blog of the National Archives discusses whether Carrie Fulton Phillips, recipient of racy love letters from Senator (later president) Warren G. Harding, was a German spy, including intelligence and Department of Justice reports.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Exhibition: "Mystery Writers Past and Present."

Frances Fyfield
There is a photographic exhibition from UK's National Portrait Gallery, "Mystery Writers Past and Present," on view at Darlington's Head of Steam Museum until December 14. The photos feature contemporary writers such as P. D. James taken by Nicola Kurtz as well as Victorian photos of authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens. The list of Kurtz's photographic subjects in the gallery's collection includes Clare Curzon, Stella Duffy, Frances Fyfield, the late H. R. F. Keating, Val McDermid, Andrew Taylor, and Minette Walters.

A similar 2002 exhibition included photos of Colin Dexter and Ian Rankin.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"The Long Count" (1955).

In this March 1955 episode of Stage 7, a private eye believes more lies behind a boxer's hit-and-run accident than meets the eye.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

TLS recalls Jesse's A Pin to See the Peepshow.

F. Tennyson Jesse
The Times Literary Supplement has posted Orlo Williams's 1934 TLS review of F. Tennyson Jesse's A Pin to See the Peepshow (based on the Thompson-Bywaters case of 1922). He lauds "the solidness of Miss Tennyson Jesse’s construction, her intense sympathy with her characters, and the vividness with which she paints the scene of London life during the present century." Jesse—the great-niece of Alfred, Lord Tennyson—is also known for her plays, her volumes in the Notable British Trials series, and her psychic detective Solange Fontaine.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Should women serve on juries?" (1918).

After women in New York obtained the vote in 1917, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle published a January 1918 article discussing the question of whether women should serve on juries as part of their civic duty. Some interesting quotes from the piece:
"in many things women could render a verdict more logical and more consistent than that of men."—Harry E. Lewis, district attorney, Kings County (NY); later presiding justice, New York State Supreme Court

"there are many cases where the intuition and experience of a woman would lead to the rendering of a better verdict than is sometimes rendered under the present system"—Russell Benedict, justice, New York State Supreme Court
Helen P. McCormick
(later married Patrick Toole,
but kept her maiden name)
"with votes for women goes jury duty for women"—Alice Hill Chittenden, former president, New York State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage

"There has been the point raised, I know, as to whether women can stand the nervous tension. Personally I think it rather absurd..."—Helen P. McCormick, asst district attorney, Brooklyn; first female asst district attorney in any U.S. city

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Armchair Theatre:
"The Criminals" (with Stanley Baker, 1958).

In this Dec 1958 episode of the British anthology series Armchair Theatre, the charismatic Stanley Baker (Hell Is a City, The Guns of Navarone, etc.) is one of several men forced to rob a bank.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Academe: Still more notable espionage novels.

Wright State University's Martin Kich has finished his series on "National (In)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels" on the Academe blog. Some of the latest entries:
Upton Sinclair, ca. 1906. NYPL
• Holly Roth, The Content Assignment (aka The Shocking Secret, 1954). When a female CIA agent disappears, a British journalist sets out to find her. Sadly, Roth died at age 48 after falling off a boat.
• Upton Sinclair, World's End (1940). The first in a series with spy Lanny Budd by the author of The Jungle.
• Ross Thomas,  The Cold-War Swap (1966). Thomas's Edgar-winning debut.

• Trevanian, The Eiger Sanction (1972; film 1975). The first in a series with assassin Jonathan Hemlock.
• Leon Uris, Topaz (1967, Hitchcock film 1969). A Soviet spymaster defects.
All of the posts can be found here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

New releases: Poe, Woolrich film scores.

Clues 26.4 (2008), w/Barbara Stanwyck
and John Lund from No Man of Her Own
Scott Bettancourt of Film Score Monthly highlights the following new releases:
  • Hugo Friedhofer's score for No Man of Her Own (film with Barbara Stanwyck based on I Married a Dead Man by William Irish, aka Cornell Woolrich)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Green Glove (aka The White Road, 1952).

For Veterans Day: The Green Glove (with story and screenplay by frequent Hitchcock collaborator Charles Bennett) stars Glenn Ford as a former paratrooper seeking a valuable medieval artifact in France (along with more avaricious adversaries). The film also features Geraldine Brooks and Cedric Hardwicke.

The Canadian-born Ford served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve during World War II and joined the Naval Reserve in 1958, eventually attaining the rank of captain.