Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Mystery of Mr. X (1934).

An inspector (Lewis Stone) thinks that a jewel thief (Robert Montgomery) also is a serial killer of policemen, and the thief sets out to catch the murderer himself. Directed by Edgar Selwyn (a cofounder of Goldwyn Pictures), the film is based on Philip MacDonald's X v. Rex (aka The Mystery of the Dead Police).

Monday, March 19, 2018

Clues 36.1: Christie, Conan Doyle, Green, Hammett, Silva, and more.

Clues 36.1 (2018) has been published; order the issue from McFarland. It is not yet available in ebook formats; this post will be updated with links once these are available. Abstracts are listed below.
Introduction Janice M. Allan (University of Salford)
E Pluribus Unum: A Transnational Reading of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express
Stewart King (Monash University)
This article questions both the Englishness and generic stasis ascribed to Agatha Christie and argues that her Murder on the Orient Express (1933) displays an inherent transnationalism that questions the strict taxonomies supposedly separating the English clue-puzzle from the American private-eye novel.

Psychogeography and the Detective: Re-evaluating the Significance of Space in Agatha Christie’s A Murder Is Announced
Sarah Martin (University of Chester)
The author discusses the nature of the village space and its influential role in plot, character, and structure of Agatha Christie’s A Murder Is Announced. The concept of psychogeography unearths the true nature of space and its influence on the construction and preservation of social identity in the book.

Do We Know His Methods? Ratiocination in the Works of Arthur Conan Doyle
Jackie Shead
This article discusses Arthur Conan Doyle’s explanation of Sherlock Holmes’s methods, contrasting them with his presentation of the detective in action. It explores contradictions in the Holmes stories, suggesting Conan Doyle’s investment in a hyperrational sleuth is at odds with his intuitive understanding of detective methodology.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Phantom Lady (1944).

Ella Raines and
Thomas Gomez in
Phantom Lady
Directed by Robert Siodmak (The Spiral Staircase, etc.), this adaptation of Cornell Woolrich's book features Ella Raines turning sleuth to exonerate her boss, who is accused of killing his wife.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Last day to RSVP for Foxwell presentation.

Adelia Chiswell,
member of the
Red Cross
Motor Corps
Tomorrow is the last day to RSVP for the March 16 luncheon of the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of DC where I'll be speaking on "DC Women in World War I." They include Adelia "Tess" Chiswell, a member of the Red Cross Motor Corps who served in France with future U.S. minister to Norway Daisy Harriman. I'll also be signing my book In Their Own Words: American Women in World War I.

The luncheon, which is open to nonmembers, will be held at Capitol Skyline Hotel (Metro stop: Navy Yard) from 12–2 pm and is $35 per person. To RSVP, visit the AOI Web site.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

"Novel Appeal" (1957).

Mary Roberts Rinehart.
Claudette Colbert plays author Mary Roberts Rinehart in "Novel Appeal," a 3Dec 1957 episode of Telephone Time that dramatizes Rinehart's part in exonerating a man convicted of murder. Directed by Arthur Hiller, the episode costars John Carradine.

The real-life case involves the 1896 murders on the Herbert Fuller of Captain Charles Nash; his wife, Laura Nash; and August Blomberg, the second mate. Thomas M. C. Bram, the first mate, was convicted of the crimes in a second trial held in 1899 and originally was sentenced to death; his sentence was changed to life imprisonment after a Supreme Court appeal.

According to Rinehart (see "Mary Roberts Rinehart Shows How Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction" and her autobiography My Story), a Pittsburgh lawyer told her about the case, and she subsequently read about it in a magazine for lawyers. Her choice for the perpetrator was the ship's Scandinavian wheel-man, Justus Leopold Westerberg, who was nicknamed Charley Brown. Westerberg had tried to kill his nurse while he was a patient in a mental hospital. A fictionalized version of Brown, Charlie Jones, appears in Rinehart's novel The After House (1913). The After House began serialization in McClure's in June 1913, attracting further interest to the case, and Bram was paroled in August 1913. 

As Reader's Digest editor Fulton Oursler (aka mystery writer Anthony Abbot) relates in The Mystery Bedside Book (ed. John Creasey, 1960), Theodore Roosevelt read The After House and called on Rinehart. Oursler states that Roosevelt concurred with Rinehart's view of the case and wrote President Woodrow Wilson, asking for a pardon for Bram. Wilson granted the pardon in June 1919. Bram went on to captain the ship Alvena and to own a restaurant in Florida.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Paretsky on Green and more.

The winter 2018 issue of the University of Chicago Magazine features "Criminal Mastermind," an article on alumnus Sara Paretsky, in which she talks about her role in the mystery world as "the aging diva," the work of Anna Katharine Green, and her experiences as a student at the university. Says Paretsky, "Crime fiction is the place in literature where law and justice in society come together."

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Phantom of 42nd Street (1942).

In Phantom of 42nd Street, a drama critic turns sleuth when people connected to a former theatrical company begin dying one by one. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Milton Raison and Jack Harvey.

Monday, February 26, 2018

BYU's annotated bibliography of
academic mysteries.

Florence Converse,
As the Law & Humanities blog points out, Brigham Young University Library has produced "Murder at BYU: A Finding Guide to and Annotated Bibliography of Murder Mysteries in the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU Involving Universities, Colleges, Professors and/or Students." It has expected entries (e.g., Dorothy L. Sayers's Gaudy Night, 1935) and lesser known ones (e.g., Florence Converse's Into the Void, 1926). There are drawbacks, however, in the bibliography's reliance on dated sources and absence of periodical references such as Clues and Journal of Popular Culture. Although the bibliography states, "No infor[mation] on author" regarding Converse, an ad for Into the Void in 11 Sept. 1926 issue of the Living Age reveals that Converse (1871–1967) was born in New Orleans, was an assistant editor at the Atlantic Monthly, and lived in Wellesley (the milieu of Into the Void is rumored to be Wellesley College). A graduate of Wellesley College (BS, 1893; MA, 1903) who wrote a history of her alma mater, she also was a poet and playwright who authored several novels such as the mystery Sphinx (1931).

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Riverside Murder (1935).

In The Riverside Murder, an inspector and an ambitious female journalist investigate when a financier is killed. The film is adapted from André Steeman's Les Six Hommes Morts by Selwyn Jepson (son of mystery author Edgar Jepson and uncle of writer Fay Weldon). The cast include Basil Sydney, Judy Gunn, and Alistair Sim.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Black pulp exhibition in Philadelphia.

Illustration from "Three Detective
Pards, or, Nobby Nick's Big Game
by T. C. Harbaugh (1896)

"Black Pulp!" is a new exhibition on view until April 29 at Philadelphia's African American Museum, which features art from a century of works such as dime novels and Blaxploitation posters. The contributors include Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston as well as contemporary artists.

WHYY on the exhibition

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

"The Marble Face" (1959).

In this episode of Markham, the lawyer turned private detective (Ray Milland) looks into the case of an elderly woman victimized by a medium. The story is by later Twilight Zone writers Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Foxwell Mar16 talk and signing,
"DC Women in World War I."

Adelia Chiswell,
member of the Red Cross
Women's Motor Corps
As part of Women's History Month, I'll be speaking on "DC Women in World War I" at the March 16 luncheon of the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of DC (AOI), the oldest civic organization in Washington, DC. I'll also be signing copies of my book In Their Own Words: American Women in World War I.

The luncheon, which is open to nonmembers, will be held at Capitol Skyline Hotel (Metro stop: Navy Yard) from 12–2 pm and is $35 per person. To RSVP, visit the AOI Web site.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

The Secret Place (1957).

In The Secret Place, the young son of a policeman (Michael Brooke) becomes entangled with jewel thieves. Belinda Lee, Ronald Lewis, and David McCallum costar. This film was Clive Donner's debut as a director.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

John D. MacDonald's "The Deep End" (1964).

A woman taking a swim ends up dead, and a PI (Clu Gulager) questions the conclusion of accidental drowning or suicide. The source for this 1964 episode of Kraft Suspense Theatre, although the credits merely state "based on a book by John P. [sic] MacDonald," is likely The Drowner by John D. MacDonald (Cosmopolitan Jan. 1963; novel 1963). Aldo Ray, Ellen Burstyn, Tina Louise, and Whit Bissell costar. The music for the episode is by John Williams.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Robert Lesser collection of pulp art, NBMAA.

The Robert Lesser Collection of 200 pieces of pulp art, housed at the New Britain Museum of American Art, can now be viewed online. Pieces include artworks for Amazing Stories, Argosy, Detective Short Stories, Detective Tales, Dime Mystery Magazine, Doc Savage, Mystery Tales, The Shadow, Spicy Mystery, Weird Tales, and Wonder Stories.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Remembering Peter Wyngarde:
"Nightmare" (1961).

Janet Blair and Peter Wyngarde in
Burn, Witch, Burn (1962)
British actor Peter Wyngarde died on January 15 at age 90. Survivor of a Japanese internment camp in World War II and well remembered for his chilling portrayal of Quint in The Innocents (a 1961 Truman Capote/John Mortimer adaptation of Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw"), he was a familiar presence on 1960s TV in such programs as The Avengers, Department S, I Spy, The Prisoner, Rupert of Hentzau, and The Saint. He also appeared as an artist obsessed by an unknown woman in the One Step Beyond episode "Nightmare."

Monday, January 22, 2018

Raymond Burr talks about Perry Mason (1959).

Raymond Burr as Perry Mason
with Barbara Hale as Della Street
In this 1959 interview with CBC Radio, Raymond Burr talks about the busy schedule of the Perry Mason TV series and his feelings about his character. "I think [Perry Mason] is a many-faceted individual," says Burr.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Praise for Cozzens's The Just and the Unjust (1942).

James Gould Cozzens
In "Children into Men: Lawyers and the Law in Three Novels" (The Catholic Lawyer, Oct 2017), New Jersey attorney Gregory J. Sullivan admires the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone novel The Just and the Unjust by Pulitzer Prize recipient James Gould Cozzens (1903–78): "Cozzens' affirmation of the judicial process depicted with a keen eye as to its flaws is compelling because the novel is not measuring the criminal trial—and by extension the law in general—against an impossible utopian ideal" (35).

Further reading: my positive take on The Just and the Unjust.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Saint's Girl Friday (1953).

In The Saint's Girl Friday, Louis Hayward steps into the shoes of Leslie Charteris's Simon Templar (aka The Saint) as he takes on a gambling ring that caused the death of a socialite who had requested his help. Diana Dors costars.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Essays wanted for Longmire collection.

Clues editorial board member Rachel Schaffer seeks a few more essays for her edited collection on Walt Longmire (both the TV series and books by Craig Johnson) to be published by McFarland. Visit the MSU Billings English department Web site for Schaffer's email address.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Three Steps in the Dark (1953).

Greta Gynt, left, with the Duchess of Kent, ca. 1944
In Three Steps in the Dark, an elderly man announces to his relatives that he intends to change his will, but he is murdered before he can do so. His mystery-writer niece (Greta Gynt) investigates.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Exhibition on pulp illustrator Gloria Stoll Karn.

July 1945 Detective Tales.
Cover by Gloria Stoll Karn
The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, is featuring the exhibition "Gloria Stoll Karn: Pulp Romance" from February 10 to June 10, 2018. Karn, now 94, was one of the few female illustrators for pulp magazines in the 1940s.

    Tuesday, January 02, 2018

    Remembering Sue Grafton: Sparkling Cyanide (1983).

    Before Sue Grafton, who died December 28 at age 77, turned to writing mysteries, she was a screenwriter. One of her credits was a 1983 TV movie of Agatha Christie's Sparkling Cyanide, starring Anthony Andrews and Deborah Raffin.

    Monday, January 01, 2018

    Upcoming Newberry seminar on Christie.

    Agatha Christie, Sept 1964.
    Dutch National Archives
    The seminar "Agatha Christie and the Golden Age of Detective Fiction" will be held at Chicago's Newberry Library on April 14, 2018. Taught by Northwestern University's Elzbieta Foeller-Pituch, it will "discuss representative works of the 1920s and '30s featuring [Christie's] major sleuths, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple" and ways that Christie handles the conventions of the mystery genre. The works listed for discussion are Murder on the Orient Express, Philomel Cottage, and The Thirteen Problems.

    Tuesday, December 26, 2017

    Woman on the Run (1950).

    A man witnesses a murder and goes on the run, pursued by his wife (Ann Sheridan), the police (Robert Keith), the media (Dennis O'Keefe), and the murderer. The film is based on the short story "Man on the Run" (1948) by Sylvia Tate. One of the screenwriters is Alan Campbell, husband of Dorothy Parker; the other is Norman Foster, who also directed the film.

    Tuesday, December 19, 2017

    Murder with Pictures (1936).

    Lew Ayres and Gail Patrick
    in Murder with Pictures
    In Murder with Pictures, newspaper photographer Lew Ayres looks into the murder of a lawyer and encounters complications when he falls for the suspected perpetrator (Gail Patrick). The film is based on the book of the same name (1935) by MWA Grand Master George Harmon Coxe.

    Monday, December 18, 2017

    In praise of Oppenheim.

    E. Phillips Oppenheim
    Melody of the Redeeming Qualities blog pens an appreciation of the E. Phillips Oppenheim works The Long Arm of Mannister (1909; "he likes to take his victims to dinner and toy with them") as well as Mr. Billingham, the Marquis and Madelon (1927; "[e]veryone drinks lots of champagne cocktails"). She especially likes private inquiry agent and baroness Clara Linz of Advice Limited (1936; "most of her work has the potential to cause scandals and international financial crises"). Although she is no fan of The Deliberate Detective (1914; "this book is Bad"), she declares, "you can pry The Great Impersonation from my cold, dead hands."

    Tuesday, December 12, 2017

    Murder by Contract (1958).

    Proficient hit-man Claude (Vince Edwards) experiences difficulties when he learns about his next assignment: killing a female witness about to testify in a trial.