Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Foxwell on American women in World War I.

Over on Ed Gorman's blog I discuss my new collection In Their Own Words: American Women in World War I, describing its background, mentioning some of the women featured in it, and discussing their varied roles in the war. As I explain, "I set out to collect first-person accounts of U.S. women that dated from the war period, wanting the immediacy and the 'I was there' point of view." Mystery fans will be pleased to find two pieces by Mary Roberts Rinehart included in the collection (publication date is September 25).

There is an additional resource: my new blog, American Women in World War I, where I cover women for whom I could not find a first-person account.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Upturned Glass (1947).

Ad for The Upturned Glass
James Mason is the star and one of the producers in this tale of a British brain surgeon seeking vengeance after he discovers who is responsible for the death of the woman he loves.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The continuing contribution of Eric Ambler.

Ad for the 1943 film of
Eric Ambler's Background to Danger
John Gray pens an appreciation in the BBC Magazine of the spy novels of Eric Ambler (e.g., Journey into Fear, The Mask of Dimitrios):
The protagonists of Ambler's novels aren't the hearty public school patriots who stride through the pages of John Buchan.
. . . Ambler's novels are unsettling in a number of ways. 
(thanks to the Law & Humanities blog)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Meet the author:
W. R. Burnett, Dark Hazard (1934).

W. R. Burnett, left, with
Edward G. Robinson and
dog, 1933.
This promotional trailer for Dark Hazard (a film about a gambler) not only features the film's star, Edward G. Robinson, but also the novel's author, W. R. Burnett (Little Caesar, High Sierra, The Asphalt Jungle), and Burnett's dog.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Early U.S. female lawyers.

Edna Rankin, from the 1919
University of Montana Sentinel
University of Montana law professor Bari Burke has initiated the blog "Montana's Early Women Lawyers" that seeks to highlight the contributions of pioneering lawyers such as Edna Rankin McKinnon, sister of Rep. Jeanette Rankin and a birth control activist who worked with Margaret Sanger. Burke also is posting historical newspaper tidbits from around the country pertaining to female attorneys, such as this knee-slapper from 1911:

"What’s the trouble?" inquired the judge.
"This lady lawyer wants to make a motion," explained the clerk, "but her gown is too tight.”
(thanks to the Law & Humanities blog)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Home at Seven (aka Murder on Monday, 1952).

In this film directed by Ralph Richardson and based on a play by playwright-screenwriter R. C. Sherriff (Journey's End, The White Carnation; screenplays for The Invisible Man; Goodbye, Mr. Chips; No Highway in the Sky; etc.), Richardson is a bank official with a missing day in his life, and signs seem to point to his involvement in theft and murder. Margaret Leighton and Jack Hawkins costar.

Monday, August 10, 2015

New scholarly edition of The Lodger (1911).

On September 1 Cambridge Scholars Publishing will issue a new scholarly edition of The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes—a novel in which a landlady becomes suspicious of the activities of her tenant. It became a noteworthy early film by Alfred Hitchcock. The editor is Elyssa Warkentin (University of Manitoba), who has brought together The Lodger's original 1911 appearance in McClure's magazine and the 1913 novel version. It's an appropriate project for Warkentin, who had an article in Clues about early Jack-the-Ripper fictionalizations.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Wahloo's The Assignment (1977).

In honor of tomorrow's birthday of Swedish crime writer Per Wahloo (1925–75, best known for the Martin Beck series cowritten with Maj Sjowall), here is the trailer for The Assignment, the film based on his novel of the same name. This tale of South American intrigue stars Christopher Plummer, Carolyn Seymour, and Fernando Rey.

Monday, August 03, 2015

BFI infographic: What makes a film noir?

Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum
in Out of the Past (1947)
This whimsical infographic from BFI attempts to define the elements that compose a film noir such as "script based on American pulp fiction" and posts its finding for "the noirest film ever."

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Judith Flanders's The Invention of Murder on BBC Radio 4.

BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week is offering readings of Judith Flanders's The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime. I reviewed the book here for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Of related interest: Readings are starting of Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher (on the Constance Kent case).

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Violent Enemy (1967).

Susan Hampshire in
The Violent Enemy
British thriller author Harry Patterson (aka Jack Higgins) turns 86 today. His novel A Candle for the Dead, written under the pseudonym Hugh Marlowe, was adapted as the film The Violent Enemy (1967). An Irish revolutionary (Tom Bell) breaks out of prison, returns home, and faces pressure from his IRA colleague (Ed Begley) to blow up a factory. Susan Hampshire costars.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The legacy of Joseph Hansen.

The WOW Report pays tribute to Joseph Hansen (1923–2004), creator of groundbreaking gay investigator Dave Brandstetter. His work includes Fadeout (edited by legendary mystery editor Joan Kahn),  The Little Dog Laughed, Shamus nominee Gravedigger, and Lambda winner A Country of Old Men.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sax Rohmer speaks.

Among the goodies just uploaded to YouTube by British Movietone is footage from 1932 of Fu Manchu creator Sax Rohmer (aka Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward) talking about the levels of U.S. versus British crime.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Unseen (1945).

Publicity photo for
The Unseen
Ethel Lina White's Her Heart in Her Throat (1942) was adapted as The Unseen, with July 23rd birthday boy Raymond Chandler as a  screenwriter. In The Unseen, governess Gail Russell suspects that nefarious activities are going on in the neighborhood and wonders about the role of her employer, shipbuilder Joel McCrea, in his wife's death. Herbert Marshall and Norman Lloyd costar. The film, an attempt by director Lewis Allen to follow up The Uninvited (1944, also with Russell), has some echoes of Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw."

Monday, July 20, 2015

Honey West cover art.

Anne Francis as Honey West
In their "Whodunit Wednesday" tumblr features, University of North Carolina Greensboro's Special Collections have been highlighting artists who designed Honey West covers that are part of their Robbie Emily Dunn Collection of American Detective Fiction. The latest is R.A. Maguire, who created three Honey West covers: Kiss for a Killer, Dig a Dead Doll, and Blood and Honey. There are previous posts on artist Harry Schaare and Honey West author G. G. Fickling (pseudonym of Gloria and Forest Fickling).

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"Equal Partners" (1952).

This 12-minute episode of Playhouse 15 (aka Short Short Dramas) features familiar character actor Henry Jones as a realtor pressured by his wife to kill his business partner for the life insurance payout.

Monday, July 13, 2015

New light on codebreaking couple.

Maj. William F. Friedman explains
ciphering machine to Louise Newkirk
16 Aug 1930. Library of Congress
Prints & Photographs Div.
The NSA has declassified 7000 records of William F. Friedman (1891–1969), a U.S. cryptology pioneer inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, and his wife Elizebeth (1892–1980), also a noted codebreaker. This initiative coincides with exhibitions on the Friedmans by the Marshall Foundation and the National Cryptological Museum.

Listen to Friedman's lecture on the Shakespeare ciphers and his 1960 talk about historical efforts in codebreaking  (part 1, part 2, part 3).

Thursday, July 09, 2015

This day in 1951:
Hammett defies U.S. District Court.

Dashiell Hammett
from Yank 30 Nov. 1945
Excerpt, Brooklyn
Daily Eagle
10 Jul 1951, p. 1
Today in 1951, Dashiell Hammett, chair of the Civil Rights Congress' bail committee, refused in New York's US district court to provide the names of those who had posted $80,000 bail for four communists; the latter subsequently failed to appear in court. Convicted of contempt of court, Hammett went to prison in Kentucky and was released in December 1951.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

O.S.S. (1946).

Ad for O.S.S. (1946)
In O.S.S., Alan Ladd and Geraldine Fitzgerald are two spies engaged in sabotage against the enemy in World War II France. The screenwriter-producer is Richard Maibaum, who wrote many of the screenplays for the James Bond films. The film's publicity materials ballyhoo the cooperation of the real Office of Strategic Services (precursor to the CIA) in the making of the film.

Monday, July 06, 2015

"The Criminal Neglect of Detective Fiction."

Marjorie Hope Nicolson.
From Smith College's
yearbook Class of 1930
In the 4 June 2015 Times Higher Education, University of Ulster English professor Richard Bradford wonders why academe treats crime fiction as "worthy of inspection but little respect." Some of the writers mentioned are W. H. Auden, Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, Patricia Highsmith, Edgar Allan Poe, and Edmund Wilson. He states that Smith College English professor Marjorie Hope Nicolson was the first to explore the relationship of academics to detective fiction in "The Professor and the Detective" (Atlantic Monthly, Apr 1929, 483–93), but notes that she was fairly dismissive in her piece.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Remembering Patrick Macnee:
Rehearsal for Murder (1982).

Patrick Macnee, left, with
Jeff Goldblum in
Rehearsal for Murder
Although Patrick Macnee, who died at age 93 on June 25, is beloved for his role as the dapper John Steed in The Avengers, he made some memorable mystery appearances (such as Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of London and Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes in New York,  Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady, and Incident at Victoria Falls, the latter two opposite his old friend, Sir Christopher Lee. I also recall that Lee and Macnee are two of the betters against Pierce Brosnan's Phileas Fogg in a TV movie version of Around the World in Eighty Days).

Another mystery credit is Macnee's role as an actor in Rehearsal for Murder, penned by the dynamic duo of Richard Levinson and William Link (Ellery Queen, Columbo, Mannix, etc.). Costarring Robert Preston, Lynn Redgrave, Lawrence Pressman, Jeff Goldblum, and William Daniels, this TV movie features a playwright who wishes to trap the murderer of his fiancee.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Lilly Library exhibition:
"The Weird Side of Detective Fiction."

Edgar Wallace. 
Painting by Philip
Tennyson Cole, which
appears in Wallace's
My Hollywood Diary (1932)
Indiana University's Lilly Library has a new summer exhibition, "Death by Gimmick! The Weird Side of Detective Fiction," which features the work of Edgar Wallace, Harry Stephen Keeler, and paperback publishers.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Clouded Yellow (1950).

Trevor Howard in
The Clouded Yellow
In The Clouded Yellow, former secret agent Trevor Howard and Jean Simmons go on the run when the latter is accused of murder. Costars include Kenneth More and Andre Morell. The film is based on a story and screenplay by Janet Green (see last week's Cast a Dark Shadow).

Monday, June 22, 2015

See H. Rider Haggard in his study and garden.

H. Rider Haggard, c. 1905.
Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Div.

For today's 159th birthday of author Sir Henry Rider Haggard (King Solomon's Mines, She, etc.), you can watch 1923 footage of him working in his elegant Norfolk study, walking in his garden, and patting his dog.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cast a Dark Shadow (1955).

Dirk Bogarde in
Cast a Dark Shadow
In Cast a Dark Shadow, Dirk Bogarde has a penchant for seeking spouses who appear to be wealthy and then dispatching them. Margaret Lockwood and Kay Walsh co-star. The film was adapted from the play "Murder Mistaken" by Janet Green.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Tom Nolan on Ross Macdonald.

Meanwhile There Are Letters:
The Correspondence of Eudora Welty
and Ross Macdonald 

(ed. Marrs and Nolan, July 2015)
On the Library of America blog Reader's Almanac Tom Nolan posts part 2 of his series on the life and work of Lew Archer creator Ross Macdonald (aka Kenneth Millar). Part 2 discusses the Canadian-influenced Millar's view of California, the state where he elected to live and set his work. Part 1 deals with the relationship of Dashiell Hammett's and Raymond Chandler's work to Macdonald's.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

A Gentleman after Dark (1942).

Richard Washburn Child, 1924.
Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Div.
In A Gentleman after Dark thief Brian Donlevy breaks out of prison to thwart the blackmail plans of his wife, Miriam Hopkins, and protect his daughter. The film is based on "A Whiff of Heliotrope" by Richard Washburn Child, whose occupations included magazine editor, presidential campaign writer for Warren G. Harding, chair of the National Crime Commission, U.S. ambassador to Italy, and ghostwriter for Benito Mussolini.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Drood exhibition, Dickens Museum.

Ad for The Mystery of
Edwin Drood
On view until November 22 at London's Charles Dickens Museum is the exhibition "A Dickens Whodunit: Solving The Mystery of Edwin Drood," which is curated by Clues contributor and Dickens specialist Pete Orford (University of Buckingham). It features clips from  adaptations and discussions of various theories about the perpetrator in Dickens's unfinished work. Visitors can also see the desk on which Dickens wrote Drood.

Orford is also involved in The Drood Inquiry, an interactive investigation into Dickens's mystery.