Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The return of J. B. Priestley's doctor-sleuth.

Valancourt Books follows up its reprinting of playwright-novelist-BBC broadcaster J. B. Priestley's Benighted with his sole novel featuring an amateur sleuth, Salt Is Leaving (1966). A retiring doctor suspects foul play when a patient who requires regular treatment suddenly goes incommunicado. (A review appears here from the Victoria [TX] Advocate.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cottage to Let (aka Bombsight Stolen, 1941).

In Cottage to Let (dir. Anthony Asquith—son of the prime minister), a new bombsight proves irresistible to Nazis, the RAF, and Scotland Yard. The film features Alastair Sim, John Mills, and Michael Wilding and is adapted from a play by Geoffrey Kerr (father of actor-lawyer John Kerr, who is probably best known for his role in South Pacific). Also see Yvette Banek's earlier take on the film.

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Le Sherlock Holmes Américain."

L'Affaire Bardouillet, one of the
adventures of Harry Dickson by Jean Ray
repr. Belgian publisher Le Cri
Harvard's Houghton Library blog features its copies of Harry Dickson—"le Sherlock Holmes Américain"—a pulp series penned by Belgian author Jean Ray (aka Raymundus Joannes de Kremer, John Flanders, and "the Belgian Poe") that had its beginnings in dime novels published from 1907 to 1911.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The return of Celia Fremlin.

Faber Finds has reissued a number of mysteries by Celia Fremlin (1914–2009), including her Edgar-winning The Hours before Dawn (dramatized on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour as "The Lonely Hours").

Appointment with Yesterday 
By Horror Haunted (short story collection)
Dangerous Thoughts (Kirkus review here)
Don't Go to Sleep in the Dark (short story collection)
The Echoing Stones
The Jealous One
King of the World (her last novel)
Listening in the Dusk
The Long Shadow (Pittsburgh Press review here)
A Lovely Way to Die (short story collection; Kirkus review here)
The Parasite Person
Prisoner's Base (Kirkus review here)
Seven Lean Years
The Spider Orchid
The Trouble-Makers
Uncle Paul
With No Crying  

Faber Finds also has republished Fremlin's first book, the nonfiction work War Factory, which is a result of the British World War II effort called Mass Observation.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

I Love a Mystery (1945, 1973).

Based on Carleton E. Morse's radio series, I Love a Mystery follows the adventures of three insurance investigators. In the 1973 TV-movie version, mystery writer Melodie Johnson Howe appears as Charity, one of the daughters of star Ida Lupino.

(At left: The Devil's Mask, the 1946 version of I Love a Mystery)

Monday, April 07, 2014

Clues 32.1:
Tana French and Irish crime fiction.

Clues 32.1 (2014) has been published, which is a theme issue on Tana French and Irish crime fiction. A summary of the contents appears below (with links on the article titles).

A Debt Acknowledged: Clues Founding Editor Alice Maxine “Pat” Browne. NANCY ELLEN TALBURT (University of Arkansas). The author pays tribute to Clues founding editor Alice Maxine “Pat” Browne, who died in December 2013.

Introduction. Rachel Schaffer (Montana State University Billings).

Blurring the Genre Borderlines: Tana French’s Haunted Detectives. JOHN TEEL (Marshall University). In each of her mysteries, Tana French presents a different detective-narrator, and all of them are “haunted” by traumatic events from their childhoods or teen years. Through this use of “haunting,” French blurs genre “borderlines” by mixing the elements of the police procedural with, essentially, an aura of the gothic.

Unhappily Ever After: Fairy-Tale Motifs in Tana French’s In the Woods. SARAH D. FOGLE (Embry-Riddle University). In her first novel, In the Woods, Tana French makes sustained use of various fairy-tale motifs and conventions to illuminate her characters and their relationships as the murder investigation unfolds.

Tana French: Archaeologist of Crime. RACHEL SCHAFFER. The parallels between archaeology and detection provide a framework for the way the protagonists in Tana French’s novels work. Both disciplines follow the same general stages of surveying the scene, excavating information, and analyzing and interpreting results to shed light on the effects of past events on the lives of contemporary people.

Vision and Blind Spots: Characterization in Tana French’s Broken Harbor. CHRISTINE JACKSON (Nova Southeastern University). Obsessive watching is at the center of Tana French’s Broken Harbor. A stalker’s voyeurism shapes the case while police surveillance both conceals and unmasks detective protagonist Michael “Scorcher” Kennedy. French projects an actor’s stage background onto the novelist’s page to manipulate narrative distance and reconfigure detective novel conventions.

Liminality in the Novels of Tana French. MIMOSA SUMMERS STEPHENSON (University of Texas at Brownsville). In Tana French’s mysteries, the murder victims die at crucial turning points in their lives, and the detectives find themselves on the edge, neither in nor out, of the cases they investigate. The protagonists become involved personally and pass through liminal zones that leave them altered when the novels end.

Twenty-First-Century Irish Mothers in Tana French’s Crime Fiction. ROSEMARY ERICKSON JOHNSEN (Governors State University). Tana French’s three novels narrated by male detectives—In the Woods, Faithful Place, and Broken Harbour—reveal an intersection between crime fiction and the Irish literary tradition. Tropes of feminine imagery—particularly of the maternal—are implicated in the personal and professional failures of the narrators, and are part of French’s exploration of contemporary Ireland.

Murder in the Ghost Estate: Crimes of the Celtic Tiger in Tana French's Broken Harbor. SHIRLEY PETERSON (Daemen College). In Tana French’s fourth novel, Broken Harbor, the crimes of Celtic Tiger excess are interrogated in a deracinated ghost estate, where the desire for prosperity results in dire consequences for a young family, belying the notion that Ireland’s troubled past was well removed from its upwardly mobile present.

Authority and Irish Cultural Memory in Faithful Place and Broken Harbor. MAUREEN T. REDDY (Rhode Island College). French’s two most recent novels, Faithful Place and Broken Harbor, examine both the consequences of widespread loss of belief in any sort of authority in Ireland and some of the radical shifts in Irish cultural memory during the Celtic Tiger period and its aftermath.

"Built on Nothing but Bullshit and Good PR": Crime, Class Mobility, and the Irish Economy in the Novels of Tana French. MOIRA E. CASEY (Miami University of Ohio). Tana French’s novels demand serious literary attention for their social realist depiction of the cultural and economic impact of the Celtic Tiger economy and its recent crash. All four novels criticize Celtic Tiger culture, present the pre–Celtic Tiger past ambivalently, and represent the challenges of economic class mobility in contemporary Ireland.

William Stephens Hayward. Revelations of a Lady Detective. Ellen F. Higgins

Arthur Conan Doyle, auth.; Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower, and Rachel Foss, eds. The Narrative of John Smith. Christopher Pittard

Spiro Dimolianis. Jack the Ripper and Black Magic: Victorian Conspiracy Theories, Secret Societies and the Supernatural Mystique of the Whitechapel Murders. Rita Rippetoe

Emelyne Godfrey. Femininity, Crime, and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature and Society: From Dagger-Fans to Suffragettes. Gianna Martella

William Luhr. Film Noir. Mary P. Freier

Thursday, April 03, 2014

The friendship of a notorious spy.

On the History Extra podcast Ben Macintyre (Agent Zigzag, Operation Mincemeat) talks about his upcoming book that delves into the friendship between the Cambridge Spy Ring's Kim Philby and MI-6 agent Nicholas Elliott. The book was inspired by a suggestion from John le Carre.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Wallace's Psycho-Circus (1966).

Celebrate today's birthday of Edgar Wallace (1875–1932, an important author in the development of the thriller) with Psycho-Circus, a film on the exploits of "a syndicate of evil" starring Christopher Lee, Leo Genn, and Klaus Kinski that is based on Wallace's The Three Just Men.

Monday, March 31, 2014

WQXR Movies on the Radio: 1940s films.

Miklos Rozsa conducts his suite
 from Ben Hur, 1979 (PBS)
The March 29 episode of WQXR's Movies on the Radio features scores from the 1940s, which includes music from Double Indemnity (composed by Miklos Rozsa), The Maltese Falcon (composed by Adolph Deutsch), and Spellbound (composed by Bernard Herrmann).

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Behind a new Hammett collection.

On Cultural Compass of UT-Austin's Harry Ransom Center, Julie M. Rivett (granddaughter of Dashiell Hammett) describes her work in the center archives with Richard Layman to prepare the raw material for The Hunter and Other Storiesa new collection of Hammett short stories that includes previously unpublished works.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Heinlein on decency.

In an August 1952 episode of the Edward R. Murrow program This I Believe, sci-fi author Robert Heinlein spoke about his faith in the goodness of his neighbors and others. Said Heinlein, "Our headlines are splashed with crime. Yet for every criminal, there are ten thousand honest, decent, kindly men. . . . Decency is not news. It is buried in the obituaries, but it is a force stronger than crime."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Number, please: Return of an Australian debut.

Murder in the Telephone Exchange (1948) by Australian mystery writer June Wright (1919–2012) features a sleuthing telephone operator pursuing the murderer of a nosy colleague (Kirkus review here). It is slated to be reissued by Portland publisher Verse Chorus in April (in Australia) and June (other countries). This will be followed later in the year by a previously unpublished Wright mystery, Duck Season Death. Verse Chorus plans other Wright reissues.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Twenty-year anniversary of The Alienist.

Bellevue Hospital, 1878. NYPL
The Bowery Boys podcast remembers that Caleb Carr's The Alienist was released 20 years ago and provides additional details on and a map of significant New York locations in the book (such as Bellevue Hospital and Theodore Roosevelt's house).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Happy Thieves (1961).

Today would have been the 99th birthday of Richard Condon, who was born in 1915 and died in 1996. He is probably best known for the chilling The Manchurian Candidate (1959) and Prizzi's Honor (1982). His debut novel was The Oldest Confession (1958), which became the film The Happy Thieves. Rex Harrison and Rita Hayworth star as a pair of art thieves plying their trade in Madrid; apparently Hayworth thought little of the film.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mysteries in March on CBC Radio (Canada).

The CBC Radio program The Next Chapter is focusing on mysteries this month, including quizzes and recommended reading lists (the latter featuring writers such as Gail Bowen).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Nazis in crime fiction.

Edmund Crispin's Holy Disorders
(1945), one entry in the
Detecting the Past database
Katharina Hall of Swansea University has an ongoing project, Detecting the Past, that seeks to examine how crime writers have portrayed the Nazis and their impact on the postwar period. The project also will include TV and film representations. A sample of the database that Hall is compiling on the subject can be viewed here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Lady Confesses (1945).

In The Lady Confesses (1945), Hugh Beaumont's inconvenient wife returns just as he plans to marry another woman and winds up dead.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Now online:
My article on first American detective novelist.

Illustration from
Metta Fuller Victor's
The Dead Letter (1864)
Mystery Scene has posted my article from issue no. 81 (2003) on author-editor Metta Fuller Victor, who wrote The Dead Letter (the first American detective novel).

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The intrigue behind Holmes's missing years.

Patrick Allen as Col. Sebastian
Moran in "The Empty House"
(TV, 1986)
In the Public Domain Review, Andrew Glassard speculates that Sherlock Holmes may have been involved in espionage between "The Final Problem" (1893) and "The Adventure of the Empty House" (1903). He also looks at the backdrop of international intrigue behind "Empty House."

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Three Cases of Murder (1955).

As the title indicates, there are three segments to Three Cases of Murder. "In the Picture" (from a story by Scottish writer Roderick Wilkinson) features a painting with supernatural elements. "You Killed Elizabeth" (from a 1951 story by Davis Dresser, aka Brett Halliday) involves two friends competing over a woman, who is subsequently killed. Orson Welles directs (and is the title character) "Lord Mountdrago" (from a story by Somerset Maugham), in which the tormented Welles grapples with the effects of his cruelty on a politician colleague.

Monday, March 03, 2014

50th anniversary: The death of Arthur Upfield.

Philip Morton in the Southern Highland News (Australia) notes the 50th anniversary of the death of British-born author Arthur Upfield, an important figure in Australian crime fiction as the creator of aboriginal detective Napoleon "Bony" Bonaparte. Bony debuted in The Barrakee Mystery (1929, aka The Lure of the Bush) and appeared in 29 works. An Edgar nominee for The Bushman who Came Back (1957), he influenced authors such as Tony Hillerman. Assessing Upfield's place in Australian and international literature is Investigating Arthur Upfield: A Centenary Collection of Critical Essays. The TV movie 3 Acts of Murder (2009) delves into the fatal results when a friend of Upfield used one of the author's fictional methods of murder. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Film on author Lloyd Alexander.

Jared Crossley, the director of Lloyd Alexander, has dropped the price of the DVD of his film on the noted American fantasy author (best known for the Chronicles of Prydain) in honor of what would have been Alexander's 90th birthday in 2014. The DVD is now $10.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Stolen (2006).

Stolen, a documentary by Rebecca Dreyfus, delves into the 1990 heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, with special attention to the role of art detective Harold Smith.

Monday, February 24, 2014

New Clues CFP: Patricia Highsmith.

Le cri du hibou (The Cry of the Owl),
dir. Claude Chabrol (1987, based on
the novel by Patricia Highsmith)
A Call for Papers has been posted for the Clues 2015 issue "Re-Evaluating Patricia Highsmith," guest edited by Fiona Peters (Bath Spa University, UK). Proposals for articles are due by May 1.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

TLS on the model for a Buchan villain.

David Warner as
Appleton in
The 39 Steps (1978)
The Times Literary Supplement's Michael Caines discusses a new book on Sir Edgar Speyer, considered a model for a villain in John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Huston's Three Strangers (1946).

In Three Strangers, a lottery ticket spells trouble for Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Geraldine Fitzgerald. Story by John Huston, with a screenplay by Huston and Howard Koch.

Monday, February 17, 2014

August Derleth: Best mysteries of 1969.

Essential Solitude: The Letters of
H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth

Hippocampus P
In the Dec. 6, 1969, issue of the Capital [WI] Times, August Derleth (creator of the Holmes-like Solar Pons) listed his selections for the best fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books of 1969. Mysteries and sci-fi appeared under the subtitle "Entertainments" rather than the "Fiction" category. It may have been ethically questionable that he listed H. P. Lovecraft et al.'s Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos—which was issued by Arkham House, the publishing firm he cofounded.

The Godfather by Mario Puzo and Daphne du Maurier's The House on the Strand were two of his fiction selections, whereas two of his sci-fi picks were Fritz Leiber's A Spectre Is Haunting Texas and Douglas Warner's Death on a Warm Wind. His mystery selections included:

Allingham, Margery. The Allingham Casebook. Campion and Charlie Luke short stories
Bernkopf, Jean F., ed. Boucher's Choicest. Some of Anthony Boucher's picks for best mystery short stories
Carr, John Dickson. The Ghosts' High Noon.
Carter, Philip Youngman. Mr. Campion's Farthing. Carter was Allingham's widower
Christie, Agatha. By the Pricking of My Thumbs.
Davies, L. P. Stranger to Town.
Fish, Robert L. The Murder League.
Gardner, John. A Complete State of Death.
Kahn, Joan, ed. Hanging by a Thread.
Marric, J. J [John Creasey]. Gideon's Power.
Marsh, Ngaio. Clutch of Constables.
Queen, Ellery, ed. Queen's Minimysteries.
Simenon, Georges. Maigret in Vichy (aka Maigret Takes the Waters)
Stout, Rex. Death of a Dude.
Whitney, Phyllis A. The Winter People.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Clues' Brooks Hefner on S. S. Van Dine,
With Good Reason radio.

On the February 15 episode of the radio program With Good Reason, James Madison University's Brooks Hefner discusses the heretofore unknown pseudonym he uncovered of Philo Vance creator S. S. Van Dine (featured in his Clues article), Van Dine's alter ego of Willard Huntington Wright, and Wright's work in the context of highbrow/lowbrow debates of his time. The same program features Longwood University's Christopher McGee talking about the Hardy Boys series.