Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Alias John Preston (1955).

In Alias John Preston, wealthy Christopher Lee arrives in an English village, has disturbing dreams, and may have a dark secret in his past. Psychiatrist Alexander Knox delves into the case.

Monday, July 28, 2014

UNM's Tony Hillerman Portal.

Debuting at the University of New Mexico Libraries is the Tony Hillerman Portal, which seeks to provide "an interactive guide to the life and work of Tony Hillerman." It includes the online exhibition "Tony Hillerman: From Journalist to Novelist"; maps of Southwest locations in the books The Blessing Way, The Boy Who Made Dragonfly, Dance Hall of the Dead, and Listening Woman; and audio and video interviews with the creator of tribal police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, who died in 2008.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mystery reading group guides.

For those looking for mystery reading group guides:

• The New York Review of Books has guides for William Lindsay Gresham's Nightmare Alley, Jean-Patrick Manchette's Fatale, and Georges Simenon's The Engagement.

• Michigan Center for the Book has a Reading Guide to Robert Traver's Anatomy of a Murder.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Knight without Armor (1937).

In Knight without Armor, British secret agent Robert Donat must rescue aristocrat Marlene Dietrich from Bolshevik baddies. The film (produced by Alexander Korda) is based on Without Armor by Lost Horizon's James Hilton, with a screenplay by early Hollywood pioneer Frances Marion.

Monday, July 21, 2014

"Behind the Badge:
The US Postal Inspection Service."

Front page of the Evening World of October 25, 1921,
reflecting the largest robbery of the time
The new exhibition "Behind the Badge: The U.S. Postal Inspection Service" at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum includes famous scammers such as Charles Ponzi, a forged Robert Frost poem, counterfeit stamps, mail heists, assaults and murders of postal employees, and other cases involving the service such as that of the Unabomber.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Philip K. Dick speaks.

The Best of Philip K. Dick
(Echo Point Books, 2013)
Pacifica Radio's From the Vault archival program is featuring a 1976 conversation between sci-fi author Philip K. Dick and Pacifica Radio's Mike Hodel. Topics include Richard Congdon, Harlan Ellison, Richard Lupoff, Kurt Vonnegut, the business of writing, A Scanner Darkly, The Man in the High Castle, and the first story sold by Dick (to Anthony Boucher who was, in Dick's words, "a great writer, a great editor, a great anthologizer, and a great person").

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Religion and fictional detectives.

A recent article by Bill Phillips (University of Barcelona) is on "Religious Belief in Recent Detective Fiction." Some of the authors mentioned are Ken Bruen, James Lee Burke, G. K. Chesterton, Sara Paretsky, Robert B. Parker, and Ian Rankin.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rinehart's The Bat (film, 1926).

Ad for The Bat
Film Daily Jan-Dec 1925
The smash play "The Bat" written by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood first appeared on screen in this silent film version of 1926. The cast included Jack Pickford (brother of Mary).

Monday, July 14, 2014

Academe: Notable American espionage novels.

James Fenimore Cooper. NYPL
For the blog of Academe magazine (published by the American Association of University Professors), Martin Kich (Wright State University) is crafting a series of posts on "Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels" (he is up to no. 29). His choices include the following:

James Fenimore Cooper, The Spy (1821)
Richard Congdon, The Manchurian Candidate (1959)
Brian Garfield, Hopscotch (1975)
Dorothy Gilman, The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax (1970)
James Grady, Six Days of the Condor (1975)
Bill Granger, The November Man (1979)
Nicholas M. Guild, The Summer Soldier (1978)
Noel Hynd & Christopher Creighton,  The Krushchev Objective (1987)
Aaron Latham, Orchids for Mother (1977)
Robert Littell, The Amateur (1981)

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A Shriek in the Night (1933).

In A Shriek in the Night, reporter Ginger Rogers teams up with rival journalist Lyle Talbot to investigate murders in an apartment building.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Vintage Paperback Index, BGSU.

Edgar winner
Lawrence G. Blochman
from UC-Berkeley's
The Blue and Gold
As a fan of Dell mapbacks, I'm enjoying prowls through the 1940s-70s cover art in the Vintage Paperback Index at Bowling Green State University's Browne Popular Culture Library. Mystery authors represented include Lawrence Goldtree Blochman, Robert M. Coates, George Harmon Coxe, Mignon G. Eberhart, A. A. Fair (aka Erle Stanley Gardner), Leslie Ford, Brett Halliday, Dashiell Hammett, Geoffrey Homes, Baynard Kendrick, Helen McCloy, Zelda Popkin, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Rex Stout, and Phoebe Atwood Taylor. It's also not without its pleasant surprises such as the inclusion of Lloyd C. Douglas (The Robe, Magnificent Obsession) for Doctor Hudson's Secret Journal and C. W. Grafton (father of Sue) for The Rope Began to Hang the Butcher and The Rat Began to Gnaw the Rope. In addition, there are items for western fans (The Law at Randado by Elmore Leonard) and sci-fi aficionados (Rocket to the Morgue by Anthony Boucher; Invasion from Mars ed. Orson Welles).

Thursday, July 03, 2014

CBC's "100 Novels That Make You Proud to Be Canadian."

CBC Books (of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.) has issued its list of "100 Novels That Make You Proud to Be Canadian," which includes the following mystery works:

• Linwood Barclay,
No Time for Goodbye
• Giles Blunt, Forty Words for Sorrow 
• Will Ferguson, 419
• Louise Penny, Still Life
• Andrew Pyper, Lost Girls

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Rod Serling speaks.

Some Rod Serling items I discovered:

• Binghamton, NY, is moving its Walk of Fame for preservation reasons. The first star was given posthumously to native son Serling.

Rod Serling, from 1959
Mike Wallace Interview
• At a May 1971 UCLA event, an often witty and blunt Serling commented on Twilight Zone episodes "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" and "A Stop at Willoughby"; Night Gallery episode "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar";  and the Hallmark Hall of Fame production "Storm in Summer." As can be expected given Serling's continual criticism of television, he had things to say about the state of TV in general:
"It . . . points out one of the major, in-bred problems of television: that however moving and however probing and incisive the drama, it cannot retain any consistent thread of legitimacy when after 12 or 13 minutes, out come 12 dancing rabbits with toilet paper." 
He plugged science fiction authors such as Arthur C. Clarke and a young filmmaker by the name of George Lucas ("Science fiction is becoming an altogether legitimate art form") and good writing ("You judge good writing by its lasting quality . . . nothing I've written in my life . . . will ever be remembered 100 years hence"). He considered his best work to be "Requiem for a Heavyweight," The Rack, and Seven Days in May.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

23 Paces to Baker Street (1956).

Directed by Henry Hathaway and based on Warrant for X (aka The Nursemaid Who Disappeared) by author-screenwriter Philip MacDonald (The List of Adrian Messenger, etc.), 23 Paces to Baker Street features Van Johnson as a blind playwright who overhears a kidnapping plot.

Monday, June 30, 2014

E. W. Hornung's unpublished diary.

Libraries are always so interesting: a man's bookcase is something more interesting than the man himself, sometimes the one existing portrait of his mind.
—E. W. Hornung, The Crime Doctor

E. W. Hornung. NYPL
In English Literature in Transition, Edmund G. C. King (Open Univ) discusses the reading experience of British and Scottish soldiers in WWI, with particular attention to the wartime activities of E.W. Hornung (creator of Raffles, gentleman thief).

Sadly, Oscar—the only child of Hornung and Constance, Arthur Conan Doyle's sister—was killed in action at Ypres in July 1915. Seeking solace, Hornung served as a YMCA volunteer during the war—working in a canteen; maintaining a wartime library for soldiers in Arras, France, and a postwar one in the vicinity of Cologne, Germany; looking for friends of Oscar; and hoping to encounter Conan Doyle's serviceman son, Kingsley (who died of flu in 1918). His Notes of a Camp Follower on the Western Front (1919) tells about his war experiences and provides insight into what servicemen were reading (popular authors included Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Marie Corelli, Anthony Hope, and E. Phillips Oppenheim). Interestingly, he reports only one reader for Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White. Pertaining to the works of his brother-in-law, he wrote, "Messrs. Holmes and Watson were the most flourishing of old firms, and Gerard the only Brigadier taken seriously at my counter" (Notes 141). His own output was not ignored:
"When I was up the line," said one of my friends, bubbling over with a compliment, "a chap said to me, 'You know that old—that—that elderly man who runs the Rest Hut? He's the author of Raffles.'"
Adds Hornung in mock outrage, "Elderly! One would as lief be labelled Virtuous or Discreet" (Notes 144–45). Hornung died of pneumonia in 1921 at 54, hardly an advanced age.

King relates that Hornung kept a diary between December 1917 and March 1918 that took the format of letters to his wife. He drew on this diary to write Notes, but King indicates that the diary reveals more about Hornung's reasons for war service than Notes does. Hornung's friend Shane Chichester preserved a typescript of the diary, which is now in the University of Birmingham's Cadbury Research Library along with other papers. King also provides a heart-warming glimpse of Hornung at work via the World War I memoir of Carlos Paton Blacker, Oscar's Eton classmate who became a noted psychiatrist.

King's article follows "The A. J. Raffles Stories Reconsidered: Fall of the Gentleman Ideal" by Jeremy Larance from the first 2014 issue of English Literature in Transition.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

War, Buchan, and The Thirty-Nine Steps.

As part of BBC Radio 3's programming on the centenary of World War I, the program Free Thinking convenes John Buchan's biographer Andrew Lownie and Buchan companion author Kate Macdonald to talk about the place of his war experience in The Thirty-Nine Steps and the popularity of the novel with servicemen.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Happy birthday, Dorothy Gilman.

She left us in 2012, but her work lives on. Grand Master Dorothy Gilman was born today in 1923 in New Brunswick, NJ—just like her most famous creation, senior-citizen secret agent Mrs. Pollifax. Here is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Mrs. Pollifax-Spy with Rosalind Russell.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Woolrich's "Post Mortem" (May 1949).

In this 1949 episode of Suspense based on Cornell Woolrich's "Post Mortem" (Black Mask, Apr. 1940) and directed by Robert Stevens (Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Twilight Zone), a woman marries a doctor who has a disturbing track record when it comes to life insurance.

Monday, June 23, 2014

O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise, BBC Radio 4 Extra.

One of the Modesty Blaise
graphic novels from Titan Books
Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin try to thwart a diamond robbery in this episode kicking off series 2 of BBC Radio 4 Extra's Modesty Blaise.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The return of Caspary's The Man Who Loved
His Wife

Somehow I missed the new entry in the Feminist Press series Femmes Fatales: Vera Caspary's The Man Who Loved His Wife (1966), which features a man who may have ulterior motives when it comes to his much younger wife. This novel, called a trompe l'oeil by Kirkus in its original release, follows FP's reissues of Caspary's Laura and Bedelia.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Glaspell's Trifles (2009).

Susan Glaspell. NYPL.
Author, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, and Provincetown Players cofounder Susan Glaspell (1876–1948) wrote the play Trifles —with women as far more observant of what has happened in a farmhouse than the male law enforcement officials—after covering the John Hossack murder case for the Des Moines Daily News in 1900. Trifles was first produced in 1916. Glaspell then adapted it as the celebrated short story "A Jury of Her Peers" (1917). Pamela Gaye Walker directed the 2009 short film of Trifles. Sally Heckel made an Oscar-nominated version of "A Jury of Her Peers" in 1980, following the version on Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1961.

Monday, June 16, 2014

McDermid on Pinkerton.

Allan Pinkerton. NYPL.
Today on BBC Radio 4 Extra's program The First Private Eye, Val McDermid talks about Allan Pinkerton, the groundbreaking private detective who thwarted a plot against Abraham Lincoln (as Daniel Stashower makes clear in the Edgar-winning The Hour of Peril).

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

MS review, Ellroy companion.

The latest review for James Ellroy: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction appears in Mystery Scene (no. 134), written by Jon L. Breen: "an ideal subject for the consistently excellent McFarland Companions series."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sayers's "Suspicion" (Mar. 1949).

Why not celebrate Dorothy L. Sayers's birthday coming up on Friday by checking out the 1949 Suspense episode "Suspicion," based on the Sayers short story of the same name? Disregard the ID of Charlton Heston in this YouTube selection; there were two versions of "Suspicion" for Suspense, and this one is the Mar. 1949 version (Heston was in the Nov. 1949 version).

Monday, June 09, 2014

Art Detective Web site.

The "unknown rheumatologist"—
The Art Detective Web site seeks to connect UK public art collections, the public, and experts, providing a nexus of discussion about art and supplying missing information about artwork.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Coming from U-Chicago Press:
Oppenheim, Westlake.

The arrival of the fat fall catalog from University of Chicago Press indicated that some goodies are in store for mystery fans:
  • New paperback editions of spy fiction and thriller pioneer E. Phillips Oppenheim's The Great Impersonation (1920) and The Spy Paramount (1935). Both are out in September, distrib. for the British Library.

Photo from The Great Impersonation (1935),
starring Edmund Lowe and Valerie Hobson

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Woolrich's "The Listener" (1956).

In this February 1956 episode of Four Star Playhouse based on Cornell Woolrich's "Eyes That Watch You," Ida Lupino has some dark plans in store for her husband—but are she and her accomplice the only ones who know? Playing her brother is Richard Lupino (a cousin to Ida Lupino and Buster Keaton).

Monday, June 02, 2014

BL's "Discovering Literature:
Romantics and Victorians."

1877 Chatto & Windus edition
of Wilkie Collins's
The Moonstone
The British Library's online exhibition on "Discovering Literature: Romantics and Victorians" has some items of interest for mystery fans:

Note that the attribution for Revelations of a Lady Detective (1864) is incorrect; it is not by the pseudonymous Andrew Forrester (James Redding Ware), but rather William Stephens Hayward.

Update. The BL has corrected the attribution for Revelations of a Lady Detective.