Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Illegal (w/Edward G. Robinson and DeForest Kelley, 1955).

Edward G. Robinson and Nina Foch
in Illegal (1955)
In Illegal, district attorney Edward G. Robinson convicts an innocent man (DeForest Kelley) and becomes entangled with racketeers. Costars include Nina Foch, Hugh Marlowe, Edward Platt (of Get Smart fame), and Jayne Mansfield. The director is Lewis Allen (The Uninvited, The Unseen, Appointment with Danger, etc.). One of the film's screenwriters is W. R. Burnett (Little Caesar, High Sierra, etc.), adapting Frank J. Collins's play The Mouthpiece (allegedly based on William J. Fallon, a former Westchester [NY] prosecutor and lawyer for Arnold Rothstein and Nicky Arnstein, who was dubbed "The Great Mouthpiece" by the press).

Monday, June 27, 2016

Update, Westminster Detective Library.

Mark Twain, ca. 1907.
Library of Congress, Prints
and Photographs Div.
Since I last posted about the Westminster Detective Library—the effort by Edgar winner LeRoy Lad Panek (Introduction to the Detective Story) and Mary Bendel-Simso (McDaniel College, MD) to compile an online repository of short detective works published in the United States prior to 1891, some 300 pieces have been added, and there is a new Web interface. The pieces include 87 stories by 48 female authors, and Panek states, "There are no doubt many more as the majority of the stories we have cataloged have no author listed in the original." Panek also notes that he and Bendel-Simso will be issuing a book based on the works in the library.

A sample from the Westminster Detective Library:

• "The Female Assassin" (1850) by Prince Cambaceres, archchancellor of the French Empire and Duke of Parma

• "Who Is the Thief?" (1864) by Elizabeth Campbell (a writer and actress trained by Edwin Booth)

• "The Stolen Letter: A Lawyer's Story" (1855) by Wilkie Collins

• "Mrs. Fitzgerald's Life Policy" (1863) by Andrew Forrester Jr. (pseudonymous author of The Female Detective  [1864] unmasked by Judith Flanders in The Invention of Murder)

• "The Murder at Carew Court" (1868) by Amy Randolph

• "Edward Mills and George Benton" (1880) by Mark Twain

For the project, Panek and Bendel-Simso seek help from students and others with tasks such as editing, proofreading, and locating materials; clues to finding additional stories and sources; and comments on the materials in the library. Contact Bendel-Simso.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Detective Kitty O'Day (1944).

Jean Parker, ca. 1937
Jean Parker plays the title role in this screwball mystery, seeking the murderer of her crooked boss.

Monday, June 20, 2016

"The Artists Who Make Argosy."

4 Nov 1922 Argosy cover by
Stockton Mulford
In advance of July's PulpFest in Columbus, OH, Mike Chomko gives a preview of "The Artists Who Make Argosy," the upcoming session with David Saunders that will celebrate the contributing artists to the legendary pulp magazine launched in 1882. The magazine's contributing writers included Max Brand, Norbert Davis, Erle Stanley Gardner, Robert E. Howard, Mary Roberts Rinehart, and Cornell Woolrich. Saunders is the son of illustrator Norman Saunders.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"The Kids Who Knew Too Much" (1980).

This episode for Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color is based on The Whisper in the Gloom by Nicholas Blake (aka poet Cecil Day-Lewis) and features a band of smart kids and Sharon Gless looking into a murder and discovering ties to a political conspiracy. It is bittersweet to see the gifted actress Dana Hill (Shoot the Moon, Cross Creek, etc.), who died much too young at age 32 from diabetes-related complications.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Intl Centre for Victorian Women Writers.

Cover of Wyllard's Weird (1886)
by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
There's a newish International Centre for Victorian Women Writers at Canterbury Christ Church University in the United Kingdom; one focus is crime and sensation fiction (especially by Mary Elizabeth Braddon). The center, which seeks to be a nexus for researchers on the writing of Victorian women and is hosting conferences and projects, is seeking information on birthdays of Victorian female writers for a list it is compiling.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Gangster Story (dir. Walter Matthau, 1959).

Walter Matthau
in Gangster Story (1959)
This low-budget, somewhat stilted film is the only one directed by Walter Matthau, who also stars as a wanted man who becomes involved with a crime syndicate. His co-star is his real-life wife, Carol Grace (who was previously married to William Saroyan).

Monday, June 06, 2016

Victorian yellowbacks in Canada.

Strange Secrets, a collection of ghost stories
(London, 1890). Image from the
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Toronto.
The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library of the University of Toronto offers a nice online collection of cover images from Victorian yellowbacks—most notably from works by Canadian-born Grant Allen (mystery writer as well as friend and neighbor of Arthur Conan Doyle).

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Blochman's "A Case of Radiant Wine" (1960).

Lawrence G. Blochman from
UC-Berkeley's The Blue and
Gold (
The series Diagnosis: Unknown featured Patrick O'Neal as pathologist Daniel Webster Coffee (created by Edgar winner Lawrence G. Blochman) who investigated cases of murder. This episode, "A Case of Radiant Wine," focuses on the suspicious suicide of a model. Costars are Tom Bosley and Phyllis Newman.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Rod Serling at war.

I want you to know what shrapnel and "88s" and mortar shells and mustard gas mean.

—The dedication of an unpublished short story by Rod Serling to his children, quoted in Anne Serling's As I Knew Him
Rod Serling with his 1960 Emmy
for outstanding writing
(for The Twilight Zone)
Rod Serling served as a paratrooper in World War II and was profoundly affected by his experiences. In Vincent Casaregola's thoughtful discussion "War in The Twilight Zone: Rod Serling's Haunted Visions of World War II" in Horrors of War, he notes that one-sixth of Twilight Zone episodes are about war (these include "The Purple Testament" with William Reynolds and "The Quality of Mercy" with Dean Stockwell; other examples from Serling's oeuvre are "The Time Element" aired on Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, "The Strike" for Studio One, and The Rack). In the episode below from Writing for Television: Conversations with Rod Serling, Serling states, "I was traumatized into writing by war events."

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"Night Ride" (1953).

In this episode of Four Star Playhouse, subway passengers wonder which one of them is a murderer sought by the police. Costars include David Niven and Rhys Williams, in a story by Lawrence B. Marcus and a screenplay by Seeleg Lester and Merwin Gerard.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Historic images of counterfeiters.

John S. Bell, chief of
the Secret Service (1888–90);
Newark (NJ) police chief (1884)
The Unwritten Record blog of the National Archives highlights historic mugshots of counterfeiters—both men and women—from the Secret Service files in its collections.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

"Fraction of a Second" (w/Bette Davis, 1958).

Adapted by Kathleen Hite from the story "Split Second" (in Kiss Me Again, Stranger, 1953) by Daphne du Maurier, this episode of Suspicion features Bette Davis finding strangers in her house, although they insist they are the owners. Costars include Marian Seldes.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Exhibition on artist Everett Raymond Kinstler.

On view until July 4 at the Brinton Museum in Big Horn, Wyoming, is the exhibition "Journeys West and Beyond," which features the work of Everett Raymond Kinstler. Kinstler's oeuvre encompasses portraits of political figures, comic books, dime novels, westerns, and pulp works.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

"Alter-Ego" (1972).

This episode of Circle of Fear (aka Ghost Story, 1972, creat. Richard Matheson) features a boy's troublesome doppleganger. Costars are Sebastian Cabot, Helen Hayes, and Charles Aidman; the writers are Edgar winner Stanley Ellin (story, "Robert," 1958) and D. C. Fontana (screenplay).

Monday, May 09, 2016

"True Crime" exhibition, USC.

Eugene Francois Vidocq, NYPL
On display until May 31 is the exhibition "True Crime" at the USC Libraries, which features "the history of detectives in the popular imagination" and includes a handwritten letter from legendary private investigator Eugene Francois Vidocq and the "black bird" from The Maltese Falcon. (See review of the exhibition in LA Weekly.)

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Danger on the Air (1938).

Lee J. Cobb in
Danger on the Air (1938)
An unpopular sponsor is murdered during a radio broadcast, and an engineer (Donald Woods) investigates. This comedic mystery, based on Death Catches Up with Mr. Kluck by Xantippe (aka actress, writer, and radio producer Edith Meiser), features Nan Grey, William Lundigan, and Lee J. Cobb.

Monday, May 02, 2016

New pulp reprints from Altus Press.

I have ... a face like a gargoyle and the disposition of a tired tarantula. —Norbert Davis, May 1941 Argosy
A scene from Max Brand's
Champion of Lost Causes (1925)
Among the new releases of Altus Press, a specialist in pulp reprints:

Doan and Carstairs: Their Complete Cases by Norbert Davis. Boozy PI Doan teams up with his lofty Great Dane, Carstairs.

Champion of Lost Causes by Max Brand (introd. William F. Nolan). Samuel Loring takes up the cause of a woman accused of murder.

Sabotage by Cleve F. Adams. Detective Rex McBride races to prevent the destruction of an important dam by an implacable enemy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

X Marks the Spot (1942).

Author Stuart Palmer,
U-Wisc Class of 1928. U-Wisc
Alumni Magazine
Dec 1934

In this film, a private detective who is also an army lieutenant pursues the killer of his policeman father and discovers traffickers in rubber. One of the film's screenwriters is Stuart Palmer (creator of spinster sleuth Hildegarde Withers).

Monday, April 25, 2016

Doris Roberts on Brenner (1959).

Doris Roberts in The Taking of
Pelham One Two Three

The Paley Center for Media offers a 1959 clip with Doris Roberts and Edward Binns from the police TV drama Brenner in honor of veteran character actress Roberts, who passed away on April 17.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Inspector Hornleigh Goes to It (1941).

Alistair Sim in
Inspector Hornleigh Goes to It
In this film, Scotland Yard's Inspector Hornleigh (Gordon Harker) and his somewhat bumbling sidekick Sergeant Bingham (Alistair Sim) are on the trail of Nazi spies when murder occurs. This film is the third in a series (Inspector Hornleigh, 1939; Inspector Hornleigh on Holiday, 1939).

Monday, April 18, 2016

Houghton Library's Fu Manchu collection.

Ad for The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu (1929)
In this blog post, Harvard's Houghton Library highlights its collection of volumes by Sax Rohmer featuring the nefarious Dr. Fu Manchu and discusses fears of the "yellow peril."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

"The Turn of the Screw"
(with Ingrid Bergman, 1959).

John Frankenheimer,
ca. 1962
One of the many adaptations of "The Turn of the Screw" by Henry James (whose 173rd birthday is April 15) was directed and produced by John Frankenheimer in 1959 for the Startime TV series. Ingrid Bergman played the governess who fears the effects of a malevolent influence on her young charges, and Paul Stevens was the servant Quint. Here are two clips from the program.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Clues 34.1: Agatha Christie.

Clues 34.1 (2016), a theme issue on "Reappropriating Agatha Christie" in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of her death, has been published; see below for abstracts. To order a print copy of the issue or to subscribe to the journal, email McFarland & Co.

Update, 4-26-16. The issue is now on Kindle and Google Play.

Clues 34.1: Reappropriating Agatha Christie
Guest editors: Alistair Rolls and Jesper Gulddal

Reappropriating Agatha Christie: An Introduction 

The Agatha Christie corpus has long been encumbered by agendas and critical perspectives that effectively prevent close analytical scrutiny of her novels. The authors explore possible avenues for a reappropriation of Christie and particularly highlight the need for irreverent rereading that brings to light the textual complexity of her detective fiction.

“Beautiful Shining Order”: 
Detective Authority in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express JESPER GULDDAL
Using the work of Pierre Bayard, this essay presents a “counterinvestigative” reading of Murder on the Orient Express (1934) that highlights the undermining of Poirot’s unshakable authority as a detective and his solution. The essay argues that the dénouement fails in accomplishing complete transparency and reducing the literary complexity of Christie’s plot.

Agatha Christie and the Fantastic Detective Story 

SUZANNE VAN DER BEEK (Tilburg U, The Netherlands)
The author problematizes the restrictive categorization of Agatha Christie’s novel And Then There Were None via the critique by Tzvetan Todorov in his study on the literary fantastic. Christie’s work, she argues, overthrows the dichotomy between the natural and the supernatural as well as creates a fantastic detective novel.

Metafictional Agatha Christie: Self-Parody as the Perfect Crime 

IRENA KSIĘŻOPOLSKA (U of Social Sciences and Humanities, Warsaw)
The author examines the narrative structure of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, emphasizing the self-reflexive quality of the novel and seeking to establish 
its parodic intentions. Through the use of formulaic unreliability, clichéd characters, facile plot devices, and a comic detective, Agatha Christie deliberately constructs her text against the conventions of the genre.

Transforming Justice? Murder on the Orient Express 1934–2010

This essay compares the Agatha Christie novel Murder on the Orient Express (1934) and the Phillip Martin adaptation (2010). Viewing adaptations as transformations, the essay analyzes four differences; genre production, violence, justice, and Hercule Poirot, to argue for two differently rich texts sharing the same plot and characters across different  media.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Symons's "The Mystique of the Detective Story" (1981).

In March 1981 author-critic (Mortal Consequences/Bloody Murder, etc.) and then-Detection Club president Julian Symons (1912–94) delivered a lecture on "The Mystique of the Detective Story" at the Vancouver Institute, contrasting modern works with those of the Golden Age. He gave a humorous precis of a typical English country-house mystery and emphasized "the power of reason" in Golden Age mysteries. Symons discussed the work of Patricia Highsmith, noting, "Ripley is the horrific modern counterpart of [E. W. Hornung's] Raffles." He also dealt with the mysteries of P.D. James and Ruth Rendell as well as his own books. "Whatever its merits may be, [the crime story] does begin and end as sensational literature," he stated. He mentioned his admiration for George V. Higgins, as well as Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, and critiqued John Creasey. Symons considered Nicholas Blake (aka Cecil Day-Lewis) as one writer who bridged Golden Age and modern mysteries.

Monday, April 04, 2016

M. Pamplemousse on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Featured this week on BBC Radio 4 Extra are Michael Bond's hapless sleuth Monsieur Pamplemousse and his faithful doggie sidekick Pommes Frites.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"Laura" (with George Sanders and Robert Stack, 1955).

Dana Wynter in "Laura" (1955)
One of four screen adaptations of Vera Caspary's Laura is a 1955 TV version for the 20th Century-Fox Hour (also known as "A Portrait of Murder.") It features George Sanders as columnist Waldo Lydecker, Dana Wynter as advertising executive Laura Howe (rather than Hunt), and Robert Stack as detective Mark McPherson.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Conan Doyle's "The Field Bazaar" (1896).

Illustration by Sidney Paget for
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Wellcome Library, London
I fear that my good nature in giving explanations
has seriously compromised my reputation.
—Sherlock Holmes, "The Field Bazaar" (1896)
In "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes: The Field Bazaar (Illustrated)" for The Green Bag Almanac & Reader, lawyer David Hutchinson and George Mason University law professor Ross E. Davies team up for a presentation of "The Field Bazaar," a lighthearted Holmes-Watson outing by Arthur Conan Doyle that appeared in the 20 Nov. 1896 issue of The Student magazine of Edinburgh University (Conan Doyle's alma mater). Hutchinson provides some Sidney Paget-like illustrations for the piece. (thanks to Law & Humanities blog)