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
(1974)

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 

ALISTAIR ROLLS AND JESPER GULDDAL (U of Newcastle)
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


MERJA MAKINEN WITH PATRICK PHILLIPS (Middlesex U)
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)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Rudolph receives 2016 Dove Award.

The latest recipient of the George N. Dove Award for contributions to the serious study of mystery, detective, and crime fiction is Janet Rudolph, editor of Mystery Readers Journal and founder of Mystery Readers International. The award will be presented today by the Detective/Mystery Caucus of the Popular Culture Association; the chair of the Dove Award Committee is Rachel Schaffer (Montana State University Billings). Past Dove recipients include Frankie Y. Bailey (University at Albany, SUNY), Douglas G. Greene, P. D. James, H. R. F. Keating, Maureen Reddy (Rhode Island College), J. K. Van Dover (Lincoln University), and yours truly.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Asimov's The Caves of Steel (1964).

Isaac Asimov.
Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Div.
Among the vast oeuvre of Isaac Asimov are mysteries with the futuristic detective Elijah Baley and his robot partner R. Daneel Olivaw. One is The Caves of Steel (1953), which was adapted for British television in 1964. Here are some tantalizing (if low-budget) clips from the episode for Story Parade, which include a glimpse of Peter Cushing.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Police vehicles through history.


New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia (back seat, right) takes a spin
in a New York World's Fair police car, ca. 1939–40. NYPL.
Tokyo's Police Museum has just opened a "history of police vehicles" exhibition, but those not in Japan can view modes of transportation for law enforcement in other places:

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Ghost Breakers (1940).

Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard follow up The Cat and the Canary with this film in which Hope is a radio commentator and Goddard inherits a castle near Cuba plagued by all sorts of spooky occurrences.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

"Detective's Holiday" (dir. Blake Edwards, 1954).

Publicity shot of
Dick Powell, 1937.
In "Detective's Holiday," vacationing detective Dave Robinson (Dick Powell) thinks he may have come across a suspect in a robbery. This episode of Four Star Playhouse is directed by Blake Edwards and based on a story of the same name by Octavus Roy Cohen (repr. Reader's Digest Teenage Treasury, Vol. 2: Endeavor, 1957 and Great True Stories of Crime, Mystery, and Detection, from the Reader's Digest, 1965). Twilight Zone fans will spot Barney Phillips as Robinson's detective partner.

Monday, March 07, 2016

BBC Radio 4 Extra:
Collins's "Who Killed Zebedee?"

Going into the room, I saw something rolled up perpendicularly in the bed curtains. Miss Mybus had made herself modestly invisible in that way.
—Wilkie Collins, "Mr. Policeman and the Cook"
Wilkie Collins, NYPL
This week BBC Radio 4 Extra offers a two-part version of Wilkie Collins's "Who Killed Zebedee?" (aka "Mr. Policeman and the Cook," 1881) read by Ronald Pickup. In this short story, a police officer with an uneasy conscience looks back on the murder of a lodger in a boardinghouse. Those who would like to read the story can do so here.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

The Unguarded Hour (1936).

Franchot Tone, left, and Roland Young
in The Unguarded Hour
In The Unguarded Hour, Lady Helen Dearden faces a tough situation: if she testifies in a murder trial, the career of her barrister husband will be ruined. But if she doesn't, an innocent man will be convicted. Further complications include the implication of her husband in another murder and the threats of a blackmailer. Based on a play by Ladislas Fodor and directed by Sam Wood, the film stars Loretta Young, Franchot Tone, Roland Young, and Henry Daniell.

There also are some radio versions: a 1944 Lux Radio Theater production with Robert Montgomery, Loraine Day, and a reprise by Roland Young, plus a 1952 Theatre Guild on the Air version with Nina Foch and Michael Redgrave.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Artist Paul Corio and spy/detective fiction.

New York's McKenzie Fine Art Gallery notes in information on Ghostzapper, its new exhibition of Paul Corio works, that the artist titles some of his paintings after spy and detective fiction. Could Moscow Rules be inspired by Daniel Silva's novel? The exhibition is on view until March 13.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

New Haven Register on tombstone effort for AEF pianist Helen Hagan.

Helen Hagan in
YMCA uniform,
ca. 1919
I'm quoted in today's New Haven Register piece on the campaign to fund a tombstone for pioneering black pianist-composer Helen Hagan, who played for more than 100,000 black troops of the AEF in France.

Update, 3/27/16. See also Yale Daily News piece of March 11 on the Hagan and the grave marker effort.

The grave marker campaign has surpassed its fund-raising goal, taking in a total of $1605. Thanks to all who so generously contributed.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Fund a tombstone for black composer-pianist Helen Hagan, "the darling of the doughboys."

Hagan in YMCA
uniform, ca. 1919
After posting on my American Women in World War I blog about pioneering black composer-pianist Helen Hagan (1891–1964; Yale 1912; only black performing artist sent to WWI France), I was stunned to learn that she lies in an unmarked grave in New Haven's Evergreen Cemetery. Please join me in the effort to obtain a grave marker that recognizes her achievements, and spread the word.

Listen to Hagan's sole surviving composition, Concerto in C Minor

Learn more about Hagan and read her letter to W. E. B. Du Bois

Update, 3/27/16. The grave marker campaign has surpassed its fund-raising goal, taking in a total of $1605. Thanks to all who so generously contributed.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Mr. Arkadin (aka Confidential Report, 1955).

Orson Welles in Amsterdam,
1952. Photo by Harry Pot.
Anefo, Dutch Nat Archives
Starring, written, and directed by Orson Welles, Mr. Arkadin features a confidence man looking into the shrouded past of a millionaire, as key witnesses are bumped off. The film costars Michael Redgrave, Patricia Medina, and Mischa Auer. It has a somewhat torturous history, with incarnations that include radio plays, deleted scenes, and a European version called Confidential Report.

Monday, February 22, 2016

British Library event on Eric Ambler, May 6.


Ad for film of Ambler's Mask of Dimitrios (1944)
To mark the British Library Publishing reissues of Eric Ambler titles such as A Kind of Anger, A Passage of Arms, and The Light of Day, "Eric Ambler: Father of the Modern British Spy Thriller" has been scheduled for May 6 at the British Library. Ambler's life and work will be discussed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Lee Marvin Show (1963-64).

1963 ad for The Lee Marvin Show
In 1963–64, actor Lee Marvin had a syndicated TV program (also known as The Lawbreakers and Lee Marvin Presents Lawbreaker) in which principals (witnesses, investigators, family members, suspects, etc.) participated in reconstructed crimes, and Marvin provided narration. Star Trek's Gene Roddenberry is listed as screenwriter on the Seattle episodes "The Michael Olds Story" and "Queen Anne Killer Unidentified." Produced by Vernon E. Clark, the program is available on DVD. The episodes below feature Hartford police officers in a case about a boardinghouse killer with a violent temper and Dallas police officers dealing with a hostage situation.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Review: Tipping the Valet, by K. K. Beck.

Valet Tyler Benson faces more than just cranky customers in Tipping the Valet: A Workplace Mystery, K. K. Beck's first mystery in more than 15 years. Tyler's father has saddled him with a huge debt after pursuing a losing culinary scheme, placing the family in danger of losing their home; his fellow valets seem embroiled in something shady; and the attractive hostess of Ristorante Alba where he works does not seem to realize he exists. Further complications ensue when an attempt is made on the life of dot.com entrepreneur and restaurant patron Scott Duckworth, his father's former boss, and a body is found in a trunk that just so happens to have Tyler's fingerprints on it. Hapless but scary Eastern European gangsters pressuring the restaurant owners also add to Tyler's problems.

Beck's trademark sense of humor and sure plotting provide an enjoyable read for mystery fans. It's great to have her back.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Murder in the Private Car (1934).

After a switchboard operator learns that she is an heiress, she becomes the target of kidnapping on a train. The film, which features Charles Ruggles, Una Merkel, Walter Brennan, Sterling Holloway, and an actor in a gorilla suit, is based on the play "The Rear Car" by Edward E. Rose.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Tom Williams on Chandler's life and work.

In part 1 of a two-part episode of the podcast The Soul of California, author Tom Williams (A Mysterious Something in the Light) discusses influences on Raymond Chandler's life and work with podcast host Richard Dion.

Update: Part 2 of the podcast (which discusses Chandler's classic essay "The Simple Art of Murder" and the portrayal of Philip Marlowe) is now posted.