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.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Another Man's Poison (1951).

Gary Merrill and Bette Davis
in Another Man's Poison
In Another Man's Poison, Bette Davis is a mystery writer juggling an inconvenient husband, a lover, a blackmailer (Davis's then-husband, Gary Merrill), and a nosy veterinarian (Emlyn Williams). The film, produced by Douglas Fairbanks Jr., is based on the play "Deadlock" by Leslie Sands, with a screenplay by Val Guest.

Monday, June 01, 2015

John Curran talks about Agatha Christie.

Agatha Christie in Nederland (detectiveschrijfster), bij aankomst op Schiphol me…
Agatha Christie at Schiphol Airport, The Netherlands,
17 Sept. 1964. Dutch National Archives
On RTE (Ireland)'s Arena program John Curran (author of Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks) talks about Christie's childhood, her short stories and plays, her 1926 disappearance, and the genesis of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Want to review dime novels?

The people behind the Johannsen and LeBlanc dime novel collections at Northern Illinois University invite reviews by scholars, students, and fans of the 19th- and 20th-century dime novels offered on its revamped Web site. They have scanned 335 issues of Nick Carter Weekly among the more than 1000 items in the collections; digitized materials include the following:

Metta Fuller Victor, NYPL
Image from the cover of
Dick, the Boy Lawyer (1909)

 • The Border Rivals, or, The Mill-Flume Mystery (1868) by Metta Fuller Victor (aka Seeley Regester), who wrote The Dead Letter, the first American detective novel

•  Chung Wing, the Chinese Bandit King, or An American Detective in China (1884) by Police Sergeant Mallory

Dick, the Boy Lawyer, or Winning a Big Fee (1909) by
"A Self-Made Man"  

Guilty or Not Guilty, or the Ordeal of Fire: A Tale of Thirty Years Ago (1866) by [Lydia] Ann Emerson Porter, a cousin of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Update, 6-23-15. NIU advises that it plans to add about 200 issues of Nick Carter Weekly to the site within the next month.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Espionage Target—You (1964).

Pete Duel in
Espionage Target—You
Wondering what to do if approached by communist agents? You can find out in this 1964 Defense Department film featuring Pete Duel (Alias Smith and Jones).

Friday, May 22, 2015

Conan Doyle speaks on Holmes and spiritualism.

Arthur Conan Doyle, from
Harper's Weekly, ca. 1893. NYPL
To mark Arthur Conan Doyle's 156th birthday today, listen to him talking about his inspirations for Sherlock Holmes (including Edgar Allan Poe and Dr. Joseph Bell) and his views on spiritualism. Sound files dated 14 May 1930 at the Centre for History and Analysis of Recorded Music, King's College London.

View the label from the original recording.

"The day a man's mind shuts is the day of his mental death."
• Conan Doyle, Part 1 (3.50 min)
• Conan Doyle, Part 2 (3.50 min)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Secret Mission (1942).

Michael Wilding
in Secret Mission
In Secret Mission, British and French agents seek information on German forces in France as they prepare for an Allied invasion. Hugh Williams, James Mason, Michael Wilding, and Herbert Lom star. The story is by Shaun Young, better known as director Terence Young (Dr No, Triple Cross, Wait Until Dark, The Valachi Papers).

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Clues 33.1: Westlake, Leonard, Reichs, et al.

Clues 33.1 has been published; see below for abstracts. With the dissolution of the Metapress online platform for Clues, McFarland plans to produce epub versions of Clues articles; in the meantime, contact McFarland for issue orders and subscriptions.

A reminder: the July 1 deadline is approaching for the latest Clues Call for Papers, "Reappropriating Agatha Christie."

Introduction  JANICE M. ALLAN

Now You See Her—Now You Don’t: 
Household Spies in Aurora Floyd and Lady Audley’s Secret RACHEL SMILLIE (U Aberdeen) In Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s novels the female domestic servant enjoys a uniquely privileged position; she is granted admittance to the most intimate spaces of the home and given unfettered access to the family’s secrets. By focusing on the role of the female servant as household spy, this essay explores the control these women are able to exercise over their respective narratives.

“Something in a New Key”: Democratizing Poe’s Ratiocination in Psych and Elementary PATRICK KENT RUSSELL (U-Conn) Psych (2006–14) and Elementary (2013–) take steps to democratize Edgar Allan Poe’s ratiocination. Early seasons of Psych take a greater step by providing viewing audiences access to clues and lessons in what to observe. Seasons 1 and 2 of Elementary also show lessons, but as character development, rather than to redistribute necessary knowledge.

Far from Home and Near to Harm: Mazes, Rhizomes, and Illusory Domestic Spaces in Richard Stark’s Parker Novels GREGORY ALAN PHIPPS  This article considers the construction of Richard Stark’s Parker novels in relation to the symbolic models of the maze and the rhizome. These function in the Parker novels as frameworks that capture the structural forms of various spaces, social encounters, and modes of subjectivity.

Scarlet Fever: Communism, Crime, and Contagion in James Ellroy’s The Big Nowhere JOSHUA MEYER
 (U of Western Sydney) Throughout James Ellroy’s The Big Nowhere, the threat of communism and the institutional anxiety it engenders is played out through a series of symbolic associations among communism, crime, and contagion. Ellroy’s figuration of communism as a form of criminal contagion takes up underlying tensions involved with the discourse of typology that runs through the detective genre.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

London Belongs to Me
(aka Dulcimer Street, 1948).

Sketch by H. R. [Roy] Oxley for London Belongs to Me
Encountering gamblers and murder in London Belongs to Me are eccentric boarding house residents (such as car thief Richard Attenborough and dubious clairvoyant Alistair Sim). The film was adapted from the novel by Norman Collins (Dick Barton: Special Agent) and directed by Sidney Gilliat (well known for his screenplays for The Lady Vanishes and Green for Danger).