Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"The Town that Slept w/the Lights On" (1958).

Edmond O'Brien,
ca. 1954
Edmond O'Brien directs this episode of Schlitz Playhouse as well as plays a hard-hitting New York reporter investigating two murders in a small town and doubting the Hispanic suspect fingered by vigilantes. The episode (which has a hardboiled-style voiceover and discussion of domestic violence) is written by Liam O'Brien, Edmond's screenwriter-producer brother (Police Story, Hawaii Five-0, Miami Vice).

Monday, October 24, 2016

A mystery parody by Harry Stephen Keeler?

Harry Stephen Keeler, from
his 1916 passport application
In the latest issue of Keeler News, the newsletter of the Harry Stephen Keeler Society, Morgan Wallace posits plausibly that mystery/sci-fi writer Keeler wrote a 1920 PI parody, "The Keenwit Case," for the Chicago Ledger under the pseudonym Lon Riggs to make a point about the types of material that could come over the transom at a periodical. "The Keenwit Case" is reproduced in the newsletter and features such immortal statements as "[t]hen he lighted a cigar, and smoked viciously. This indicated that his brain was very active, and that without a doubt the clever criminal would be in irons before the close of another day."

Of related interest:
Link to cartoonist Al Hirschfeld's caricatures of Keeler
• "The Life and Death of Harry Stephen Keeler" by Vincent Starrett

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Frances Chesterton, wife of G. K.

Stephanie A. Mann provides some insights on poet-playwright Frances Chesterton, wife of G. K. and niece of art historian Mary Margaret Heaton, and mentions the 2015 biography by Nancy Carpentier Brown, The Woman Who Was Chesterton. Brown blogs on Frances Chesterton here. Both writers paint a touching picture of a devoted couple. According to the 13 Dec. 1938 New York Times, G. K. regarded Frances as "in all ways a kindred spirit," and longtime G. K. friend E. C. Bentley (Trent's Last Case) called her G. K.'s "right-hand in all his dealings with the world" (qtd in Brown).

Of related interest: Frances Chesterton being mistaken for The Lodger author Marie Belloc Lowndes and her response: "I am quite willing to feel honored by [the] mistake, but they [Hilaire Belloc and Marie Belloc Lowndes] might feel aggrieved." Belloc (brother of Marie Belloc Lowndes) and G. K. Chesterton were close friends.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"The Frightened Witness" (1957).

Dan Duryea, ca. 1946
In this Dupont Cavalcade Theatre episode, Dan Duryea stars as a butcher who witnesses the murder of an anti-corruption advocate and is threatened by the perpetrators. Harold J. Stone and Barbara Billingsley co-star.

The episode is based on "The Frightened Witness" (Saturday Evening Post, Aug 1952) by Mildred Cram (best known for Love Affair, aka An Affair to Remember). Read her wry article "Author in Hollywood": "I recognized only one contribution of mine, a two-minute scene. To this end I had labored eight weeks."

Monday, October 17, 2016

Paretsky companion published.

Just published is Sara Paretsky: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction (vol. 7 of the McFarland Companions to Mystery Fiction series) by MWA Raven recipient Margaret Kinsman. I edit the series. Goodies abound in this in-depth analysis of Paretsky's groundbreaking detective V. I. Warshawski and other subjects in the author's fiction and nonfiction works, including Margaret's discussion of Paretsky's first published piece (which she wrote at age 11).

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Theodore Sturgeon's "No Answer" (1958).

A con man (Donald Cook) who targets wealthy widows seems to have an unshakeable alibi when one of his victims is murdered. Keenan Wynn stars as the police officer frustrated by his previous unsuccessful attempts to nab the man. This Dec. 1958 episode of Schlitz Playhouse is based on the story "Dead Dames Don't Dial" (1956; repr. in And Now the News...) by Theodore Sturgeon (1918–85, best known for science fiction) and is directed by Arthur Hiller (Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Naked City, Perry Mason, The Americanization of Emily, etc.).

Monday, October 10, 2016

At Yale: An illustration of Edgar Allan Poe.

The Room 26 Cabinet of Curiosities blog of Yale's Beinecke Library highlights its new acquisition: postcards that reproduce paintings by artist Peter Oresick. One of them is a portrait of Edgar Allan Poe.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Lady in the Death House (1944).

In Lady in the Death House, a woman (Jean Parker) is on death row for the murder of a blackmailer, although she claims she was framed for the crime. A criminologist (Lionel Atwill) looks into the case, seeking to save her from the electric chair. The film is based on "Meet the Executioner" by Frederick C. Davis.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone (1950).

Based on "Once upon a Train, or the Loco Motive" (1950) by Stuart Palmer and Craig Rice, the comic Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone features Marjorie Main as a radio contest winner and James Whitmore as a lawyer who stumble over constant corpses on their train to New York. Note the sleuths are handcuffed together a la Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll in The 39 Steps.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Mapping Sherlock Holmes.

Violet Smith pursued in "The
Solitary Cyclist." Detail from
the Sherlock Holmes
Mystery Map (1987).
One of the treasures accessible online via Recollection Wisconsin is the "Sherlock Holmes Mystery Map" (1987) created by Jim Wolnick and Susan Lewis and published by Aaron Blake Publishers. Complete with a "Dancing Men" border, it provides a visual guide to 130 locales in the Holmes canon.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A 2001 flashback with Ed McBain.

WYSO's The Book Nook recently rebroadcast Vick Mickunas's 2001 interview with Ed McBain (aka Evan Hunter, 1926–2005) that coincided with the release of McBain's 87th Precinct novel Money, Money, Money. Mickunas describes it as one of his favorite interviews. In addition to Money, Money, Money, McBain discusses The Blackboard Jungle (the first Hunter novel), Cop Hater (the first McBain novel), The Chisholms (a Western), and Candyland (the innovative novel with the double byline of McBain and Hunter). He also talks about growing up in New York City, visiting the Apollo Theater, and working for the Scott Meredith Literary Agency (including editing P.G. Wodehouse).

Monday, September 19, 2016

Murder in song.

University of Kentucky law professor Richard H. Underwood looks at the real-life cases behind ballads featuring murder in Crime Song: True Crime Stories in Southern Murder Ballads. Individuals covered include Frankie Silver, Frankie Bailey (of Frankie and Johnny fame), Delia Green (of Delia's Gone), and Mary Phagan and Leo Frank (of The Ballad of Mary Phagan).  (Thanks to Law & Humanities blog)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

John le Carre reads from The Pigeon Tunnel.

Via BBC Radio, you can listen to John le Carre reading from his new memoir The Pigeon Tunnel (including an explanation for the title and the intersections of his life between real-life espionage and fiction):

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Happy 80th birthday, Peter Lovesey.

Peter Lovesey—story consultant for the TV mystery series Rosemary & Thyme as well as creator of Victorian detective Sergeant Cribb; present-day detective Peter Diamond; and hapless, would-be detective Bertie, Prince of Wales—turns 80 today. His latest novel is Another One Goes Tonight. He appears in this CBS Sunday Morning tribute to P. D. James.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Heartbeat (1946).

Adolphe Menjou and Ginger Rogers in Heartbeat (1946)
In Heartbeat (dir. Sam Wood), Ginger Rogers flees reform school for tutoring at Basil Rathbone's school for pickpockets. She is caught in mid-theft by Adolphe Menjou, who compels her to steal a watch from diplomat Jean-Pierre Aumont, as Menjou is suspicious of Aumont's relationship with his wife. Further complications ensue as Ginger is threatened with a return to the reformatory.

Monday, September 05, 2016

More on Conan Doyle and spiritualism.

Arthur Conan Doyle. Library of
Congress, Prints & Photos Div.
New in the journal ELT (English Literature in Transition, 1880–1920) is Angela Fowler's discussion of the post-World War I career of Arthur Conan Doyle, examining his works dealing with spiritualism (The New Revelation, the Professor Challenger novel The Land of Mist, and the horror novella The Parasite) as well as considering his belief in spiritualism in a global context.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Conflict (1945).

Alexis Smith, Sydney Greenstreet, and Humphrey Bogart
in Conflict
In Conflict Humphrey Bogart plots the perfect murder of his wife (Rose Hobart) and courts her sister (Alexis Smith), but psychiatrist Sydney Greenstreet is skeptical of Bogart's version of his wife's death.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Clues 34.2:
Webb, Woollcott, and actuarial detection.

The vol. 34, no. 2 issue of Clues (2016) has just been published and can be ordered from McFarland. The issue is also on Nook and Google Play.

The following are abstracts for the issue.

Probability and Capital Crime: 

The Rise and Fall of Actuarial Detection in Victorian Crime Fiction
CHERYL B. PRICE (University of North Alabama)
The author examines the influence of life assurance on early detective fiction. Actuarial detectives in Charles Dickens’s “Hunted Down” (1859) and life assurance influenced both the language and methodology of later fictional detectives, and the life assurance profession impeded detection in Charles Warren Adams’s The Notting Hill Mystery (1865).

Making Crime Pay: 
Alexander Woollcott, the Algonquin Round Table, and the Aesthetics of Crime Fiction
MARY LOUISE REKER (Library of Congress)
Between the two world wars New York theater critic Alexander Woollcott was deeply enamored of crime writing. He corresponded with both U.S. and British crime writers and promoted their work through his columns and broadcasts. Woollcott also wrote a regular column for the New Yorker, whose founding editor, Harold Ross, encouraged the writer Edmund Wilson to challenge Woollcott’s crime fiction aesthetic.

Policing the Crime Drama:
Radio Noir, Dragnet, and Jack Webb’s Maladjusted Text
JEFF OUSBORNE (Suffolk University)
The links between film noir and “radio noir” crime drama remain largely unexamined. The author explores the relationship between Jack Webb’s early radio-noir mystery program Pat Novak, for Hire and his work on the semi-documentary police procedural Dragnet. The programs suggest the porous borders of film, radio, and television, which together shed light on aesthetic, thematic, generic, and cultural shifts in the development of noir and procedural drama across different media.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"Deception" (with Linda Darnell and Trevor Howard, 1956).

Linda Darnell, ca. 1940
Based on the Alec Waugh Esquire story "A Small Back Room in St. Marylebone," this episode of the 20th Century-Fox Hour features a British plot to misdirect the Nazis through the capture of an Allied agent and the agent divulging information under torture. It is agent Linda Darnell's job to choose the person for the mission. Of course, the agent selected (Trevor Howard) cannot be informed about the real mission and the falsity of his information, so he ultimately believes that he is a traitor. John Williams and Alan Napier costar.

A later incarnation of the Waugh story is Circle of Deception (1960) with Bradford Dillman and Suzy Parker (later real-life spouses).

Monday, August 22, 2016

The female heist film.

In the spring 2016 issue of Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, Aya de Leon provides an interesting discussion of the female heist film, stating "women's heist narratives are comparatively rare" and outlining characteristics of male-centered heist films versus ones with female characters. She mentions How to Beat the High Cost of Living (1980), Set It Off (1996), Bound (1996), Sugar & Spice (2001), Demi Moore in Flawless (2007), Mad Money (2008), and the TV series Leverage (2008–12). However, some might point out omissions that have important female characters such as The Big Caper (1957) and Modesty Blaise (1966). (Thanks to the latest issue of Feminist Periodicals for bringing this article to my attention.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Shed No Tears (1948).

June Vincent in
Shed No Tears
In Shed No Tears, a couple (Wallace Ford and June Vincent) collude to fake the husband's death for the life insurance payout, but little does the husband know of his wife's plans for the money. The film is based on the novel of the same name by screenwriter Don Martin (1948), with a screenplay by Brown Holmes (The Maltese Falcon, 1931) and Virginia Cook (Lassie).

Monday, August 15, 2016

"Twelve Angry Men" by LA Theatre Works.

LA Theatre Works, which nabbed the 2015 Audie Award for Audio Drama with its production of The Hound of the Baskervilles, has a past program of interest to mystery fans on its SoundCloud channel: a production of Reginald Rose's juror drama Twelve Angry Men (1954) featuring actors such as Hector Elizondo, Robert Foxworth, and Joe Spano. It was directed by John de Lancie (Star Trek: The Next Generation, etc.), and he can be heard on the program as the judge in the case.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

"Blind Spot" (w/Charles Bronson, 1958).

Charles Bronson, the
man with a camera
The TV series Man with a Camera (1958–60) starred Charles Bronson as a former combat photographer freelancing in New York and getting involved in crime-related cases. In "Blind Spot" (1958) he looks into the murder of a friend and fellow photographer in Lisbon. The screenwriter is Donn Mullally (Mr. and Mrs. North; 87th Precinct; Richard Diamond, Private Detective); F Troop's Frank DeKova appears in a supporting role.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Edgar Wallace's PC Lee on BBC's Radio 4 Extra.

Edgar Wallace, from
Wallace's My Hollywood
Diary (1932)
"England," said Police Constable Lee presently, "is the home of the free, an' the half-way house to liberty." (Wallace, "Pear-Drops" 1909)
This week, BBC Radio 4 Extra is airing stories featuring Edgar Wallace's London police constable P. C. Lee (1909). Actor Toby Jones stars, and the production company is Greenlit, which is responsible for Foyle's War.

The P. C. Lee stories can be found at this Web site; the ones noted below with an asterisk are the BBC Radio 4 Extra episodes:

• "Mr. Simmons' Profession"*
• "Change"
• "A Man of Note"*
• "A Case for Angel, Esquire"* (aka "The Inspector Gets a Brainwave" and "The Impossible Theft")
• "For Jewey's Laggin"
• "Pear-Drops"
• "How He Lost His Moustache"*
• "Sergeant Run-a-Mile"*
• "The Sentimental Burglar"
• "Contempt"
ยช "Confidence"
• "Fireless Telegraphy"
• "The General Practitioner"
• "The Snatchers"*
• "The Gold Mine"
• "Mouldy the Scrivener"
• "Mrs. Flindin's Lodger"
• "The Derby Favourite"
• "The Story of a Great Cross-Examination"
• "Tanks"
• "The Silence of P.-C. Hirley"
• "The Power of the Eye"
• "The Convict's Daughter"
• "The Last Adventure"

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

The Fat Man, 1951.

J. Scott Smart
Based on a radio character created by Dashiell Hammett that has been described as a cross between the Thin Man and the Continental Op, The Fat Man features J. Scott Smart as private detective Brad Runyon, who looks into the murder of a dentist. The film is directed by William Castle, and its costars include Rock Hudson, Julie London, Jayne Meadows, Emmett Kelly, and Jerome Cowan.

Monday, August 01, 2016

The Armed Services editions and mysteries.

Cover of Armed Services edition
of Rex Stout's Not Quite Dead
I just finished Molly Guptill Manning's When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II, which provides a lively and often poignant discussion of the importance to service members of the Armed Services editions in World War II. They were produced to be sturdy, lightweight, and sized for a pocket, and the Council on Books in Wartime, in charge of the effort, tried to supply a book "to fit the tastes of every man" (79). (One of the council's members was Farrar & Rinehart's Stanley Rinehart, son of Mary Roberts Rinehart). The council printed more than 123 million copies of Armed Services editions.

To mention a few mystery-related elements in the book:
  • One of the authors listed as banned in Germany:
    G. K. Chesterton
  • "The most popular genre was contemporary fiction . . . followed by historical novels, mysteries, books of humor, and westerns" (79–80).

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Huxley's "The Gioconda Smile" (radio, 1945).

Charles Boyer and Ann Blyth in
A Woman's Vengeance (1948)
There have been several film, TV, play, and radio versions of "The Gioconda Smile" (1921) by Aldous Huxley, who was born today in Surrey in 1894. "The Gioconda Smile," listed as one of the best mystery short stories of all time, was adapted as the film A Woman's Vengeance (1948) with Charles Boyer and a 1950 play with Basil Rathbone. The story involves a man who faces questions after the death of his wife and his marriage to a much younger woman. This 1945 radio version is from the Molle Mystery Theater.

Monday, July 25, 2016

UCLA celebrates the films of Kirk Douglas.

Kirk Douglas and Eleanor Parker
in Detective Story (1951)
The UCLA Film & Television Archive is marking Kirk Douglas's upcoming 100th birthday in December with showings of Douglas films through Sept. 30. They include Posse and Tough Guys (Aug 14), Lonely Are the Brave and Strangers When We Meet (Aug 20; the latter written by Evan Hunter), and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers and Out of the Past (Sept. 18).