Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Happy birthday, G. K. Chesterton.

Renaissance man G. K. Chesterton---poet, critic, newspaper columnist, playwright, theologian, Detection Club member, and creator of that gentle but wise sleuth Father Brown---was born today in 1874. He died in 1936.

The 26th annual Chesterton Conference, scheduled for June 14-16 at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, will celebrate the 100th anniversary of The Man Who Was Thursday. Go here for the Mercury Theater radio production of The Man Who Was Thursday. Read Chesterton's comments about the novel here.

The Chesterton University decal comes from the American Chesterton Society. You can get it and a number of other Chesterton products here.

"The first essential value of the detective story lies in this, that it is the earliest and only form of popular literature in which is expressed some sense of the poetry of modern life."--G. K. Chesterton, "A Defence of Detective Stories," The Defendant (1901)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Happy birthday, Dashiell Hammett and Tony Hillerman.

Two major mystery birthdays to celebrate today: Dashiell Hammett would have turned 113 (he died in 1961), and gentlemanly Oklahoman Tony Hillerman turns 82.

In light of tomorrow's Memorial Day, we should remember that Hammett served in both World War I (as an ambulance driver, until he contracted tuberculosis) and World War II and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery; and Hillerman earned the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Purple Heart during his army service in World War II. Hillerman talks about his time in the army and his career as journalist and mystery author in his fine memoir Seldom Disappointed.

Go here for a Webcast of a Library of Congress lecture by Richard Layman, a trustee of the Hammett estate and author of Shadow Man, on the 75th anniversary of The Maltese Falcon; and here is a Webcast from the 2002 National Book Festival with Hillerman.

Friday, May 25, 2007

It was a dark and stormy night...

Edward Bulwer Lytton (1st Baron Lytton) was born today in 1803. He died in 1873. Friend of Dickens and Collins (Dickens and Collins first met when they appeared in a Bulwer Lytton play), he had a fruitful literary career, but is now mostly known for the contest that celebrates bad writing (go here to see the 2006 winners [?] in the detective fiction category).

However, according to Lucy Sussex's article coming up in the fall issue of CLUES, Bulwer Lytton made several significant contributions to the mystery field, including Pelham (1828) and Night and Morning (1841).

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Happy birthday, Francine Mathews.

Thriller author and former CIA analyst Francine Mathews, who also moonlights as Stephanie Barron, turns 44 today. Visitors to the Spy Museum in Washington, DC, can see her in a film about modern-day espionage.

To hear Francine and I chat about her World War II novel The Alibi Club; her Jane Austen mysteries as Barron; and a forthcoming, non-Austen novel called A Flaw in the Blood, go here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Happy birthday, Arthur Conan Doyle.

Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes and the bull-like Professor Challenger, was born today in 1859. He died in 1930.

For all things Sherlockian, go here. Valancourt Books has recently reprinted Conan Doyle's Round the Red Lamp, his collection of medical short stories.

And things are beginning to look up for Undershaw, Conan Doyle's home during the writing of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Happy birthday, Margery Allingham.

Margery Allingham, the creator of mysterious sleuth Albert Campion, was born today in 1904. She died in 1966.

You can read appreciations of her work in Margery Allingham: 100 Years of a Great Mystery Writer and the fall 2004 issue of Clues: A Journal of Detection, which was a theme issue on the occasion of her centenary (including an article on Allingham as book reviewer). Felony & Mayhem Press is reprinting the Campion works, and information on the Campion TV series starring Peter Davison may be found here.

I'm a particular fan of The Oaken Heart (1941), which is Allingham's penetrating account of the effect of World War II on her village, including the residents' caring for war refugees.

Stay tuned for the summer issue of Clues, which will include an article on Allingham's short stories.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Happy birthday, Jim Lehrer and Paul Erdman.

Jim Lehrer, anchorman of PBS' The News Hour with Jim Lehrer and mystery author, turns 73 today. He'll have a new novel out in October, Eureka.

Paul Erdman, Edgar winner for The Billion-Dollar Sure Thing and former inmate of a Swiss jail, would have been 75 today (he died last month).

Friday, May 18, 2007

Lloyd Alexander, R.I.P.

Today's Washington Post brought sad news about Lloyd Alexander, 83, who died yesterday from cancer. Alexander's books about Taran, an assistant pigkeeper who yearns for adventure, are must reads for children and young adults who like fantasy novels and the quest theme. He won the Newbery Medal for The High King, the fifth in the series.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Dead Side of the Mike.

With a tip of the hat to Simon Brett, I regret to announce that I'm signing off of my radio show It's a Mystery. The last program will be May 21st with Roberta Isleib plus "The Bruce-Partington Plans" with John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson as Holmes and Watson.

It's a Mystery was my attempt to apply my past experience as a WMUC newscaster to capture the varied voices of mysterydom (often ones that found it difficult to garner media attention), bring back gems of mystery radio theater, and play themes from mystery-related films and TV programs. For more than two years, I've interviewed many authors, including Julie Smith, Robert B. Parker, and Foyle's War creator Anthony Horowitz. Alas, with various publishing commitments and a posse of friends who are prodding me to finish my novel, I just can't keep up with the workload that a quality program demands.

The audio archive for It's a Mystery will remain online for the foreseeable future, and there are a few interviews that will be posted after they are edited. The number of hits on the archived interviews from around the world has been heartening.

Thank you, loyal listeners, for your support. I hope to continue some features of It's a Mystery through my blog The Bunburyist, such as the occasional mystery radio production.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy belated birthday, Leslie Charteris.

Leslie Charteris, the creator of "The Saint," that "Robin Hood of modern crime," was born on May 12, 1907, making this year his 100th birthday. He died in 1993.

The Saint, aka Simon Templar, was played on radio by Brian Aherne, Vincent Price, and George Sanders's brother Tom Conway but probably most memorably by a pre-James Bond Roger Moore on television in the 1960s.

For a fun retrospective of the Saint logo, go here.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Guests for Malice Domestic XX.

Well, I was waiting for Malice Domestic Ltd. to update its Web site, but as the emails are starting to roll in from various and sundry well wishers, I'll now list the guests for Malice Domestic XX in 2008:

Guest of Honor: Charlaine Harris
Toastmaster: Daniel Stashower
International Guest of Honor: Lindsey Davis
Lifetime Achievement Award: Peter Lovesey
Poirot Award: Janet Hutchings (EQMM); Linda Landrigan (AHMM)
Fan Guests of Honor: Elizabeth Foxwell; Ron and Jean McMillen

For those who might not know, Ron and Jean ran for eons the Mystery Bookshop in Bethesda, Maryland, and were founding directors of Malice (like me).

It's a mighty distinguished crowd, and I'm honored to be a part of it.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Spring 07 Clues published.

The spring 2007 Clues: A Journal of Detection has been published and is a special theme issue devoted to Margaret Millar (Edgar winner, Beast in View; author, How Like an Angel, Beyond This Point Are Monsters, etc.; wife of Ross Macdonald). The issue is guest edited by Dean James.

The issue includes the following articles:
  • The Literary Lives of Margaret Millar and Ross Macdonald - Tom Nolan
  • From Detective Fiction to Detective Literature: Psychology in the Novels of Dorothy L. Sayers and Margaret Millar - Kelly C. Connelly
  • Review Essay: Margaret Millar in Print - Dean James
  • The "Same Old Same Old": Gender and Race in Margaret Maron's Deborah Knott Series - Caren J. Town
For further details about the issue, go here.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Happy birthday, Orson Welles.

Writer, actor, director, producer, and all-around genius Orson Welles was born today in 1915. He died in 1985.

Monday's "It's a Mystery" will air two Wellesian radio performances: as Lamont Cranston, aka "The Shadow," from 1937, and as con artist Harry Lime from 1952. "It's a Mystery" airs at 11 AM ET and is Webcast here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Spring Mystery Scene

The latest Mystery Scene, which has an interview with Ian Rankin, also includes my article on Rosemary and Thyme, which features Pam Ferris (below at left) and Felicity Kendal as sleuthing gardeners. The TV series is now showing on PBS.

Go here to hear an excerpt from the wonderful theme (based on "Scarborough Fair," composed by Christopher Gunning, and performed by classical guitarist John Williams).