Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy birthday, Helen Eustis.

Helen Eustis, best known for the Edgar-winning academic mystery The Horizontal Man (1946), was born today in Cincinnati in 1916. She followed up The Horizontal Man with The Fool Killer (1954; film 1965), about an ax murderer, and a collection of short stories, The Captains and the Kings Depart (1949). One story, "A Winter's Tale," appeared in EQMM in April 1986. She also was known for her work as a translator and for a children's book, Mr. Death and the Redheaded Woman (1983).

Eustis was the second wife of Smith poet-professor Alfred Young Fisher (whose first wife was M.F.K. Fisher); versions of him and fellow professor Newton Arvin appear in The Horizontal Man.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mark Twain on galleys and mysteries.

Mark Twain to author-editor-critic William Dean Howells, June 28, 1884:
My days are given up to cursings—both loud and deep—for I am reading the H. Finn proofs. They don't make a great many mistakes; but those that do occur are of a nature to make a man curse his teeth loose. (Mark Twain-Howells Letters 493)
(For examples of Twain's spoofs of the mystery genre, read the Conan Doyle-inspired "A Double-Barreled Detective Story," 1902, and "The Stolen White Elephant," 1882.)

Monday, December 29, 2008

The used book business.

Today the Washington Post profiles Chuck Roberts's Wonder Book and Video in Frederick, Maryland, which does an increasingly large part of its business via the Internet. I'm acquainted with Chuck, who is a thoroughly nice guy.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Conan Doyle's Round the Red Lamp burns bright in 2008.

Among the top 10 sellers in 2008 for Kansas City-based publisher Valancourt Books is Arthur Conan Doyle's Round the Red Lamp, the collection of his medically themed short stories first published in 1894 that includes "Lot No. 249," in which a rather active mummy stalks a medical student.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Doctor Who meets Agatha Christie.

The good doctor (David Tennant) is the latest to attempt to explain Agatha Christie's 1926 disappearance in "The Unicorn and the Wasp," tonight's episode of Doctor Who on BBC America.

Friday, December 26, 2008

"I Want to Hold Your Hand," 45 years old today.

Over on the Oxford University Press blog, Gordon Thompson, author of Please Please Me: Sixties British Pop, Inside Out, talks about the release of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "I Saw Her Standing There" on December 26, 1963.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

P. G. Wodehouse, mystery fan.

The creator of Jeeves and Wooster was a mystery fan, according to Michael Dirda:
Wodehouse aimed to be an entertainer, bowed to editorial judgment as meekly as any novice, and himself admired pros of prose like Agatha Christie, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Henry Slessar (who wrote his beloved Edge of Night soap opera).—Bound to Please (New York: Norton, 2005) 218.
I'm sure Dirda actually meant the late sci-fi and mystery writer Henry Slesar; Slesar's Murder at Heartbreak Hospital is in print with Academy Chicago Publishers.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sayers's The Man Born to Be King.

The landmark The Man Born to Be King—plays on the life of Christ written by Dorothy L. Sayers and produced by Val Gielgud—starts on Christmas day on BBC Radio 7. Go here for the schedule or to listen.

Monday, December 22, 2008

E. B. White on publishing and New Year's resolutions.

This is the 500th post on The Bunburyist.

From E. B. White, Writings from The New Yorker 1927–1976, ed. Rebecca M. Dale, New York: Harper, 1990. 12, 63.
The doctors are wondering whether there is some special property in turtle blood that keeps the arteries from hardening. ... But there is also the possibility that a turtle's blood vessels stay in nice shape because of the way turtles conduct their lives. ... No two turtles ever lunched together with the idea of promoting anything. No turtle ever went around complaining that there is no profit in book publishing except from the subsidiary rights. ("Turtle Blood Bank," The New Yorker, January 31, 1953)

... [W]e shall resolve not to overwrite in the new year... ("Orthodoxy," The New Yorker, December 30, 1950)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Agatha Christie this week on BBC Radio 7.

Agatha Christie's The Sittaford Mystery (also known in the United States as The Murder at Hazelmoor), in which a seance at Christmastime reveals a murder, is featured this week on BBC Radio 7. Go here for the schedule or to listen.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Herb Alpert and friends, online.

The UCLA Music Library has selected some materials from its recently acquired A&M Records Collection and placed them in this online exhibit; images include album cover art and photos of label founders Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, Karen and Richard Carpenter, Peter Frampton, George Harrison, Cat Stevens, and the Tijuana Brass.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dracula nets $23,000.

At Sotheby's on December 17th, a rare signed first edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula went for £15,000. Letters from sailor Arthur Jewell, who survived both the sinking of the Titanic and her sister ship Brittanic, netted £17,500. Other items sold include a first edition of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World (£2000) and a Beatrix Potter watercolor from 1890 (£39,650).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mary Astor, writer.

Her image as the scheming Brigid O'Shaughnessy in John Huston's version of The Maltese Falcon is indelibly burned into our consciousness, but the Neglected Books blog discusses in fascinating detail Astor's The Incredible Charlie Carewe (1960), which features a Ted Bundyesque prototype, and some of her other novels.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Great Books?

There's various pieces around the Internet pertaining to Alex Beam's A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books, which describes the impact of the Great Books of Western Civilization series (essentially works by dead white men). They were selected by University of Chicago academics in the middle of the twentieth century.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Spy.

The International Spy Museum in DC holds regular "SpyCasts" with cloak-and-dagger guests; recent podcasts feature Milt Bearden, a former CIA station chief; Jonna Hiestand Mendez, a former head of the CIA's Office of Technical Services (which develops gadgets, among other things); and Tony Mendez, who extracted six Americans from Iran with the help of the Canadian Embassy during the 1979 hostage crisis.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Helping nonprofits during the holidays.

Often, people wish to donate to nonprofit organizations in the name of a loved one during the holiday season. Here is my short list of possibilities:
AmeriCares. Delivers medical supplies to disaster areas around the world. I like its attention to accountability in its regular reports on the use of funds and the low amount spent on overhead.

BGSU's Ray and Pat Browne Popular Culture Library. One of the leading U.S. collections of mystery, sci fi, and other genres.

ProLiteracy. Teaches adults to read and publishes literacy resources, among other activities related to reading.

Orchard House, home of Louisa May Alcott. Preserves the home of the Alcotts, runs educational programs, assists scholars.

Reading Is Fundamental. Providers of the gift of reading to underprivileged children and their families for nearly 45 years.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Buchan and Foxwell, continued.

I like the fact that John Buchan Road intersects with Foxwell Drive in Oxford...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Greene, others see green in London's Bloomsbury auction.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Bloomsbury's Dec 11-12th auction in London garnered £280 (approximately US$419) for a signed copy of Graham Greene's The Third Man, a first edition of Ian Fleming's Live and Let Die earned £3400 (approximately US$5,082), a first edition of Dick Francis's Nerve sold for £260 (approximately US$389), and Ngaio Marsh's Died in the Wool went for a mere £20 (approximately US$30). In addition, a first edition of Greene's England Made Me, with cover art by Margery Allingham's husband Philip Youngman Carter, was sold for £10,000 (approximately US$14,950).

Also in the auction was the Crime Library of Jonathan Goodman, which included F. Tennyson Jesse's Murder and Its Motives with the author's pencil corrections, which garnered £320 (approximately US$478).

Friday, December 12, 2008

Conan Doyle does nicely, Poe less so, at Bloomsbury auction.

The December 10th Bloomsbury auction of rare books and manuscripts garnered $2200 for a 1902 first edition of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Unfortunately, a manuscript of Poe's poem "Lady Irene," valued at between $100,000 and $200,000, went unsold.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Maigret on BBC Radio 7.

Coming up on Friday on BBC Radio 7... Inspector Maigret is featured in A Man's Head, followed by The Bar on the Seine, My Friend Maigret, and Madame Maigret's Own Case. Also airing is G. K. Chesterton's fevered The Man Who Was Thursday. Go here for the schedule or to listen

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Clues 26.4 published

Vol. 26, no. 4 of Clues: A Journal of Detection has been published. A list of the articles and reviews follows below; go here for the article abstracts, or here for more information about the journal.
Investigating Domestic Disorder: Harriet Prescott Spofford's Detectives
Karen J. Jacobsen (Valdosta State U, Georgia)

The "Test of Feminine Investigation" in Baroness Orczy's Lady Molly of Scotland Yard Stories
Ellen Burton Harrington (U of South Alabama)

Tijuana the American Town: Images of the Corrupt City in Hammett's "The Golden Horseshoe"
J. A. Zumoff (City College of New York)

Feline, not Canine: The Rise of the Female Arch-Villain in the 1940s Sherlock Holmes Films from Universal
Amanda J. Field (U of Southampton, UK)

The Phenomenology of Noir Perception: Dorothy B. Hughes's In a Lonely Place and Cornell Woolrich's I Married a Dead Man
William Brevda (Central Michigan U)

REVIEWS
Mary W. Tannert and Henry Kratz, eds. and trans. Early German and Austrian Detective Fiction: An Anthology
Gundela Hachmann

David Geherin. Scene of the Crime: The Importance of Place in Crime and Mystery Fiction
Rachel Schaffer

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

John Buchan companion published (ed. Foxwell).

Just in time for the holidays, I'm pleased to announce that John Buchan: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction has been published by McFarland & Co., the first in a mystery companion series that I am editing for the publisher. The author is Kate Macdonald, former editor of the John Buchan Journal and an English professor at the University of Ghent in Belgium.

The pride of Scotland, Buchan (aka Baron Tweedsmuir, 1875–1940) is best known for The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) that introduced intrepid hero Richard Hannay, but he wore so many hats that we look like lazy bums by comparison: biographer; journalist; poet; Boer War civil servant; British intelligence officer during World War I; member of Parliament; governor-general of Canada; fan of E. Phillips Oppenheim; friend of T. E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia); and writer of children's books, historical fiction, paranormal works, and thrillers. Moreover, he accomplished all this while suffering from painful stomach ulcers for most of his life. I am heartened by the increasing numbers of people I learn about who admire his work (such as Michael Dibdin).

The McFarland Companions to Mystery Fiction series is an effort to provide solid reference works on often neglected and significant authors in the field.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sara Paretsky this week on BBC Radio 7.

V. I. Warshawski is featured this week on BBC Radio 7 in "Deadlock" and "A Hero's Death." Go here for the schedule or to listen.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Fie on you, dastardling.

Over on the Oxford University Press blog, writer Mark Peters is championing the adoption of words that seem to have gone out of fashion.

I can see a whole slew of authors adopting "vilipendious pig-dog."

Friday, December 05, 2008

"New" author discoveries.

As J. Kingston Pierce tagged me over on The Rap Sheet for my author discoveries in 2008, I list some of them below, albeit with the caveat that this year, I made a concerted effort to read books I'd heard about as must-reads without regard to their original release date.
  • Nicholas Blake, Thou Shell of Death. A sad but splendid mystery that deals with the aftermath of World War I, written by the pseudonymous British poet laureate Cecil Day Lewis.
  • James Gould Cozzens, The Just and the Unjust. A wise and penetrating novel by a Pulitzer Prize winner on how a murder trial affects the residents of a small Pennsylvania town, in both political and personal terms.
  • Helen Eustis,The Horizontal Man. Although its once ground-breaking twist ending may not surprise modern readers, this roman à clef about Smith College by a friend of Carson McCullers is still a terrific read.
  • Frances [Newbold] Noyes Hart, The Bellamy Trial. Based on the Hall-Mills murder case that also inspired Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, this accomplished novel by a relative of Edith Wharton portrays the circus atmosphere of a sensational trial through the eyes of witnesses and journalists, including the myriad ways in which circumstances may not be what they seem.
And an entry in nonfiction:
  • Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. A wrenching look by the president of Harvard at how the survivors on both sides of the Civil War dealt with the impact of more than a half-million casualties—particularly appropriate in this CSI age as to the efforts to identify and repatriate remains. (Go here for a Faust presentation at the National Archives.)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Panel, "Dashiell Hammett—in L.A.?"

As part of the Zócalo Public Square Lecture series at the Los Angeles Public Library, you can now listen to "Dashiell Hammett—in L.A.?," which focuses on Hammett's L.A. influences. The panel is moderated by David Kipen, director of literature at the National Endowment for the Arts.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Penguin holiday sets.

Let the holiday shopping begin... Penguin is offering a free poster with its Sherlock Holmes, gothic, adventure, and Philip Marlowe sets of books. The adventure set includes John Buchan's The 39 Steps and Greenmantle.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Does Betteredge know?

Emory University opened its new collection of nearly 700 Robinson Crusoe editions recently.

If only Gabriel Betteredge of Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone knew...

(Hat tip to Shelf Life.)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lindsey Davis this week on BBC Radio 7.

Lindsey Davis's "Sam Spade in a toga," Marcus Didius Falco, is featured on BBC Radio 7 this week in Shadows in Bronze. Click here for the schedule or to listen.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pimp my bookcart 2008.

The winners of this year's Pimp My Bookcart competition are up at Unshelved. I like the fire engine.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Erle Stanley Gardner on editors.

"Erle declared that when authors 'temporarily down on their luck' came in steady streams to borrow money, the dog would wag his tail in ecstatic greeting. But the minute an honest-to-God editor came, the dog bit him." --Dorothy B. Hughes, Erle Stanley Gardner: The Case of the Real Perry Mason 185

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Canadian pulp fiction.

The Library and Archives Canada has a neat online exhibition, "Tales from the Vault: Canadian Pulp Fiction, 1940-1952."

About the artwork: Dare-Devil Detective Stories 2. 1 (Aug. 1942). Library and Archives Canada/Rare Books/Pulp Art collection/ Dare-devil detective stories, vol. 2, no. 1 (August 1942)/Box 4

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mystery-related photos in Life photo archive, Google.

You can now search the Life magazine photo archive on Google. When I typed "mystery" into the search box, photos of Mignon G. Eberhart (1960), Harry Stephen Keeler (1947), Mickey Spillane (1952), Rex Stout (1960), and Charlton Heston in a 1949 TV mystery production were some of the results that popped up. There also are several photos of author Craig Rice.

(Hat tip to the AHA blog.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

George C. Chesbro (1940-2008)

I was saddened to learn of the November 18th death of George C. Chesbro, creator of sleuth and ex-circus performer Mongo Frederickson. The first fan letter I ever wrote was to Chesbro, after I had read the superb Shadow of a Broken Man (1977), and I still remember (and kept for years) the kind postcard he wrote in response. I believe I was about 14 years old at the time. He was a class act.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Puzzling it out at the Lilly Library.

Over at Indiana University's Lilly Library, there's an exhibition on mechanical puzzles from the Jerry Slocum Mechanical Puzzle Collection, and you can see some samples from the collection here.

The Lilly Library also offers online exhibitions on Sherlock Holmes and Ian Fleming.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Helen McCloy/MWA Scholarship for Mystery Writing.

If you know someone working on mystery fiction, nonfiction, plays, or screenplays in a writing program, urge him or her to apply for the Helen McCloy/MWA Scholarship for Mystery Writing. This scholarship, which I proposed while I was serving on the board of directors of Mystery Writers of America, is intended to encourage the next generation of mystery writers. As someone who benefited from the encouragement of English and journalism instructors, I think tangible support is crucial in the often tough world of writing, and we must attend to fostering the next generation of mystery readers and writers if the genre is to maintain its vitality.

Two scholarships of US$500 each are awarded each year. The deadline for applications is February 28, 2009. For further details, go here.

The scholarship is named for writer, editor, agent, and publisher Helen McCloy, creator of sleuthing psychiatrist Basil Willing and an MWA Grand Master. Once married to author Davis Dresser (one incarnation of Brett Halliday), McCloy was a relative of John J. McCloy, who advised presidents from FDR to Reagan.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wilkie Collins this week on BBC Radio 7.

Wilkie Collins's No Name (1862), in which a daughter discovers her illegitimacy and other family skeletons, is featured this week on BBC Radio 7. Go here for the schedule or to listen.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dick Francis on BBC Radio 7.

Dick Francis's Enquiry will air on Saturday, November 15, on BBC Radio 7. Click here for the schedule or to listen.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy birthday, Anna Katharine Green.

Anna Katharine Green—a pioneering and hugely popular mystery author in her day for numerous works including The Leavenworth Case (1878); The Doctor, His Wife and the Clock (1895); and The Golden Slipper and Other Problems for Violet Strange (1915)—was born today in Brooklyn in 1846. She graduated from Ripley College (VT) in 1866, making her one of the earliest female college graduates in the United States. In 1884, she married actor Charles Rohlfs, who later designed a successful line of furniture.

The Leavenworth Case sold more than a million copies in Green's lifetime and was studied at Yale Law School for its treatment of circumstantial evidence. Green introduced spinster detective Amelia Butterworth in That Affair Next Door (1897), who is often considered a prototype of Christie's Miss Marple. Green died in 1935.

Her son Roland Rohlfs (1892–1974; shown at left) became a test pilot for Curtiss and broke several aviation records.

"Crime must touch our imagination by showing people, like ourselves, but incredibly transformed by some overwhelming motive."—Anna Katharine Green, "Why Human Beings Are Interested in Crime," American Magazine 87 (Feb. 1919): 3839, 8286. Qtd. in Barbara Ryan, "Anna Katharine Green," Nineteenth-Century American Fiction Writers. Detroit: Gale, 1999.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Andrew Greeley injured.

Author Andrew Greeley, 80, best known for his Blackie Ryan novels, has been injured in a fall and is currently listed in critical condition. Further details here.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Technical difficulties.

The Bunburyist is on hiatus until my DSL service is restored sometime next week.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A 1921 murder at Syracuse University;
Pan Am Flight 103.

In "SU in the Headlines," Syracuse University remembers Dean John Herman Wharton, who was shot and killed by Prof. Holmes Beckwith on April 2, 1921; Wharton had just fired Beckwith. After shooting Wharton, Beckwith killed himself. Rumors of ghostly gunshots circulated around campus years later.

Syracuse also remembers Pan Am Flight 103 after 20 years (Syracuse, with one of the largest study abroad programs in London, lost 35 individuals over Lockerbie, Scotland, in the bombing of the flight).

Monday, November 03, 2008

Take ice cream, plus one B-17...

American ingenuity in World War II:
According to a 1943 New York Times article . . . American airmen stationed in Britain "place prepared ice-cream mixture in a large can and anchor it to the rear gunner's compartment of a Flying Fortress. It is well shaken up and nicely frozen by flying over enemy territory at high altitudes." — Anne Fadiman, "Ice Cream," At Large and At Small 56
From what I heard about the average temperature inside my father's B-24 (aka "Willie the Wolf"), I believe it.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Daphne du Maurier, John Creasey,
James Sallis this week on BBC Radio 7.

This week, BBC Radio 7 features Daphne du Maurier's The House on the Strand, John Creasey's detective The Toff, and James Sallis's The Eye of the Cricket. Go here for the schedule or to listen.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Archaeologist Shuman's new suspense standalone.

Contract archaeologist Malcolm Shuman has turned his hand to a suspense standalone, The Levee, issued this month by Academy Chicago Publishers. Shuman has published several archaeological mysteries (sometimes under the name M. K. Shuman), such as Past Dying and The Meriwether Murder.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Audio clips of Sara Paretsky,
Laura Lippman, Valerie Wilson Wesley.

Over at Chicago's Open Books Radio, there is new audio posted from interviews with Sara Paretsky and Laura Lippman by Booklist's Donna Seaman. Other interviews of potential interest include Valerie Wilson Wesley.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Michael Connelly tonight on Thacker Mountain Radio.

Author Michael Connelly appears on Mississippi's Thacker Mountain Radio on WUMS "Rebel Radio" 92.1 tonight at 6 pm CDT; the program will be rebroadcast on Saturday at 7 pm CDT on Mississippi Public Radio.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy birthday, Frederic Brown.

Fredric Brown, Edgar winner for The Fabulous Clipjoint (1947) featuring the sleuthing Ambrose Hunter and his nephew Ed, was born today in Cincinnati in 1906. He was well known for his writings in the pulps, and a few of his works were adapted for the screen: "Madman's Holiday" became the film Crack-up (1946), The Screaming Mimi became a film for Columbia (1958), and "Arena" became an episode of Star Trek. He also wrote for Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"We ain't great. We're just some guys from Jersey."

This week, Overlook Press publishes in paperback P. F. Kluge's Eddie and the Cruisers; this whodunit features the mysterious demise of a charismatic lead singer and the disappearance of studio tapes. It spawned a 1983 film with Michael Paré and Tom Berenger as well as a top 10 single by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band ("On the Dark Side"). Its sequel, Eddie Lives, Kluge calls "a talent-free embarrassment."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy birthday, Enid Bagnold.

Enid Bagnold (aka Lady Roderick Jones) was born today in Rochester, UK, in 1889. Best known for National Velvet (1935), she also wrote poetry and plays such as the Tony-nominated The Chalk Garden (1955). During World War I she was fired from her job as a nurse when she published A Diary without Dates (1918), a moving and sometimes scathing account of her time at the Royal Herbert Hospital, and her service as an ambulance driver for the FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry) is reflected in her novel The Happy Foreigner (1920).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ian Fleming, Daphne du Maurier this week on BBC Radio 7.

Ian Fleming's Casino Royale and Daphne du Maurier's Jamaica Inn are two of the works featured this week on BBC Radio 7. Go here for the schedule or to listen.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Vintage radio commercials, including
"Lucky Beer."

Online at the Library of American Broadcasting at the University of Maryland, you can listen to various audio clips from radio commercials of the late 1950s and early 1960s, such as "Top Value Stamps (1960)—Only 15,000 books get you a split-level ranch house in New Rochelle!" and "Ingram Gasoline (1958)—98 octane! What did people drive in 1958, Indy Cars?"

Friday, October 24, 2008

Jay Gatsby and Lew Archer.

There's an interesting article posted online, "Ross Macdonald's Marked Copy of The Portable F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Study in Influence," by Robert F. Moss. In it, Moss compares and contrasts Jay Gatsby and Lew Archer and the lives of Fitzgerald and Macdonald; he also discusses Macdonald's annotations in The Portable F. Scott Fitzgerald (ed. Dorothy Parker), which suggest that Macdonald was seriously studying the craft of Fitzgerald's writing. The article also includes photographs of two pages of Macdonald's notes.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chandler: Producers have "the morals of a goat."

From the Atlantic archives: a pungent piece by Raymond Chandler, "Writers in Hollywood" (November 1945), in which he discusses the writer's lot in Tinseltown and the atmosphere of a film as "an endless contention of tawdry egos." Wonderful prose.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pulp fiction poster art by students.

The University of Buffalo is featuring a fun online exhibit "Student Poster Art: Pulp Fiction and Pop Culture at UB."

About the photo: 2008 poster by Katherine Muto.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Freeling: Allingham's Tiger in the Smoke is "deplorable trash."

I picked up Nicolas Freeling's Criminal Convictions: Errant Essays on Perpetrators of Literary License (1994), but found little within that I could embrace. Anthony Berkeley Cox's The Poisoned Chocolates Case? "Arid." Dashiell Hammett? "A bad writer." He likes Sayers's Gaudy Night and The Nine Tailors (the latter is called "a sunny, happy work of immense charm"). He is preoccupied throughout with the question of crime and metaphysics, an argument that I found difficult to follow, and likening the writer to an artist or musician. There is a good chapter on Conan Doyle ("Why worry if Doctor Grimesby Roylott—marvellous name—has brought his snake all the way here [and kept it in a safe, poor thing] expressly to bite young girls with financial expectations?"). The estimation of Margery Allingham's The Tiger in the Smoke as "deplorable trash" was the final straw.

I shall have to stick with the grace and thoughtfulness of Michael Gilbert and Vincent Starrett, methinks.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The brave new world of new media.

I thought I'd give new media a whirl, so some of my historical mystery short stories are now available in Sony ebook format:

• Two with Alice Roosevelt Longworth and FDR ("Come Flit by Me," set in TR's White House, and "Alice and the Agent of the Hun," where Alice hunts for a WWI German spy at a home of future Hope Diamond owner Evalyn Walsh McLean)

• Two with Bunbury, my sleuth in a Bath chair ("A Roman of No Importance" and "Lady Windermere's Flan"; to complete the Wildean motif, Mr. Wilde makes an appearance in "No Importance")
• "Keeper of the Flame," which won first prize in the Cape Fear (NC) Crime Festival Short Story Contest and is set in a remote Maine lighthouse

• "Unsinkable," which takes place on the Titanic
More info about the short stories' original print publication here.

I've had a great deal of fun casting Alice Roosevelt (1884–1980) as detective. She was brilliant (her light reading was Greek philosophers), rebellious, politically shrewd, and extremely well connected; she also could handle a gun (thanks to her energetic father). She liked the racetrack and a good game of poker, and her book Crowded Hours (1933, ed. Max Perkins) is interesting reading. I've often wished that she had run for office like her friend Ruth Hanna McCormick, but there were aspects of politics that she found unappealing. She was usually maligned for her cruel imitation of her cousin Eleanor and her less-than-helpful public comments during FDR's administration, but this could be viewed as retaliation for FDR and ER's actions during her half-brother Ted's New York gubernatorial campaign in the 1920s.

About the photo: Alice Roosevelt, ca. 1902. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, reproduction no. LC-USZC2-6251

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A mystery by Oscar Wilde this week on
BBC Radio 7.

Oscar Wilde's "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime," in which Lord Arthur is told that he is destined to be a murderer and thus decides he better get that out of the way, is featured this week on BBC Radio 7. Go here for the schedule or to listen.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New from Crippen and Landru.

Featured on the snazzily redesigned Web site of mystery short story publisher Crippen & Landru:
Two works by locked-room master John Dickson Carr: 13 to the Gallows and Speak of the Devil

The Battles of Jericho by the talented and sorely missed Hugh Pentecost, featuring his formidable artist-sleuth John Jericho (I loved Pentecost's hotel series with the urbane Pierre Chambrun and the Archie Goodwin-like Mark Haskell)
And teasers for C&L goodies yet to come: works by British novelist Phyllis Bentley (best known for Inheritance, 1932), Norbert Davis, Loren Estleman, E. X. Ferrars, Erle Stanley Gardner, and S. J. Rozan, among others.

Friday, October 17, 2008

They live by night: Noir City DC festival.

Sponsored by the Film Noir Foundation at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland, is the Noir City DC series, which runs today through November 5 and features some of the best noir films ever made, such as Detour (1945), Double Indemnity (1944), Kiss of Death (1947), They Live by Night (1948), and Night and the City (1950). Actor Farley Granger will make a special appearance on October 25th. Go here for author Stephen Hunter's take on the festival.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Rex Stout returns to print.

Nero Wolfe fans, rejoice: Bantam has followed up its edition of Rex Stout's Fer-de-Lance with a new edition of Some Buried Caesar (1939) and The Golden Spiders (1953).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New edition of Mertz's Red Land,
Black Land
.

For those who want more historical background on Elizabeth Peters's mysteries in an accessible format, there's a new edition of Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt out from Morrow. Published under the name of Barbara Mertz (Peters's real name), the book illuminates the quotidian details of a fascinating civilization.

Morrow also has issued a revised and expanded edition of Mertz's Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A whale of a tale.

The Massachusetts House of Representatives has passed a bill proposing that Herman Melville's Moby-Dick be named the state's official "epic novel." This is actually a change, as the original proposal called for it to be named the commonwealth's "official book," but the representatives from Salem and Concord objected. Salem is the birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Concord is the hometown of Louisa May Alcott. For the bill to become a law, it needs to pass the state senate and be signed by the governor.

(Hat tip to PhiloBiblos.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Conan Doyle exhibition en route to Japan.

"The Case of the Portsmouth Doctor," an exhibition featuring the collection of noted Sherlockian Richard Lancelyn Green, will be displayed in Maizuru, Japan, from October 18 to November 30. The poster for the exhibition is at left.

The collection is housed at the Portsmouth City Museum in the United Kingdom. To see actor Stephen Fry in a video about the collection, go here. To see highlights from the collection, go here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Nicolas Freeling this week on BBC Radio 7.

Nicolas Freeling's Dutch detective Piet van der Valk investigates in Love in Amsterdam this week on BBC Radio 7. Go here for the schedule or to listen.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Quote for the day.

"The crematorium was an ugly red brick building with vague suggestions of ecclesiasticism about it. The ground near it was taken up with a large car park, and there were many shrubs of the least interesting varieties. Here, if anywhere . . . there should be cypresses, the funeral trees that the Romans dedicated to Pluto because once they are cut they never grow again. Yews would take too long to grow, perhaps, for one could not imagine this public library sort of building becoming an ancient monument that would one day inspire some twenty-fifth century Gray to compose an 'Elegy written in a Country Crematorium.'"

—Leo Bruce [Rupert Croft-Cooke], Death at Hallows End 37

Friday, October 10, 2008

Kate Chopin house destroyed.

A fire has destroyed a Louisiana home once owned by The Awakening author Kate Chopin; it was a national historic landmark. Further details here.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

"The Sherlock Holmes of Saskatchewan."

Among the interesting biographies on the Web site of the Library and Archives Canada: Dr. Frances Gertrude McGill (1877-1959), a pathologist dubbed "The Sherlock Holmes of Saskatchewan" who is considered to be the first female Mountie. Go here to see the unusual uniforms (ca. 1917) of Dr. McGill and her fellow players on the Manitoba Medical Girls Basketball Team.

About the photo: Dr. Frances Gertrude McGill, Library and Archives Canada/Canadian Society of Forensic Science fonds/Accession 1984-223/e008223278

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

50th anniversary DVD, Touch of Evil.

All three versions of Orson Welles's noir film Touch of Evil (1958) appear on a new DVD release from Universal Studios Home Video. Go here for further details.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Simon Templar: Saint or Soldier?

Over on the Great War Fiction blog, George Simmers speculates about the possible wartime service of Leslie Charteris's Simon Templar (aka The Saint) and compares him to Sapper's ex-captain Bulldog Drummond.

About the photo: A Christmas card from The Saint Club.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Happy birthday, H. F. Heard.

Henry Fitzgerald Heard, aka mystery author H. F. Heard, was born today in London in 1889. His A Taste for Honey (1941), featuring a murder by bees and a beekeeper-sleuth named Mr. Mycroft, appears on the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone list of essential mysteries and is scheduled to be reprinted by Blue Dolphin Publishing. Others in the Mr. Mycroft series include Reply Paid (1942) and The Notched Hairpin (1949), both slated for reprinting by Blue Dolphin.

Heard, a friend of Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood, also wrote supernatural works such as The Black Fox (under the name Gerald Heard, 1950).

Sunday, October 05, 2008

More Simon Brett this week on BBC Radio 7.

The first book in Simon Brett's Fethering series, The Body on the Beach, is featured this week on BBC Radio 7. Go here for the schedule or to listen.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Happy centenary, Union Station.

Washington, DC's Union Station celebrates one hundred years this weekend. Go here for further details.

(Hat tip to the AHA blog)

About the photo: Theodore Roosevelt at Union Station, ca. 1918. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, reproduction no. LC-DIG-npcc-00046.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Nobel smackdown.

So Horace Ingdahl of the Nobel committee sniffs that U.S. writers are "too isolated, too insular" to merit Nobel consideration? Quoth Harold Augenbraum, the head of the National Book Foundation: "Put him in touch with me, and I'll send him a reading list."

Toni Morrison, Saul Bellow, and John Steinbeck are three of the past U.S. recipients, and I seem to recall that Philip Roth has been a bridesmaid several times.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

My review of The September Society by Charles Finch, Mystery Scene.

My latest occasional review for Mystery Scene appears in the fall issue: Charles Finch's The September Society, the follow-up to the Agatha-nominated A Beautiful Blue Death.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Olsson's bookstores shut their doors.

Olsson's, one of the oldest independent bookstore chains in the Washington, DC, area, has shut its doors, citing low revenue and increasing debt. Earlier in the year, Olsson's had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

It's a sad day in Washington, for browsers could always find books and music in Olsson's that they could not find anywhere else. It was particularly strong in books published by university presses, and its Bethesda location often hosted mystery writers.

Listen to a Peter Robinson podcast from the Library of Congress.

In this podcast prior to his appearance at the National Book Festival, Peter Robinson (Friend of the Devil, etc.) talks about the evolution of Inspector Alan Banks and writers who influenced him.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cornerstone: The Horizontal Man by
Helen Eustis.

Note: This continues my occasional series on the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone list (those mysteries deemed essential by Howard Haycraft and Ellery Queen).
Shall I pretend overwhelming grief at the death of a man whom I knew for two months? Shall I ignore the fact that for me his murder has become an invaluable social and professional asset? — Helen Eustis, The Horizontal Man 80.
An amorous poet-professor is murdered in his lodgings and a slew of faculty members and students are the likely suspects in Helen Eustis's Edgar-winning The Horizontal Man (1946). Among the possible culprits are a sexually rapacious divorcee; a rabbitty, repressed English instructor; a literary lion with a nervous breakdown in his background; and a hysterical student with a crush on the victim. Engaging aspects of the novel include the hotbed of intrigue that is a college campus and the unlikely detective team of a smart, plump female student and a young male reporter with a line of snappy patter.

Although the modern reader may guess the perpetrator, the twist ending was unique when the book was published. The title comes from lines of Auden's: "Let us honour if we can/The vertical man/Though we value none/But the horizontal one" (see Collected Poems 2, 1927–1932).

Eustis (1916–2015) attended Smith College, which seems clear is the prototype for the college in the novel. Barry Werth (in The Scarlet Professor 125) discusses models of gay professor Newton Arvin and poet Alfred Fisher (Eustis's one-time husband; he had divorced food writer M.F.K. Fisher in 1938 before marrying her) that appear in The Horizontal Man. Eustis also published The Fool Killer (1954) and short stories (collected in The Captains and the Kings Depart, 1949, and she received an O. Henry Prize for "An American Home," 1947). She also translated Georges Simenon's When I Was Old and was a friend of Carson McCullers.

Below: Listen to an excerpt of The Horizontal Man read by Barbara Rosenblat.



Monday, September 29, 2008

Happy birthday, Mrs. Gaskell.

Elizabeth Cleghorn Stevenson Gaskell, aka Mrs. Gaskell, was born today in London in 1810. This minister's wife and popular Victorian novelist, who illuminated for many the plight of the working class, wrote Mary Barton (1848), Cranford (1853), North and South (1854), and Wives and Daughters (1866). She also was a friend of Charlotte Brontë and produced The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857) after Brontë's death at the request of Brontë's father.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dopplegangers this week on BBC Radio 7.

This week BBC Radio 7 features Katherine Cecil Thurston's espionage novel The Masquerader (1904) and Francis Durbridge's sleuth Paul Temple. Go here for the schedule or to listen.

The Irish-born Thurston (1875-1911) published six novels in her short life. The Masquerader, which appeared on US bestseller lists in 1904 and 1905, was adapted for film in 1933 and starred Ronald Colman. Sinclair Lewis compared the similarities between The Masquerader and Israel Zangwill and Lewis Cowen's The Premier and the Painter (1888) in The Critic (1905). Zangwill, of course, is best known for The Big Bow Mystery (1891).

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The 2008 University Press Books for Public/Secondary School Libraries.

Although not as serious as Bill Crider's post-Ike nonconnectivity woes, The Bunburyist suffered a DSL outage of several days plus a power outage today due to a thunderstorm. Everything, thankfully, is back up.

Every year, two entities of the American Library Association—the American Association of School Librarians and the Public Library Association—recommend books published by university presses for school and public library collections. Some selections that appear on the 2008 bibliography:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

An online chat with Alexander McCall Smith.

The always delightful Alexander McCall Smith, author of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series and zillions of other works, answered readers' questions at washingtonpost.com in preparation for Saturday's National Book Festival, including information on the upcoming HBO series featuring Mma. Ramotswe. Go here to read the transcript.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The suicide of Lucy Maud Montgomery.

This week's revelation that Anne of Green Gables author Lucy Maud Montgomery killed herself in 1942 via a drug overdose is sad but on reflection not surprising. Her granddaughter, Kate Macdonald Butler, discusses in her Globe & Mail piece how LMM suffered from depression throughout her life, which one can see in her correspondence with G. B. MacMillan (collected in My Dear Mr. M) and in the long account in her journals where LMM was betrothed to another man prior to her marriage to Ewan Macdonald and felt trapped by this first engagement.

This year marks the centenary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables. According to CBC News, Mary Rubio's LMM biography (due out in November) will discuss the suicide and the note left by LMM.

LMM occupies one place in my personal triumvirate of authors (the other places are occupied by Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott) whose work was marked by a gallantry of spirit, a marvelous sense of humor, progressive heroines, and an acute perception about the people of their society that is reflected in their written work. It can be 1813, 1868, or 1908, but we still know people like Mrs. Bennet, Aunt March, and Rachel Lynde. LMM's novel The Blue Castle (1926), in which the downtrodden heroine is informed that she has a limited time to live due to a medical condition, decides to seize the day, and thereby scandalizes her proper and dull relations, is full of liveliness and wisdom that still speaks to us today.