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.)