Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy birthday, Helen Eustis.

Helen Eustis—author of the Edgar-winning The Horizontal Man (1946) and The Fool Killer (1954), friend of Carson McCullers, and ex-wife of Smith poet-professor Alfred Young Fisher—turns 92 today in New York City.

About the image: Anthony Perkins in The Fool Killer (1965, dir. Servando Gonzalez)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Poe's "The Raven" online at LOC.

Courtesy of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, the 1884 edition of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" (with illustrations by Gustave Doré) has been digitized, as well as an 1875 French translation of the poem by Stéphane Mallarmé (with illustrations by famed painter and Mallarmé friend Edouard Manet).

About the image: Illustration by Gustave Doré from Poe's "The Raven" (New York: Harper, 1884)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Patrick Hamilton's Rope and World War I.

On the Great War Fiction blog, George Simmers discusses the World War I background to Patrick Hamilton's Rope, the 1929 play based on the Leopold and Loeb case, which was later filmed by Alfred Hitchcock. The play is on stage again at London's Almeida Theater.

About the image: John Dall and Farley Granger in Rope (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1948).

Monday, December 28, 2009

"The footprints of a gigantic hound"
this week on BBC Radio 7.

This week, BBC Radio 7 features Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles starring Roger Rees. Go here for the schedule or to listen.

About the image: Cigarette card of the Hound of the Baskervilles, part of a series featuring Conan Doyle's characters, NYPL.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Rod Serling's "Night of the Meek."

For today, Rod Serling's 85th birthday as well as Christmas Day, let's remember the episode he wrote for The Twilight Zone, "Night of the Meek," starring Art Carney as an alcoholic department store Santa. Go here to watch it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

R. Austin Freeman's first detective work sold at auction.

At the December 17th Sotheby's auction, a first edition of R. Austin Freeman's first detective work The Adventures of Romney Pringle (1902, written with James Pitcairn under the pseudonym Clifford Ashdown), sold for £1875 (approx. US$3030). Freeman is the creator of Dr. John Thorndyke and a pioneer in the Columbo school of storytelling (i.e., the reader knows the identity of the criminal at the outset of the narrative and follows the detective's investigation).

Other results include the following:
  • R. Austin Freeman, The Red Thumb Mark (1907), 1st ed. copy owned by Ellery Queen, £3250 (approx. US$5252)
  • Dashiell Hammett, 1st ed. of The Thin Man (1934), £1375 (approx. US$2222)
(Hat tip to PhiloBiblos)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Doug Cushman's Dirk Bones.

The latest mystery for beginning readers from author-illustrator Doug Cushman is Dirk Bones and the Mystery of the Missing Books, in which the intrepid reporter Dirk (I suspect a nod to Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt) investigates why the books by famous author Edgar Bleek are going missing.

I really like Cushman's works (such as the Aunt Eater series and those featuring wombat detective Seymour Sleuth) with their engaging drawings.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Art of the Bookstore.

The Art of the Bookstore features paintings by Gibbs M. Smith of—what else—bookshops. The usual suspects seem to be covered—for example, Laurence Ferlinghetti's City Lights in San Francisco, Powell's in Portland, Shakespeare & Co. in Paris—and it is also good to see icons such as Tattered Cover in Denver and Prairie Lights in Iowa, as well as one of my favorites, Green Apple, represented. But it is sad to see those that are no more—Cody's in Berkeley, CA; Chapters in Washington, DC (although Chapters may eventually reopen; go here for details).

About the image: Inside the Strand Bookstore, NYC. Go here for a tour of the store.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Russell Thorndike this week on BBC Radio 7.

This week on BBC Radio 7, Dr. Syn, Russell Thorndike's swashbuckling vicar, is back in The Further Adventures of Dr. Syn (1936), read by Rufus Sewell (Cold Comfort Farm, John Adams). Go here for the schedule or to listen.

About the image: Patrick McGoohan as Dr. Syn in The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh (dir. James Neilson, 1963)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Marcia Muller on favorite books received from Santa.

Marcia Muller discusses the past books she has received as Christmas gifts on

Friday, December 18, 2009

Early zombie work reissued.

Long before Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was Richard Marsh's A Spoiler of Men (1905), dubbed by the Morning Leader as "thoroughly gruesome and effective." Now republished by Valancourt Books, it joins Valancourt's other Marsh reprints such as The Beetle (1897) and The Seen and the Unseen (1900).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Happy birthday, Penelope Fitzgerald.

British author Penelope Fitzgerald (The Bookshop, Offshore, etc.) was born today in Lincoln in 1916. She died in 2000. Fitzgerald was the niece of Golden Age mystery writer Monsignor Ronald Knox (see Fitzgerald's book The Knox Brothers [1977] for her take on her uncle and her father, Punch editor Edmund Knox).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New Poe exhibition in Boston.

As noted by PhiloBiblos, "The Raven in the Frog Pond: Edgar Allan Poe and the City of Boston" opens at the Boston Public Library on December 17th. The festivities kick off with the latest chapter of the Great Poe Debate as to what city can claim the tortured writer as its own.

About the image: Edgar Allan Poe, NYPL

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Spy novelists continue to attract interest at auction.

At Bloomsbury's December 10th auction, spy novelists continued to garner buyer interest. Below are pertinent mystery-related results.
  • Agatha Christie, first editions of A Murder Is Announced (1950); Destination Unknown (1954); Hickory, Dickory Dock (1955); and four other unspecified novels, £480 (approx. US$781).
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, 2nd ed. of The Sign of Four (1892), £120 (approx. US$195); 1st ed., The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894), £110 (approx. US$179); 1st ed., The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902), £320 (approx. US$520); 1st ed., The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905), £460 (approx. US$748); 2nd issue, The Lost World (1914, which includes photos of Conan Doyle disguised as Professor Challenger), £260 (approx. US$423).
  • Ian Fleming, first editions of You Only Live Twice (1964), The Man with the Golden Gun (1965), and Octopussy (1966), £380 (approx. US$618).
  • Graham Greene, 2nd issue of Stamboul Train (1932), with two other works, £240 (approx. US$390); 1st ed., The Third Man and The Fallen Idol (1950), £190 (approx. US$309); 1st ed., The Spy's Bedside Book: An Anthology (1957, ed. Graham Greene and Hugh Greene), £10 (approx. US$16).
  • John le Carre, 1st ed., The Looking Glass War (1965), with 13 other books, £140 (approx. US$228).
Sadly, Edgar Wallace's Captain Tatham of Tatham Island (1909), est. between £200–250, went unsold.

(Hat tip to PhiloBiblos.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Collins, Cadfael, and more this week on
BBC Radio 7.

This week on BBC Radio 7: The program The Lady Detectives features Wilkie Collins's The Law and the Lady (1874–75), in which a wife attempts to clear her husband of the charge of murdering his first spouse; and detective Florence Cusack looks into "Mr. Bovey's Unexpected Will" (1899) by L. T. Meade [Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith] and Robert Eustace [Dr. Eustace Robert Barton]. Also airing this week is Ellis Peters's Brother Cadfael in The Virgin in the Ice. Go here for the schedule or to listen.

About the image
: L. T. Meade, NYPL.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Folio Club debuts.

The Folio Club, which gets its name from a Poe story, is a new biannual literary magazine edited and published by an old friend of mine, Robert Pranzatelli, who is a publicist for Yale University Press. Indie cartoonist Onsmith designed the cover; contributors include Blondie songwriter Romy Ashby and poet Mark Saba.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Happy birthday, George MacDonald.

Scottish writer-poet George MacDonald, primarily known for fantasy works including "The Light Princess" (1864), "The Golden Key" (1867), and At the Back of the North Wind (1871), was born today in Aberdeenshire in 1824. For his influence on C. S. Lewis, go here; for his friendship with Mark Twain, go here. MacDonald, who died in 1905, was the grandfather of Philip MacDonald, screenwriter and author of mysteries such as The Rasp (1924), Warrant for X (1938; filmed as 23 Paces to Baker Street, 1956), and The List of Adrian Messenger (1959; film 1963).

About the image: George MacDonald, NYPL.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Conan Doyle, Milne, Washington score big at Christie's auction.

Christie's December 4th auction of fine printed books and manuscripts reaped the following results:
  • George Washington, letter to his nephew Bushrod Washington (1787), $3.2 million
  • Oscar Wilde, Poems (1892), $12,500 (estimated at $4000–6000)
(Hat tip to PhiloBiblos)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Happy birthday, Leslie Ford.

Zenith Jones Brown—aka Leslie Ford, David Frome, and Brenda Conrad and a descendant of the illustrious Calvert family of Maryland—was born today in Smith River, CA, in 1898. Her numerous mystery works include The By-Pass Murder (1932), The Strangled Witness (1934), Ill Met by Moonlight (1937), The Simple Way of Poison (1937), Three Bright Pebbles (1938), and The Girl from the Mimosa Club (1957, selected as one of Mystery Loves Company's Best Mysteries of the Century). She died in Baltimore in 1983.

Monday, December 07, 2009

BBC Film Programme: Eric Ambler.

In this December 4th broadcast of BBC Radio 4's Film Programme, Adrian Wootten discusses the "profound influence" of espionage master Eric Ambler on film and points out that 2009 marks Ambler's centenary.

About the image: Orson Welles (foreground) and Joseph Cotten in Eric Ambler's Journey into Fear (dir. Norman Foster, 1943).

Friday, December 04, 2009

Hawthorne meets the blow dryer.

The Harvard University Press blog discusses its new covers for works by Nathaniel Hawthorne that feature various renderings of the author, but they tend to appear as if Hawthorne has discovered the blow dryer (see sample at left).

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Erle Stanley Gardner's correspondence with Nathan Leopold.

On the blog American Fiction Notes, Mark Athitakis discusses the correspondence of author-lawyer Erle Stanley Gardner with convicted murderer Nathan Leopold (of Leopold and Loeb infamy). A few more details can be gleaned here from UT-Austin's Ransom Center; other mystery writers mentioned on this page include Rupert Croft-Cooke (aka Leo Bruce) and Beverley Nichols.

(Hat tip to the Guardian books blog)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

"Why I Still Love Encyclopedia Brown."

Kate Sutherland of Kate's Book Blog pays tribute to Donald J. Sobol's super sleuth, Encyclopedia Brown, who debuted in 1963: "...I'm a lawyer and a law professor. Much is made of the mystical process by which students learn in first year law school how to 'think like a lawyer.' On reflection it occurs to me, with apologies to my first year law professors, that I may in fact have received my earliest lessons in how to think like a lawyer from Encyclopedia Brown."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Latest auction results.

At Christie's November 23rd auction, a letter from Arthur Conan Doyle regarding the Oscar Slater case (one occasion where Conan Doyle acted as a real-life detective) fetched £1500 (approx. US$2500); and a first edition of Ian Fleming's From Russia with Love (1957) with three other Fleming first editions went for £1250 (approx. US$2081).

(Hat tip to PhiloBiblos)