Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and Jessica Fletcher.

The "Bluff the Listener" segment of the June 26th episode of NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me posited an out-of-control Angela Lansbury in one Cabot Cove, Maine: "She accuses everyone she doesn't like of murder."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The sensational world of Victorian yellowbacks.

The Lazy Scholar peruses some lurid Victorian yellowbacks for our edification (see also some text on and images from these editions designed for the railway reader from a British Library exhibition on Victorian books).

About the image: Cover of Alice Wilde, the Raftsman's Daughter, by Metta Fuller Victor (aka mystery author Seeley Regester). Emory Digital Library.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Robert Louis Stevenson this week on
BBC Radio 7; happy birthday, Eric Ambler.

In "The Short History of Gothic" series, BBC Radio 7 is featuring Robert Louis Stevenson's "Markheim" (1885), read by Notting Hill's Hugh Bonneville, in which a thief receives an unsettling surprise. Go here for the schedule or to listen; episodes can usually be heard for a week after broadcast.

Let's also remember that espionage master and screenwriter Eric Ambler (Journey into Fear, A Coffin for Dimitrios, etc.) was born today in London in 1909 and recall Michael Gilbert's words about him in Crime in Good Company: "[Ambler] says that he was an unpleasant child, but produces no evidence of this beyond a single attempt to blow up his own house with nitroglycerin."
About the image: Robert Louis Stevenson, NYPL

Friday, June 25, 2010

Edna St. Vincent Millay's home now open
to the public.

As the Albany Times-Union reports, Steepletop (the Austerlitz, NY, home of poet, Provincetown Players member, and Pulitzer Prize recipient Edna St. Vincent Millay) has been opened to the public.

As I noted in my spring 2003 article in Mystery Scene, "'Me and Eddie Poe': Edna St. Vincent Millay's Dips into Mystery," Millay had a short-lived flirtation with mystery stories, including one, "Murder in the Fishing Cat," that eventually was reprinted in EQMM.

About the image: Edna St. Vincent Millay, NYPL

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Author portraits at Sotheby's.

Among other results, the June 17th auction at Sotheby's resulted in $5,000 for a signed pen-and-ink portrait of Arthur Conan Doyle;  a whopping $98,500 for an inscribed pen-and ink portrait of F. Scott Fitzgerald; and $2500 for a lot of inscribed British and Irish author portraits, which included G. K. Chesterton and E. Phillips Oppenheim.
About the image: E. Phillips Oppenheim, NYPL

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Graham Greene's picks, neglected books.

The Neglected Books blog discusses Graham Greene's 1940s picks of neglected literary works, which include Arthur Conan Doyle's Professor Challenger adventure The Poison Belt; Roy Horniman's Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal (aka the Alec Guinness film Kind Hearts and Coronets); Conan Doyle brother-in-law E. W. Hornung's Raffles, The Amateur Cracksman; William Babington Maxwell's The Case of Bevan Yorke (Maxwell was the son of Mary Elizabeth Braddon); Arthur Morrison's The Hole in the Wall (Morrison is best known for Martin Hewitt: Investigator and A Child of the Jago); and Anthony Hope's The King's Mirror (Hope is best known for The Prisoner of Zenda).

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sayers, Thurston this week on BBC Radio 7.

This week, BBC Radio 7 continues its salute to Ian Carmichael with Dorothy L. Sayers's Gaudy Night and Busman's Honeymoon. Also this week: Irish-born Katherine Cecil Thurston's espionage novel The Masquerader (aka John Chilcote, 1904), which appeared on US bestseller lists in 1904 and 1905, and was adapted for film in 1933 (starring Ronald Colman). Go here for the schedule or to listen; episodes can usually be heard for a week after broadcast.

About the image: Ronald Colman, NYPL

Friday, June 18, 2010

Unsolved mysteries in Canadian history.

The University of Victoria, the Université de Sherbrooke, and U-Toronto's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education have produced a neat multimedia site, "Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History," including a discussion of the mysterious suicide of Canadian diplomat Herbert Norman in 1957. (Thanks to the AHA blog)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Loot: Inside a US Customs warehouse of stolen antiquities.

The History Blog discusses the New York Post's peek inside a US Customs warehouse that stores stolen antiquities.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A few mystery selections from
Monash University.

From recent virtual exhibitions at Monash University in Australia:
Cover of Inside Detective magazine (ca. 1930s)
Cover of Thrilling Detective magazine (ca. early 1950s)
Cover of Mark Gaile's The Skeleton Murders (ca. 1940s)
Cover of Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Dead Men's Shoes (ca. 1878)
Cover of Enid Blyton's The Mystery of the Vanished Prince (1954)

About the image: Cartoon of Mary Elizabeth Braddon from Punch, 1881

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A virtual tour of Horace Walpole's house.

Yale University's Lewis Walpole Library offers a virtual tour of the house and grounds of Strawberry Hill, the residence of Horace Walpole, who wrote the first gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto (1764). You also can catch the "Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill" exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum until July 4th.

About the image: Horace Walpole, 4th earl of Orford, NYPL.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Valancourt continues Richard Marsh reissues with The Goddess (1900).

Valancourt Books continues its reissues of the mystery works of The Beetle's Richard Marsh (1857—1915) with The Goddess: A Demon (1900), in which the savage murder of a gambler suggests a supernatural cause. It's edited by Minna Vuohelainen, who published an article in Clues 25.4 (2007) on Marsh's possibly autobiographical prison narrative "For Debt" (1902). Read the sniffy piece "The Yarning School" (The Academy, Nov. 3, 1900), which discusses Marsh's place in the type of literature that "begin[s] a story anywhere and continu[es] without art or insight, but with reckless invention" (423), along with authors such as Fergus Hume (The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, 1886).

Friday, June 11, 2010

Val McDermid, £10, and a mystery bookshop.

The Guardian gives Val McDermid £10 to spend in a mystery bookstore. See Val talk about Agatha Christie; her love for the Penguin green-backed novels; and one of her favorite American mystery writers, Alaska resident John Straley.

Literary groups: Are they popular?

In Dirda's Reading Room, the Washington Post's Michael Dirda inquires about the popularity of literary groups, especially those centered on 19th-century works, mentioning the Jules Verne Society, the Ghost Story Society, and the Baker Street Irregulars (but missing the good folks at Gaslight). Societies such as the American Chesterton Society, which holds an annual conference, also are fairly active.

About the image: Jules Verne, NYPL.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

NPR wants your selections of best thrillers.

NPR is asking for reader nominations for the best thrillers, limited to three choices per post. Its definition? "Thrillers are more visceral, more oriented towards action and suspense."
About the image: Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) receives an unpleasant surprise in The 39 Steps (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1935)—which should be on at least a few lists.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Priestley on Dunkirk; Sharan Newman; the Lusitania and the LOC; place and the crime novel.

J. B. Priestley (playwright, Dangerous Corner, 1932; An Inspector Calls, 1945, among numerous other works) comments on the WWII evacuation from Dunkirk in this June 1940 BBC broadcast.

Sharan Newman discussed her new nonfiction book The Real History of the End of the World with Fred Stella on Common Threads (part 1 here, part 2 here). 

• This invoice reveals that the Library of Congress ordered, among other items, the Psychical Research Society Journal, which was being shipped via the Lusitania in 1914. (thank you to PhiloBiblos)

This piece for the Australian Broadcasting Co.'s Book Show discusses the importance of place in the crime novel.

About the image: Alastair Sim in An Inspector Calls (dir. Guy Hamilton, 1954)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Possession at 20.

On Fine Books and Collections, Nicholas Basbanes talks to A. S. Byatt on the 20th anniversary of her literary detection novel Possession.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Lots of mystery goodies this week on
BBC Radio 7.

All sorts of mystery goodies this week on BBC Radio 7:

G. K. Chesterton's wise Father Brown appears in  "The Arrow of Heaven" (from The Incredulity of Father Brown, 1926), "The Mistake of the Machine" (from The Wisdom of Father Brown, 1914), "The Curse of the Golden Cross" (from The Incredulity of Father Brown), "The Actor and the Alibi" (from The Secret of Father Brown, 1927), and "The Absence of Mr. Glass" (from The Wisdom of Father Brown).

• Nuns experience strange passions in the Himalayas in Rumer Godden's Black Narcissus (1939).

• The late Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter Wimsey investigates a corpse in an East Anglian church in Dorothy L. Sayers's The Nine Tailors (1934).

• Young Emil attempts to track down his stolen money in an adaptation of Erich Kästner's Emil and the Detectives (1930).

Go here for the schedule; episodes can usually be heard online for a week after broadcast.

About the image: David Farrar in Black Narcissus (dir. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1947)

Friday, June 04, 2010

A glimpse of Eleanor Taylor Bland.

Libby Fischer Hellman revealed the sad news of the passing at age 65 of Eleanor Taylor Bland, creator of the Marti MacAlister series and a thoroughly delightful person. I remember her well in the early days of Malice Domestic, usually with a grandson in tow and up to some sort of mischief.

In the course of my editing numerous scholarly journals, there was an interview with Eleanor in Storytelling: A Critical Journal of Popular Narrative 5.3 (2006) by Norlisha F. Crawford (University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh). Here are two excerpts:
NFC: Let's talk a little about your work as it fits into the traditions of African American literature.  . . . Is there a conscious nod on your part of the cultural ancestry of the South and values passed on from the South to the North?

ETB:  I think it is just ingrained in what we are and what we do. I really do, as an African American woman, because I am also German, Scot[tish], and Irish. But as an African American woman, those are just my connections. I have never been to Europe; I have been to the South. Those are the people I know.  . . .  I just think it [Southern cultural ways] is just, for me, the norm. This is my environment; this is where I live. If I didn't write it like this, then I couldn't do it; I'd be writing about a white person. That is where we come from; that's our heritage; that is who we are, as black people. I couldn't not do that. (190–91; emphasis in original)
ETB: . . .  I thought about [Rosa Parks] a lot as she was honored with a place in the Rotunda. Can you imagine? She was on the verge of being evicted from the home she rented [in Detroit], at one point [in 1994]. . . . [N]ow, in death, people are honoring her and bringing flowers. Give me my flowers while I am alive.  . . . Honors are nice, but honor your heroes when they are alive and can smell the flowers. When you can see their faces smiling as they enjoy them. (195–96)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Valancourt reissues Sheridan Le Fanu's first novel.

Valancourt Books has reissued Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's The Cock and Anchor (1845), which is, according to Stewart M. Ellis's Mainly Victorian, "an excellent 'costume' romance of old Dublin in the eighteenth century, abounding with exciting adventures, highway robberies, murders, and hair-breadth escapes" (144). Le Fanu (1814–73), famous for his supernatural tales, was the great-nephew of playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan (The School for Scandal, etc.) and, according to the Dictionary of National Biography (1892), was "a man of handsome presence and great charm of manner" (397).

About the image: Title page from Le Fanu's The Cock and Anchor (illus. Brinsley Le Fanu, London: Downey, 1895).

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Dracula takes a big bite of cash: Over $63K.

At Bloomsbury's Books and Manuscripts auction on May 27th, a first edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula inscribed to the wife of William Schwenck Gilbert (as in Gilbert and Sullivan) went for approximately $63,637. In addition, a first-edition presentation copy of H. G. Wells's The Time Machine went for approximately $1,226, a 1902 edition of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles was sold for approximately $217, and—perhaps appropriately—a pirated edition of Oscar Wilde's Lord Arthur Savile's Crime reaped a mere $29.

About the image: Frank Langella as Dracula assures us he "love[s] New York. Especially in the evening." I Love New York ad campaign, ca. 1978.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Andrew Lane on a teenaged Sherlock Holmes.

Andrew Lane, who received the blessing of the Conan Doyle estate to write a series with a teenaged Sherlock Holmes, discusses the first book, Death Cloud, in The Scotsman. It will be published this week. (Hat tip to PhiloBiblos)