Monday, January 31, 2011

Edgar Allan Poe's ill-fated career at West Point.

Edgar Allan Poe, 1848.
Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs
Evoking Louis Bayard's Edgar-nominated The Pale Blue Eye, the National Archives' Prologue features documents from Edgar Allan Poe's short-lived military career, including his 1831 court-martial.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: F. Tennyson Jesse's Murder and Its Motives (1924).

Most criminals are great egoists and inordinately vain, but these two qualities are found to excess in murderers.
—F. Tennyson Jesse, Murder and Its Motives 11
In Murder and Its Motives F. Tennyson Jesse classifies murders into six categories (murder for gain, murder for revenge, murder for elimination, murder for jealousy, murder for the lust of killing, and murder from conviction). She then provides case studies by type: William Palmer (murder for gain, some 15 murders, 1850s), Constance Kent (murder for revenge, 1860; most recently covered in Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher), the Querangals (murder for elimination, brother and sister disposal of spouses, 1881), Mary Eleanor Wheeler (murder for jealousy, killing of her lover's spouse and baby, 1890), Neill Cream (murder for lust of killing, numerous killings, 1892), and Orsini (murder for conviction, tried for an attempt on Emperor Napoleon III, 1858).

This lucid and perceptive book is a must for anyone who wishes to construct convincing criminals in their fiction. Sadly, it is out of print. The 1952 edition is dedicated to three people, one of whom is Algonquin Round Table member Alexander Woollcott.

F. Tennyson Jesse, from
the Bookman, June 1914
World War I correspondent, playwright, screenwriter, and novelist F. Tennyson Jesse (1888–1958), the great-niece of Alfred Lord Tennyson, is probably best known for her books in the Notable British Trials series such as that on Madeleine Smith (the subject of David Lean's film Madeleine, 1949) and A Pin to See the Peepshow (1934), which was based on the Thompson-Bywaters murder case. Her work and troubled life are discussed in A Portrait of Fryn: A Biography of F. Tennyson Jesse (1984) by Joanna Colenbrander, Jesse's secretary.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Museum of the City of NY: Sherlock Holmes.

William Gillette as
Sherlock Holmes (1899)
Museum of the City
of New York
Among the wealth of photographs available for online searching at the Museum of the City of New York Web site are several of the play Sherlock Holmes such as this 1899 photograph; note William Gillette in the center as the Great Detective.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New book on The Fugitive.

The recently released The Fugitive in Flight by Florida International University professor Stanley Fish examines moral elements in the 1963–68 TV series and protagonist Dr. Richard Kimble as a character that never changes, in Fish's view.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Unlikely Mystery Fan #1: Bill O'Reilly.

First in a series on unexpected individuals who enjoy or enjoyed mystery-related works and authors.

Who knew that Fox's Bill O'Reilly is so fond of thrillers? The list of Reilly's favorite books from his Web site includes the following mysteries or thrillers (none by women):

The Neon Rain by James Lee Burke
Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy
Rising Sun by Michael Crichton
L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins
The Godwulf Manuscript by Robert B. Parker (first Spenser novel)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Edmund Crispin this week on BBC Radio 7.

Biography of Crispin
available from Ashgate
Oxford don Gervase Fen looks into murder at a film studio this week on BBC Radio 7 in Edmund Crispin's Frequent Hearses (1950) with James Wilby; go here for the schedule or to listen online. Most episodes are available for a week after broadcast.

Six other Fen titles can be obtained from Felony & Mayhem Press.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Happy birthday, Charles Brockden Brown.

Charles Brockden Brown.
Gothic novelist Charles Brockden Brown, who may be the first professional writer in the United States, was born today in Philadelphia in 1771. His best-known novel, Wieland; or, The Transformation: An American Tale (1798), was praised by James Fenimore Cooper in 1827 as "a never-failing evidence of genius." He died in 1810.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Haggard spoof on National Radio Hall of Fame.

H. Rider Haggard
This month's audio highlights from the National Radio Hall of Fame and Museum include a spoof of King Solomon's Mines from Jack Benny's January 7, 1951, show with Deborah Kerr, and Edgar Allan Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum" from Suspense, January 12, 1943.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gothic triumphs: Valancourt's top sellers for 2010.

Sheridan Le Fanu,
from Seventy Years of
Irish Life
(1893) by
William Richard Le Fanu
For those who enjoy seeing a different bestseller list, here are the Top 10 Sellers for Valancourt Books for 2010:

1.  Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu (1871–72); great-nephew of Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan

2.  The Blood of the Vampire by actress-author Florence Marryat (1897)
3.  Six Gothic Dramas by Scottish poet-playwright Joanna Baillie
4.  The Witch of Ravensworth by George Brewer (1808)
5.  The Necromancer by Karl Friedrich Kahlert (1794)
8.  Castle of Wolfenbach by Eliza Parsons (1793)
9.  The Old English Baron by Clara Reeve (1778)
10. The Cenci by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1819)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

Curator, U-MN Sherlock Holmes collections.

Illustration from "The
Adventure of the Missing
Three-Quarter," by
Arthur Conan Doyle.
Strand Magazine,
Aug 1904.
The Chronicle of Higher Education profiles Timothy J. Johnson, the curator of the Sherlock Holmes collections at the University of Minnesota Libraries. (Hat tip to PhiloBiblosUpdated

Friday, January 14, 2011

Faulkner on Gavin Stevens, "A Rose for Emily," and Spillane.

William Faulkner by Carl Van
Vechten, 1954. Library of
Congress, Prints and
Photographs Division

In both transcripts and audio from University of Virginia, William Faulkner talks about his lawyer character Gavin Stevens, his mystery-related story "A Rose for Emily," and the use of violence in his work, as well as takes a swipe at Mickey Spillane. He used to see James Joyce in Paris and tells of the role of Winesburg, Ohio's Sherwood Anderson in his first book.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Happy 85th birthday, Michael Bond.

Michael Bond, creator of hapless gastronomic sleuth Monsieur Pamplemousse and trusty canine sidekick Pommes Frites, as well as the beloved Paddington Bear, turns 85 today. His latest Monsieur Pamplemousse novel is Monsieur Pamplemousse and the Carbon Footprint (2010).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Master's voice.

Noel Coward on
What's My Line?
Catch this Paley Center excerpt from "I Like America: Noel Coward in the USA" on the occasion of Coward's December birthday, which includes an excerpt from "Mad Dogs and Englishmen." The center also offers "Noel Coward on Television" by Barry Monush, which features a clip from a 1956 TV version of Blithe Spirit that starred Coward, Lauren Bacall, and Claudette Colbert.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

PBS Pioneers of Television: Crime programs.

Robert Stack in
The Untouchables
The PBS program Pioneers of Television will feature crime dramas on February 1 and will look at important figures such as Desi Arnaz (The Untouchables), Stephen J. Cannell (The Rockford Files, The Greatest American Hero), Bruce Geller (Mission: Impossible, Mannix), and Jack Webb (Dragnet).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hammond Innes this week on BBC Radio 7.

The Doomed Oasis (1960) by avid sailor Hammond Innes (best known for The Wreck of the "Mary Deare") is featured this week on BBC Radio 7, in which British lawyer George Grant searches for a client missing in Arabia. Go here for the schedule or to listen. Episodes can usually be heard online for a week after broadcast.

Friday, January 07, 2011

More Hildegarde Withers from Rue Morgue Press.

Edna May Oliver, who
played Hildegarde Withers
in three films, NYPL
Rue Morgue Press has just issued another volume in the series featuring Stuart Palmer's Hildegarde Withers, Murder on the Blackboard (1932), in which the inquisitive schoolteacher-sleuth goes on a hunt for a peripatetic corpse. This book joins other Rue Morgue reissues in the Withers series: The Penguin Pool Murder, Miss Withers Regrets, Nipped in the Bud, The Puzzle of the Blue Banderilla, The Puzzle of the Pepper Tree, and The Puzzle of the Silver Persian.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

50 years ago: Winnie Ille Pu, bestseller.

Veni, Vidi, Vici: A look at the PW bestseller list of 50 years ago (1961) reveals Winnie Ille Pu, the Latin translation of Milne's Winnie the Pooh by Alexander Lenard, in spot no. 7. It's still in print today. Read this interesting New York Times piece on its unexpected success.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Horace McCoy.

Charlton Heston and
Dianne Foster in Bad 
for Each Other
Horace McCoy, 1953)
On the occasion of the publication of Horace McCoy's They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1935) by the British Serpent's Tail Classics, John Self looks at McCoy's "skinny and brutal account of existence at the edge of Depression America."

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Hound of the Baskervilles, Valley of Fear
this week on BBC Radio 7.

This week on BBC Radio 7, a sinister hound stalks the moors in The Hound of the Baskervilles (featuring Judi Dench), and Sherlock Holmes suspects Professor Moriarty is involved in a Sussex murder in The Valley of Fear (1914–15). Go here for the schedule or to listen; episodes usually can be heard online for a week after broadcast.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Happy birthday, Rufus King.

Michael Redgrave in
Secret beyond the Door
(1947, dir. Fritz Lang,
based on Rufus King's
Museum Piece No. 13
Rufus King, playwright and author of the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone work Murder by the Clock (1929) that features the debut of his series character Lieutenant Valcour, was born today in New York in 1893. His plays include Murder at the Vanities (1933) and Invitation to a Murder (which starred Humphrey Bogart in 1934 and was filmed as The Hidden Hand with Craig Stevens in 1942). He died in 1966.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Happy birthday, Charles Beaumont.

Ida Lupino in
"Masquerade" (writ.
Charles Beaumont, Four
Star Playhouse, 1954)
Writer Charles Beaumont, best known for his scripts for Twilight Zone, was born today in Chicago in 1929. He also wrote for numerous other TV series such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Naked City, One Step Beyond, Richard Diamond: Private Detective, and Wanted: Dead or Alive. He died in 1967.