Monday, April 30, 2012

Monash's "Body in the Library" exhibition.

Cover of the Detection Club's
Ask a Policeman, featured in the
Monash University exhibition
Monash University's "The Body in the Library' exhibition provides a rich visual panorama of mystery history and is on display until June 8. Online highlights include covers of wonderfully lurid works by Sax Rohmer, various Detection Club works, detective magazines, and one of the Dick Donovan series that is contemporary with the Holmes stories (series discussed in Clues 26.2). Not surprisingly for an Australian university, special attention is paid to Australian and New Zealand authors (such as Fergus Hume, Ngaio Marsh, Helen Simpson, and Arthur Upfield) and an Australian round-robin mystery novel of 1936. A welcome addition is "Clarice Dyke, the Female Detective" (1883) by Harry Rockwood (aka Ernest A. Young) that features an early female sleuth.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The empowerment of Judy Bolton.

The Trail of the Green Doll,
repr. Applewood Books
College of Staten Island-CUNY's Mary Jeanette Moran follows up her article in Clues on the ethic of care of Margaret Sutton's Judy Bolton with another in The Lion and the Unicorn on how reading and writing make Judy an effective sleuth.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Carleton Morse's 10 favorite mysteries, 1943.

In summer 1943 writer-producer Carleton E. Morse (of I Love a Mystery and One Man's Family radio fame) listed his favorite mysteries, which he planned to send to army camps. They are the following:

• Cleve F. Adams, Sabotage (1940)
• Eric Ambler, Cause for Alarm (1938)
• Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep (1939)
• Manning Coles, A Toast to Tomorrow (1941; aka Pray Silence, 1940)
• Mignon G. Eberhart, Murder by an Aristocrat (1933, film 1936)
• Dashiell Hammett, The Dain Curse (1928, mini-series 1978)
• Jonathan Latimer, Red Gardenias (1939)
• Philip MacDonald, The Rasp (1924, film 1931)
• Dorothy L. Sayers, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928)
• Rex Stout, The Red Box (1937)

Update. Photo of Carleton E. Morse.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A new use for the SH canon.

Christopher Morley. Library
of Congress, Prints and
Photographs Div.
Harvard's Houghton Library features an amusing 1944 letter from Baker Street Irregulars cofounder Christopher Morley, who sought guidance from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (part of the "Sacred Writings") as a prospective father of the bride. He also mentions colleague Vincent Starrett in a handwritten note.

Of related interest: a TLS round-up of recent SH-related works such as Michael Dirda's On Conan Doyle and Anthony Horowitz's House of Silk.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Whistler and Collins.

Collins's Woman in
with Whistler's
White Girl on cover
The online edition of the letters of artist James McNeill Whistler features a few letters concerning attempts to link Whistler's The White Girl (1862) to Wilkie Collins's Woman in White (1859–60), a letter that reveals that Whistler liked Mary Elizabeth Braddon's The Golden Calf (1883), and witty correspondence from Oscar Wilde. It looks like the 1906 letter from Arthur Conan Doyle is not yet online.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Alcott, her family, and Little Women.

Louisa May Alcott, ca. 1862
Running until May 26, the exhibition "Louisa May Alcott: Family Life and Publishing Ventures" at Harvard's Houghton Library features materials on the Alcott family and the publication of Little Women. It's curated by Joel Myerson and Daniel Sheehy, editors of Alcott's thrillers, journals, and letters.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Boucher: Best debut mysteries of 1962.

In his NYT column of 2 Dec 1962, Anthony Boucher selected what he considered to be the best debut mysteries of the year:

• Daniel Broun, Counterweight (Edgar nominee)
Kenneth Cook, Wake in Fright (film 1971)
• Robert L. Fish, The Fugitive (Edgar winner)
• S. B. Hough, The Bronze Perseus (aka The Tender Killer; appears on Barzun & Taylor's list of classic crime novels)
• Mark McShane, Seance (filmed as Seance on a Wet Afternoon, 1964; adapted as an opera, 2008)
• Estelle Thompson, A Twig Is Bent

Other authors mentioned, without book titles: Dick Francis (probably referring to Dead Cert, which is on the Barzun-Taylor list), Colin Watson (probably referring to Coffin, Scarcely Used), and Alan Williams (probably referring to Long Run South).

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Titanic at 100.

The Titanic, NYPL.
This week, BBC Radio 4 Extra marks the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic with readings of Walter Lord's A Night to Remember; letters from those on the Titanic; and recollections of those in Belfast, where the ship was built. Episodes usually may be heard for up to a week after broadcast.

Others may be interested in this Boston Globe story on the Titanic in photos; today's event in DC near the location of the Titanic memorial (although it promotes the canard that the Titanic band played "Nearer, My God, to Thee"); and my short story "Unsinkable," which appears in Crime through Time II.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bram Stoker's contract for Dracula.

Illustration of
Bram Stoker from
Miss Betty, 1898
The Independent featured an interesting article on Bram Stoker's UK contract for Dracula that he wrote himself, which will be part of a new edition of the novel. He (no fan of literary agents, apparently) received a 20-percent royalty on the book, but had less favorable terms in the United States.

Valancourt Books' new edition of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Parasite (1894) and Stoker's The Watter's Mou (1894) features a 1907 interview of Conan Doyle by Stoker.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Andrea Camilleri companion now available.

I'm happy to report that Andrea Camilleri: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction by Lucia Rinaldi— no. 5 in the McFarland Companions to Mystery Fiction series that I edit—is now out, some two months earlier than anticipated. This is a comprehensive treatment of the works of the creator of Inspector Salvo Montalbano and one of the few resources in English on the author's work that is available.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Clues 30.1: Newly discovered ss by S. S. Van Dine.

Clues vol 30, no. 1 has been published and includes the following:
• Clues reveals for the first time that S. S. Van Dine (aka Willard Huntington Wright, the creator of detective Philo Vance) published several short stories featuring an intellectual criminal; these were produced under another name well before Wright adopted the Van Dine pseudonym. Using archival evidence, Brooks Hefner (James Madison University) links these stories to Van Dine and discusses them in the context of highbrow/lowbrow debates, including Wright's 1928 essay "I Used to Be a Highbrow but Look at Me Now" and his short-lived term as editor of the Smart Set.

• Matthew McGuire (University of Western Sydney) discusses Scottish writer James Hogg's contributions to crime fiction via The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824).

• Lucy Andrew (Cardiff University) analyzes the relationship between children and crime via The Boy Detective; or, The Crimes of London. A Romance of Modern Times (1865–66).

• Mark T. Decker (Bloomsburg University) looks at some intriguing connections between Allan Pinkerton's The Model Town and the Detectives (1876) and Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest (1929).

• Dawn Keetley (Lehigh University) makes the case that certain novels with sexual crimes in the Martin Beck series by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo feature political commentary, disputing the majority of critical opinion.

• Michael Given (Stephen F. Austin State University) discusses the Hap and Leonard novels of Joe R. Lansdale, dubbing them "hard-boiled Southern noir."

• Phyllis M. Betz (La Salle University) looks at the complex relationship between the female narrator and queenpin Gloria Denton in Megan Abbott's Queenpin (2007).

• Kerstin Bergman (Lund University) explores the relationship between science and truth via CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Patricia Cornwell's The Scarpetta Factor (2009).

Reviews of a new edition of Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Henry Dunbar and Christopher Pittard's Purity and Contamination in Late Victorian Detective Fiction.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Quote of the day.

Anna Katharine Green,
". . . detective story writing is a peculiar field."

—from a review of Anna Katharine Green's Agatha Webb, Brooklyn Daily Eagle 21 Aug 1899: 4.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Happy birthday, Harriet Prescott Spofford.

Harriet Prescott Spofford,
n.d. Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Div.
Poet and writer Harriet Prescott Spofford was born today in Calais, ME, in 1835. A notable figure in mystery fiction for her stories "In a Cellar" (1859), "Mr. Furbush" (1865), and "In the Maguerriwock" (1868) in terms of the development of the professional detective and the mystery story, Spofford published her work in the major periodicals of her day such as the Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Bazar, and Scribner's Monthly. Her career of more than 60 years also included works of supernatural fiction such as "The Black Bess" (1868), and Spofford's "Her Story" (1872) is considered to be an important precursor to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's classic feminist work "The Yellow Wall-Paper" (1892). She died in 1921. (Clues articles on Spofford here and here)

Monday, April 02, 2012

Not a fan of Inspector Montalbano.

Luca Zingaretti as
Inspector Salvo Montalbano
Critical Studies in Television's Kim Akass doesn't think much of Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano (now on view on BBC 4, broadcast as Detective Montalbano in the United States), taking issue with the portrayal of women. (The upcoming Andrea Camilleri: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction by Lucia Rinaldi that I edited deals with Camilleri's treatment of women, among other topics.)