Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Foxwell on mystery reviewing, EQMM blog.

Today on the EQMM blog "Something Is About to Happen," I discuss "The Not-So-Simple Art of Mystery Reviewing," including a look back at some eminent reviewers (such as Walter R. Brooks, Dorothy L. Sayers, Dorothy B. Hughes, Howard Haycraft, and Anthony Boucher).

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Elmore Leonard speaks, 1984.

This interview with Elmore Leonard was part of the First Edition TV series on PBS station WNET cohosted by noted critic John Leonard (no relation) and Nancy Evans. In it, Elmore Leonard cites such diverse influences as Erich Maria Remarque, Ernest Hemingway, James M. Cain, and Mark Harris (Bang the Drum Slowly) and addresses his cross-genre works, his approach to dialogue, and the National Lampoon parody of his style.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Clues 35.1: Conan Doyle, French, Mitchell, Oates, Orczy et al.

Clues vol. 35, no. 1 (2017) has been published, although it is not yet available in e-versions (I will post when these are available). Contact McFarland to obtain a print copy of the issue or to subscribe to the journal.

The following are the abstracts for the issue:

Introduction: Reevaluating the Past and the Present

After Sherlock: The Age of Fallible Detectives
MAURIZIO ASCARI (University of Bologna)
In the wake of Sherlock Holmes’s success, writers and critics explored the relationship of the fallible detective to the ideological and aesthetic characteristics of the Golden Age. The author examines this phenomenon, shedding light on the transition between the infallible detectives of positivism and the vulnerable detectives of post–World War II psycho-thrillers.

Old Holmes: Sherlock, Testosterone, and "The Creeping Man" SYLVIA PAMBOUKIAN (Robert Morris University)
Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Creeping Man” captures the early–twentieth century’s interest in male menopause and hormone replacement. The now-retired Sherlock Holmes and the aged Professor Presbury embody the conflict between aging as diminishment and aging as healthy and vigorous, a conflict still affecting readers who hesitate to accept Holmes as elderly. 

"Look at This Map": Arthur Conan Doyle's Use of Diegetic Illustrations in The Return of Sherlock Holmes 
THOMAS VRANKEN (University of Melbourne)
Four stories from The Return of Sherlock Holmes in the Strand Magazine and Collier's Weekly featured hand-drawn maps and other visual material supposedly created by Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters. These peculiar diegetic phenomena serve an ambivalent, even contradictory, function, both drawing in and repulsing the reader.

Arthur Conan Doyle's Lens KATHERINE VOYLES
The author argues that relations of scale are central to the late-nineteenth-century detective fiction of Arthur Conan Doyle, in which the movement between large and small, far and near, and the distant and the intimate is condensed by making Sherlock Holmes’s own vision the locus of that movement.

True Cock-and-Bull Stories: Negotiating Narrative Authority in Emmuska Orczy’s “Man in the Corner” Tales RACHEL SMILLIE
Critical studies of Baroness Emmuska Orczy’s “Man in the Corner” narratives have been dominated by the collected edition The Old Man in the Corner; however, this edition fundamentally alters the dynamic of the original stories. Revisiting the original tales, this article interrogates the relationship among detective, narrator, and reader.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Candles at Nine (1944).

In this film, based on The Mouse Who Wouldn't Play Ball (1943) by Detection Club member Anthony Gilbert, a wealthy miser is murdered after tormenting his relatives with speculations about who will receive his money after he dies. The heir is revealed to be an aspiring actress, who must spend a month in the miser's mansion to receive her inheritance. But there are those who are disgruntled by the chosen heir and retaliate.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Conan Doyle works at UNC Chapel Hill.

Richard Doyle, from
A Journal Kept by
Richard Doyle

The Rare Book Blog at UNC Chapel Hill highlights spiritualism-related works in its collection by Arthur Conan Doyle as well as In Fairyland by Richard Doyle (uncle of Arthur), offering a peek at Richard's illustrations for the book and showing a distinct interest in fairies by the family. Conan Doyle's relatives included several artists (such as his father, Charles Altamont Doyle).

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"The Thirty-Two Friends of Gina Lardelli" (1959).

Rita Moreno with
Jeffrey Hunter, ca. 1956
The former teacher of model Gina Lardelli (Rita Moreno) appeals to private eye Lucius Crane (Robert Middleton) to investigate when her death is chalked up to suicide. This episode was the pilot for the TV series The Fat Man (based on the character created by Dashiell Hammett and the radio series with J. Scott Smart) that did not pan out. The writers are Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts (Ironside, Mannix, Shake Hands with the Devil, White Heat).

Monday, April 10, 2017

On early Sherlock Holmes fandom.

Publisher and MP
Sir George Newnes
In TWC: Transformative Works and Cultures, Plymouth State University English department chair Ann McClellan discusses the role of the magazine Tit-Bits in building the popularity of Sherlock Holmes (including publisher George Newnes's strategies for raising Holmes's profile with readers and the place of celebrity culture).

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Happy centenary, Robert Bloch.

Robert Bloch (Psycho; Alfred Hitchcock Presents; Alfred Hitchcock Hour; three episodes of Star Trek, etc.) was born today in Chicago in 1917. Clues 31.1 (2013) published (in the issue on Hitchcock and adaptation) "Adapting Poe, Adapting Hitchcock: Robert Bloch in the Shadow of Hitchcock's Television Empire" by Dennis R. Perry and Carl H. Sederholm.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Fourteen Hours (1951).

Scene from Fourteen Hours
In Fourteen Hours, cop Paul Douglas attempts to coax a despondent Richard Basehart off the ledge of a tall building. Directed by Henry Hathaway and based on "The Man on the Ledge" (The New Yorker 16 Apr. 1949) by crime reporter, war correspondent, and screenwriter Joel Sayre, the film also features Barbara Bel Geddes, Debra Paget, Agnes Moorehead, Robert Keith, Howard da Silva, Jeffrey Hunter, and Grace Kelly in her film debut.

Monday, April 03, 2017

The unique world of Harry Stephen Keeler.

Ramble House edition of
Keeler's Thieves' Nights
On the Center for Fiction blog The Book Drop, Mercantile Library librarian Jon Michaud discusses the offbeat work (including the never-to-be-forgotten flying strangler baby) of Harry Stephen Keeler (1890–1967) with Keeler experts Ed Park and Richard Polt: "It's also interesting to compare him to Agatha Christie, his exact contemporary."

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Guilty Bystander (1950).

Zachary Scott, ca. 1946
In Guilty Bystander, alcoholic former cop turned hotel detective Max Thursday (Zachary Scott) searches for his kidnapped son, finding murder and smuggling along the way. The film is based on the book by Wade Miller (aka H. William Miller and Robert Allison Wade).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Foxwell library event, March 26.

In honor of Women's History Month and the April 6 centenary of the US entry into World War I, I'll be speaking at 2 pm on March 26 at Jarrettsville Library (Jarrettsville, MD) about my anthology In Their Own Words: American Women in World War I. I'm looking forward to it, as I'm told one of the library's book groups includes female veterans.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Postmark for Danger (1955).

Terry Moore, ca. 1956
In Postmark for Danger (based on Portrait of Alison by Francis Durbridge), an artist (Robert Beatty) learns that a car crash in Italy has killed his journalist brother and an actress (Terry Moore). A Scotland Yard inspector (Geoffrey Keen) is interested in a mysterious postcard sent by the journalist before his death; complications ensue with further deaths, including that of the artist's model (Josephine Griffin).

Monday, March 20, 2017

Brown's "Leaves of an Hour" exhibition.

Richard Kiley in "The Holy
Ground—The Killing, Pt 1," Judd
for the Defense
(dir. Leo Penn,
writ. William Kelley, 1969)
Brown University Library's "Leaves of an Hour" online exhibition includes the following items of mystery-related interest: 
  • Title page from Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon (1930)
  • Mention of author, screenwriter, and Brown alum William P. Kelley (Judd for the Defense; Oscar winner for Witness. Clip from Kelley's acceptance speech at the 1986 Oscars; he's the white-haired fellow.)
  • Mention of the library's collection of spy fiction by Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt
  • Discussion of the library's H. P. Lovecraft collections

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Argyle Secrets (1948).

Marjorie Lord, left, with her
daughter, Anne Archer, ca. 1958
In The Argyle Secrets, a political columnist tells reporter William Gargan about a compromising list of businessmen who made deals with Nazi Germany. Gargan is then accused of the columnist's murder, while he and an unscrupulous gang search for the list. Ralph Byrd, Marjorie Lord, John Banner, and Barbara Billingsley costar.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Northern Public Radio on NIU's dime novel collection.

Northern Public Radio highlights the digitization of the Johannsen Collection of dime novels and story papers at the Northern Illinois University libraries. The NIU libraries, in partnership with Villanova University, will digitize 5400 dime novels through a grant of nearly $450,000 from the Digitizing Hidden Collections initiative of the Council on Library and Information Resources. More than 2000 works compose the library's current online offerings, including dime novels by early mystery writer-editor Metta Victoria Fuller Victor and the extensive Nick Carter series.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Orczy's Lady Molly on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Baroness Orczy, from the
Aug. 1913 The Bookman
Now airing on BBC Radio 4 Extra are stories featuring Lady Molly of the "Female Department" of Scotland Yard, penned by Baroness Orczy in 1910. The 10 episodes narrated by Sophie Thompson include "The Ninescore Mystery" (featuring a village murder), "The Irish-Tweed Coat" (featuring a man accused of murder), and "A Day's Folly" (featuring a case of blackmail).

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

"The Blue Landscape" (1955).

Illustration of Peter Lorre,
ca. 1935
In this episode of The Star and the Story, inspector Peter Lorre of the Sûreté takes on a case involving murder and the theft of a painting. Hillary Brooke costars as an insurance investigator. The script is a product of screenwriters DeWitt Bodeen (Cat People), Frank Burt (Dragnet), and Lou Rusoff (Terry and the Pirates).

Monday, March 06, 2017

BFI's lists on "perfect crime" and noir films.

From an ad for The Killing (1956)
One of the latest lists on the British Film Institute blog is on "10 Great Films on Committing the Perfect Crime." These include The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Les Diaboliques (1954), Lift to the Scaffold (1958), The Killing (1956), and Thief (1981).

Another is a list of "10 Great American Film Noirs." Among expected entries (The Big Sleep, Double Indemnity, Laura) are The Lady from Shanghai (1947) and The Reckless Moment (based on Elisabeth Sanxay Holding's The Blank Wall, 1949).

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Place of One's Own (1945).

Margaret Lockwood,
ca. 1946
An Edwardian retired couple (James Mason, Barbara Mullen) move into their new residence, only to find that it is haunted and has a strange effect on the wife's companion (Margaret Lockwood). The film is based on the short story of the same name by Osbert Sitwell.

Monday, February 27, 2017

A new take on "The Musgrave Ritual."

Illustration from "The Musgrave
Ritual." Salt Lake Herald,
5 Nov. 1905
The Law & Humanities blog highlights Ross E. Davies's map in The Green Bag that accompanies "The Musgrave Ritual" (1893), which attempts to identify when and where Holmes told Watson about the case and provides the historical backdrop to the ritual.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"Death Watch" (1958).

Janice Rule, 1951
In this episode of the Alfred Hitchcock-produced Suspicion directed by Ray Milland, police sergeant Edmond O'Brien learns that a colleague is set to kill a spirited witness (Janice Rule) before she can testify at a high-stakes trial, but he needs to determine which cop intends to do the deed. Horace McMahon and Edward Binns costar. The writers are brothers John and Ward Hawkins (Burke's Law, Climax!, Crime Wave).

Monday, February 20, 2017

The mysteries of Isaac Asimov.

My essay "'I Write Christie': The Mysteries of Isaac Asimov" has been published in Salem Press's Critical Insights: Isaac Asimov edited by M. Keith Booker (U-Arkansas). It assesses Asimov's mystery fiction, as there is little critical work on this area of Asimov's oeuvre (aside from his science fiction mysteries with detective Elijah Baley and robot R. Daneel Olivaw). The essay looks at Asimov's vastly underrated debut mystery novel, The Death Dealers (aka A Whiff of Death, rooted in his graduate school experiences at Columbia); Murder at the ABA (with a protagonist based on sci-fi author Harlan Ellison); Black Widowers mystery short stories (with characters modeled on other sci-fi writers); Union Club short stories (with an Asimov alter ego); the Baley-Daneel series; children's mysteries; and assorted other stories. Asimov was a Golden Age mystery fan, and his puzzle mysteries reflect this tradition.

Check out the table of contents.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Bermuda Mystery (1944).

Ann Rutherford, 1943.
In Bermuda Mystery, army buddies each provide $10,000 for investment, with the plan to divvy up the proceeds in 10 years. When one of them, Ann Rutherford's uncle, dies mysteriously before the due date of the distribution, she hires private detective Preston Foster to investigate. Further deaths ensue. Costars include Jason Robards Sr.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Upcoming exhibition:
Clever Criminals and Daring Detectives.

Illustration from Arthur Conan
Doyle's "The Adventure of the
Empty House," San Francisco
, 5 Mar. 1905
Opening in April at the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia will be the exhibition "Clever Criminals and Daring Detectives" that will take a historical look at criminals and detectives in fiction. Materials on display will include the original manuscript of Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of the Empty House" and reflections on mystery collecting of Ellery Queen.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Podcast on 1970s female detectives on TV.

TV Kate Mulgrew as Mrs. Columbo
Kate Mulgrew as
Mrs. Columbo, 1979.
Fotocollectie Anefo,
Dutch National Archives
The Law & Humanities blog calls attention to this podcast on 1970s female TV detectives from Advanced TV Herstory. The episode covers the Nancy Drew TV series with Pamela Sue Martin, Mrs. Columbo with Kate Mulgrew, and Charlie's Angels.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

The Phantom Light (1935).

Gordon Harker. NYPL
In The Phantom Light, the murder of a lighthouse keeper is complicated by the appearance of a mysterious light and a band of wreckers. Starring Gordon Harker (great-uncle of actress Susannah Harker) and Ian Hunter, the film is directed by Michael Powell (before he and Emeric Pressburger formed the Archers), from a play cowritten by Australian-born Evadne Price (who wrote Not So Quiet... Stepdaughters of War under the pseudonym Helen Zenna Smith). Mystery author Joseph Jefferson Farjeon (aka Anthony Swift) provided some dialogue.

Monday, February 06, 2017

The banning of Conan Doyle and Hammett.

Dashiell Hammett.
Yank 30 Nov. 1945
The Department of Special Collections of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas has posted online the catalog (with images) of its 1955 exhibition on banned books, which received ALA's Letter Library Award in 1956.

The exhibition includes, under Russia, works by Arthur Conan Doyle, "because they dealt with occultism and spiritualism."

The U.S. section reveals that Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon (1930) was removed from State Department libraries abroad in June 1953—part of efforts to drop or destroy works characterized by the department as written by communists. (In 1951, Hammett went to prison in Kentucky for contempt of court; he had refused to reveal the names of those who posted bail for four communists.) The NEA Big Read Web page on The Maltese Falcon states that Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R–WI) was responsible for this move, but Hammett's books were restored by a fan: President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Another interesting entry: a biography of Lawrence of Arabia by Richard Aldington, suppressed by friends of T. E. Lawrence because Aldington made controversial assertions such that Lawrence was untruthful about his experiences and did not acknowledge help of literary figures on The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. However, the book was published in French in 1954 and English in 1955, and critics have since questioned its level of objectivity.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Remembering Barbara Hale:
The Clay Pigeon (1949).

Bill Williams and 
Barbara Hale with their son,
William Katt, in 1957
Besides her long run as Della Street in Perry Mason, Barbara Hale—who died at age 94 on January 26—also appeared with her husband, Bill Williams, in The Clay Pigeon (1949). Former sailor Williams is accused of treason and murder, but because he has blackouts, he does not know if these charges are true. Hale plays the widow of a war friend who helps him. The screenwriter is Carl Foreman (High Noon, The Guns of Navarone, etc.).

Monday, January 30, 2017

Exhibition, Poe in Baltimore and elsewhere.

Edgar Allan Poe,
from the New York
, 3 Jan. 1909
The exhibition "The Enigmatic Edgar A. Poe in Baltimore & Beyond" closes at Johns Hopkins University's George Peabody Library on February 5, but you can check out this online version that discusses his cities of residence and the genres in which he wrote, including "Mysteries & Puzzles" that has images of some of his works.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Emil and the Detectives (1931, 1935).

Overlook Press ed. of
Emil and the Detectives
Erich Kaestner's classic 1929 children's novel about a boy pursuing the man who robbed him and enlisting the aid of a band of child detectives had two early film adaptations: a 1931 version scripted by Billy Wilder and a 1935 version.

Monday, January 23, 2017

New Web site for Conan Doyle estate.

Arthur Conan Doyle.
Wellcome Library, London
The Arthur Conan Doyle estate has debuted a new Web site with various texts, correspondence, photos, memorabilia, and films about the creator of Sherlock Holmes and his many roles, including author, physician, advocate, and spiritualist. An interesting account is his less than enthusiastic attitude toward the knighthood offered to him in 1902.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

She Played with Fire (aka Fortune Is a Woman, 1957).

Illustration of
Jack Hawkins, ca. 1958
Reuniting with a former girlfriend (Arlene Dahl) means arson, blackmail, and murder for insurance investigator Jack Hawkins in She Played with Fire, another product of the team of Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, who adapted the novel by Winston Graham (Marnie, Poldark). Gilliat also directs. Costars include Ian Hunter, Bernard Miles, and Christopher Lee.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Hammett, Chandler, and the Writers Guild.

Ad for Mister Dynamite (1935)
In the Writers Guild Foundation's online On the Shoulders of Giants: Early Writers Guild History are the following goodies:
  • Cover of the guild's July 1947 The Screen Writer, which lists Raymond Chandler's "Critical Notes" that critique the contents of the May 1947 issue. One of his observations (in response to an article by Joseph L. Mankiewitz) is "I do not think a writer has to become a producer or director to be an independent artist . . . there is a cleavage between the creative art of writing and the arts of directing and producing..." (31). The July 1947 issue also has "Writing and Realization" by Meyer Levin (author of the Leopold and Loeb-inspired Compulsion) about a film in Palestine that involved him.
The foundation also has posted "The Top 20 Best Written TV Series." No. 15 is Hill Street Blues, no. 9 is The Wire, no. 3 is The Twilight Zone, and no. 1 is The Sopranos.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

I See a Dark Stranger (aka The Adventuress, 1946).

Irishwoman Deborah Kerr and British soldier Trevor Howard become embroiled in World War II espionage involving a little black book and D-Day in this screenwriting effort by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat (The Lady Vanishes, Night Train to Munich, The Green Man, etc.); Launder also directs.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Sherlock Holmes in newspapers.

Illustration from "The Adventure of
the Three Students," Denison [IA]
, 13 Sept. 1905
The British Newspaper Archive blog looks at Sherlock Holmes in newspapers, including a peek into the re-creation of 221B Baker Street in London's Sherlock Holmes pub. In one clipping, Arthur Conan Doyle discusses the fallout of "The Final Problem": "I was amazed at the concern expressed by the public. . . . 'You brute,' was the beginning of a letter of remonstrance which one lady sent me."

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Suspended Alibi (1957).

Andrew Keir, left, and Valentine
Dyall in Suspended Alibi
A philandering editor finds himself in trouble when he is accused of murdering a friend at the time he was meeting with his mistress. Patrick Holt, Honor Blackman, and Valentine Dyall co-star.

Monday, January 02, 2017

BBC Radio 4: The life of Wilkie Collins.

Vanity Fair cartoon of Wilkie
Collins by Adriano Cecioni,
Feb. 1872
This week on BBC Radio 4 is Peter Ackroyd's examination of the life of Wilkie Collins, including his relationship with his artist father, his friendship with Charles Dickens, his unusual personal life, and his landmark mystery works The Woman in White and The Moonstone.