Monday, November 18, 2019

"The Missing Number" (1922).

Elisabeth Ellicott Poe, right,
1918. Library of Congress,
Prints & Photos Div.
Elisabeth Ellicott Poe (1886–1947) and Vylla Poe Wilson (1883–1969) trained women for national service during World War I and were longtime society and culture reporters for the Washington Post. Dubbed "the Poe Sisters," they were related to Edgar Allan Poe (their great-grandfather was a brother of Poe's grandfather). They were steadfast champions of their relative's work, with Elisabeth writing at least 20 articles on Poe's life and work; Vylla reviewing Dorothy Dow's take on Poe, Dark Glory, for the Post in January 1932; and the sisters establishing a short-lived, Poe-related journal, The Stylus, and coauthoring Poe: A High Priest of the Beautiful (1930). Elisabeth also painted, with some critics stating that her imagery resembled Poe's.

Vylla Poe Wilson, left, 1918.
Library of Congress,
Prints & Photos Div.
From May to June 1922, the sisters published "The Missing Number," a serial in 18 parts, in the Post. This mystery about the disappearance of a diplomat's wife in Washington, DC, that involves a Poe-like number cipher was trumpeted by the Post as "the first Poe mystery story in 73 years!" (see below). It featured a sleuthing female reporter, a disreputable medium, an energetic policeman, and more than one distraught family member and sinister servant. Although "The Missing Number" provided an interesting look at Washington life of the time (remember streetcars?), it is a not very successful literary work. It has an unknown half-brother (cheating, for many mystery writers and readers), some cloying romance, and portrayals of African Americans and a deaf-mute that would likely be unpalatable to modern readers.

The Poe Sisters are buried in DC's Glenwood Cemetery. Read Elisabeth's "Poe, the Weird Genius" (Cosmopolitan, Feb. 1909).

Excerpt from "The Missing Number," Washington Post, 31 May 1922.
Ad for "The Missing Number"
Washington Post, 19 May 1922: 2

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The return of Dorothy Bowers.

In the Shropshire Star Keri Trigg discusses the reprinting by Moonstone Press of the five detective novels of Dorothy Bowers (1902–48), a member of the Detection Club adept in the "fair play" mystery who died young from tuberculosis.

The books are:

Postscript to Poison (Inspector Dan Pardoe, 1938)

Shadows Before (Pardoe, 1939; Kirkus review)

A Deed without a Name (Pardoe, 1940; Kirkus review)

Fear for Miss Betony (Pardoe, 1941; Kirkus review)

The Bells at Old Bailey (Detective Inspector Raikes, 1947. "a literate and entertaining excursion into murder"—Jack Glick, New York Times)

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

"Rebecca" (1962).

This April 1962 version of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca aired on Theatre '62 and featured James Mason as Maxim de Winter and Joan Hackett as the second Mrs. de Winter. Nina Foch took on the role of housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, and Lloyd Bochner was Rebecca's cousin Jack Favell.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The Chase (1946).

Based on The Black Path of Fear by Cornell Woolrich, The Chase features Robert Cummings as a troubled World War II veteran who becomes chauffeur to gangster Steve Cochran and entangled with Cochran's wife (Michele Morgan). Peter Lorre costars.

Monday, November 04, 2019

New exhibition on Rex Stout and his work.

The Burns Library at Boston College, the depository of Rex Stout's papers, has opened the exhibition "Golden Spiders and Black Orchids: A 'Satisfactory' Look into the Life and Mysteries of Rex Stout." The exhibition, which features Stout’s fiction and its adaptations, his activism, his pastimes, and his fandom, has interesting items such as a Nero Wolfe comic strip and Nero Wolfe postage stamps from San Marino and Nicaragua. The exhibition is on view until January 2020.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Mystery Junction (1951).

In Mystery Junction, a mystery writer encounters murder on a train.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Knopf and Cain tussle over The Postman Always Rings Twice.

James M. Cain with Lana Turner
On the Library of Congress blog, former Washington Post reporter Neely Tucker discusses the evolution of the title of James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice, based on the Cain papers in the LOC. The work began life with the unpromising title BAR-B-Que.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Yellow Canary (1943).

Richard Greene and Anna Neagle
in Yellow Canary (1943)
In Yellow Canary, a well-to-do Nazi sympathizer (Anna Neagle) traveling to Canada becomes a focus of both British and Nazi agents, with the fate of a British convoy in the balance. The film is based on a story by Pamela Bower (daughter of the film's director, Herbert Wilcox, and stepdaughter of Neagle) and a screenplay cowritten by actor-screenwriter Miles Malleson. Costars include Richard Greene, Margaret Rutherford, and Valentine Dyall.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Crime Unlimited (1935).

In Crime Unlimited, a Scotland Yard detective (Esmond Knight) goes undercover in a gang of jewel thieves, seeking to unmask its mysterious leader. The film is based on the 1933 book of the same name by David Hume (aka former journalist John Victor Turner). Costars include Lilli Palmer as a Russian dancer associated with the gang.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Restored 1954 recording of Ngaio Marsh.

Ngaio Marsh companion
Ngaio Marsh companion (2019)
published by McFarland
In a restored recording from 1954, Ngaio Marsh speaks about her first novel, A Man Lay Dead (1934); relates her "odd" (in her view) process of writing detective fiction; and provides her eyewitness account of the eventful inauguration of E. C. Bentley as Detection Club president in 1936 with Dorothy L. Sayers and John Rhode, among others. "I screamed," notes Marsh. Other topics include her involvement in theater in New Zealand. (Read about the recording's restoration process.)

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

The Seventh Survivor (1942).

In The Seventh Survivor, World War II secret agents square off after a ship is torpedoed.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Sherlock Holmes essay contest for students.

Joseph Pennell, "Baker Street," ca. 1908.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Div.
The Beacon Society is sponsoring an essay contest for US and Canadian students in 4th to 12th grades that focuses on the Sherlock Holmes stories The Adventure of the Red-Headed League,“The Adventure of the Copper Beeches,” and “The Greek Interpreter.” There are cash prizes for first to third place. The submission deadline is February 1, 2020. (Thanks to the podcast I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere.)

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Strangers in the Night (1944).

In this film adaptation of a story by Philip MacDonald, a Marine looks into the identity of a mysterious woman who has been writing letters to him.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Exhibition on Florence Chandler Maybrick.

The New Milford (CT) Historical Society and Museum is hosting the exhibition "Florence Maybrick: The Mystery of the Dress." The American-born Maybrick (1862–1941) was convicted of killing her husband, James, in 1889 (although her husband was fond of taking arsenic, and a case could be made for the mental incompetence of the judge at her trial). She served 14 years in prison and was pardoned by King Edward VII in 1904. She returned to the United States, living in Connecticut. The museum is seeking artifacts related to Maybrick's time in Connecticut to add to the exhibition.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Train of Events (1949).

Train of Events tells the stories of people involved in a train crash, including a man who has killed his cheating wife and placed her body in a basket. The cast includes Peter Finch, Valerie Hobson, Michael Hordern, and Miles Malleson.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Oct 1 deadline for Clues theme issue,
"Crime's Hybrid Forms."

The deadline is October 1, 2019, to submit to the Clues theme issue on "Genre-Bending: Crime's Hybrid Forms" that will be guest edited by Maurizio Ascari (University of Bologna).

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Dead of Night (1945).

In Dead of Night, a man fears that his recurring dream foretells dire events to come. Michael Redgrave (as a disturbed ventriloquist), Googie Withers, and Miles Malleson star.

Monday, September 16, 2019

FSU mystery exhibition curated by 12-year-old.
Joseph, a 12-year-old mystery enthusiast and scholar-in-residence, has curated the exhibition "A Century of Mystery and Intrigue" at Florida State University Library's Special Collections and Archives, which involves trains and includes such works as Freeman Wills Crofts's Inspector French and the Starvel Hollow Tragedy (1927). Joseph writes here about the exhibition, which will remain on view until December 20, 2019 (see also FSU story). Questions about the exhibition (and perhaps Joseph's work at the library) can be directed to preservation librarian Hannah Wiatt Davis.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Trans-Atlantic Mystery (1932).

This short-film follow-up to The Wall-Street Mystery once again is written by S. S. Van Dine and features Donald Meek as criminologist Dr. Crabtree and John Hamilton as Inspector Carr. This time, they contend with stolen gems and two deaths.

Monday, September 09, 2019

The talents of Charles Altamont Doyle.

Through September 23, the Huntington Library is featuring an exhibition of work by Charles Altamont Doyle, the troubled artist father of Arthur Conan Doyle. The Doyle family had significant artistic talent: Charles's father, John, was a political cartoonist; his brother, Richard, was an illustrator; and his son, Conan Doyle, showed substantial ability in his own sketches. Given Conan Doyle's belief in fairies, the fairy subject matter of several of his father's works may be of interest.

"Hutton—The Bookseller." Illustration by
Charles Altamont Doyle for James Hogg's
Men Who Have Risen

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Dual Alibi (1947).

In Dual Alibi, Herbert Lom plays twin trapeze artists who compete for the same woman and become entangled in murder.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Clues 37.2: Interwar mysteries.

Clues 37.2 (2019)
The volume 37, no. 2 (2019) issue of Clues has been published, which is a theme issue on interwar mysteries guest edited by Victoria Stewart (University of Leicester, UK). See below for the abstracts. To order the issue, contact McFarland (this post will be updated once the e-versions are available from amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google Play).

Introduction / VICTORIA STEWART. The guest editor of Clues 37.2 on interwar mysteries discusses its contents, including articles on Agatha Christie, Mary Fitt. Ngaio Marsh, Clifford Orr, Raymond Postgate, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Josephine Tey.

Detecting Histories, Detecting Genealogies: The Origins of Golden Age Detective Fiction / STACY GILLIS (University of Newcastle, UK). This article traces interwar attempts to define detective fiction, with an emphasis on how critics such as Dorothy L. Sayers, H. Douglas Thomson, and T. S. Eliot traced its origins in classical, biblical, and more recent texts. It argues that this demonstrates an anxiety relating to conceptions of literary taste on the part of these commentators.

“The Ghost of Dr. Freud Haunts Everything Today”:
Criminal Minds in the Golden-Age Psychological Thriller / STEFANO SERAFINI (Royal Holloway, University of London). This essay provides new insights into the development of interwar crime fiction by investigating how, and to what extent, two such apparently irreconcilable subgenres as the classic detective story and the psychological thriller interact and intertwine in the work of often-neglected Golden Age writers.

Killing Innocence: Obstructions of Justice in Late-Interwar British Crime Fiction / J. C. BERNTHAL (University of Cambridge). This article analyzes Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and Raymond Postgate’s Verdict of Twelve, both written toward the end of the interwar period and published at the outset of World War II. Christie and Postgate interrogate ethics in the British criminal justice system, using the figure of the child-victim to complicate interwar constructions of innocence.

Capital Punishment and Women in the British Police Procedural: Josephine Tey’s A Shilling for Candles and To Love and Be Wise / EVIE JEFFREY (University of Newcastle, UK). This article considers Josephine Tey’s engagement with contemporary capital punishment debates through considering the phenomenon of the “wrongful” arrest. It argues that women are central to the exploration of these debates, particularly when reading the novels as part of the subgenre of police procedurals within the Golden Age of detective fiction.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Shadow Man (aka Street of Shadows, 1953).

In The Shadow Man, saloon owner Cesar Romero is framed for murder and must prove that he is innocent. The film is based on The Creaking Chair by Laurence Meynell.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Homes of local mystery writers.

The website DC Writers' Homes—a project of Humanities DC—features residences of such writers as James M. Cain (6707 44th Ave, University Park, MD), Roald Dahl (2136 R St NW in DC), Rudolph Fisher (1607 S St NW in DC), Lucille Fletcher (3435 8th St S, Arlington, VA), Mary Roberts Rinehart (2419 Massachusetts Ave NW and 2660 Woodley Rd in DC), and Manley Wade Wellman (400 Shepherd St NW in DC).

Mary Roberts Rinehart with chauffeur outside her
home at 2419 Massachusetts Ave NW in
Washington, DC (now the Embassy of Zambia).
ca. 1920s-early 1930s. Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Spies of the Air (1939).

In Spies of the Air, British intelligence hunts for the thief of secret airplane plans. Based on the play Official Secret by Jeffrey Dell, the film stars Roger Livesey and Basil Radford, with an interesting name appearing as film editor: future director David Lean.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Exhibition inspired by Hitchcock films.

Beth Accomando on station KPBS discusses an art exhibition based on Hitchcock films that will be on view at San Diego's Subterranean Coffee Boutique until September 6.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Moment of Indiscretion (1958).

In Moment of Indiscretion, a woman faces a murder charge when she will not reveal where she was at the time of the crime.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Avbl for preorder: Companion on Ian Rankin.

Ian Rankin: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction
Now available for preorder is the upcoming volume 10—on the works of John Rebus creator Ian Rankin—in the McFarland Companions to Mystery Fiction series that I edit. Author and Fanshawe College professor Erin E. MacDonald wrote the earlier, well-regarded companion on Ed McBain/Evan Hunter. Volume 10 provides a comprehensive examination of Rankin's writing career, including short stories that the Scottish author had forgotten he had written and interesting sidelights such as the Rebus play Long Shadows.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Rough Shoot (1953).

In Rough Shoot (aka Shoot First), former US colonel Joel McCrea becomes entangled with murder and a spy ring in England. The film is based on A Rough Shoot by Geoffrey Household, with a screenplay by Eric Ambler. Costars include Evelyn Keyes, Herbert Lom, and Marius Goring.

Monday, August 05, 2019

New publications on Sayers.

Some new books dealing with Dorothy L. Sayers:
    God, Hitler, and Lord Peter WimseyAnglican Women Novelists

• Tippermuir Books follows up its collection of Sayers book reviews (ed. Martin Edwards) with God, Hitler, and Lord Peter Wimsey, a collection of articles, essays, and speeches by Sayers, including a radio broadcast that has never been published before.

Anglican Woman Novelists from T&T Clark covers Sayers and P. D. James, among other female authors.

• Coming in October from InterVarsity Press: Choosing Community: Action, Faith, and Joy in the Works of Dorothy L. Sayers