Friday, June 30, 2006

In Praise of Purple Prose

Okay, I confess. I really love those 19th- and early 20th-century thrillers with their often overwrought prose. I'm a fan of Louisa May Alcott's work in this area, including A Long, Fatal Love Chase, in which the heroine disguises herself as a man, the man who falls in love with her is a priest, and Alcott, presciently, deals with stalking. Perhaps it's genetic; my sister confesses to an undying devotion for that epitome of villains, Sax Rohmer's Dr. Fu Manchu (insert hissing sounds here).

So imagine my delight when reading an upcoming article for the fall 06 issue of CLUES: A Journal of Detection on the mysteries of Arthur Machen (1863-1947), an inspiration for H.P. Lovecraft and a member of Oscar Wilde's set. Machen's villains are so evil that they dissolve into protoplasm; to wit, in "The White Powder":

"Upon the floor was a dark and putrid mass, seething with corruption and hideous rottenness, neither liquid nor solid, but melting and changing before our eyes, and bubbling with unctuous oily bubbles like boiling pitch. And out of the midst of it I saw two burning points like eyes. "

Now, how can anyone possibly resist that?

You can learn more about Machen at the Friends of Arthur Machen Web site. For etexts of his work, go here.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Happy Birthday, Dorothy L. Sayers

Dorothy L. Sayers was born on June 13, 1893. She could speak Latin, French, and German by the time she was sixteen; she broke new ground when she wrote a play about Jesus, "The Man Who Would Be King," for BBC broadcast (produced by Val Gielgud, John's brother); she was the translator on an acclaimed version of Dante's Divine Comedy. Oh, yeah, and she created aristocratic sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey.

Wimsey appearances on DVD with Ian Carmichael ("The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club"; "The Nine Tailors"; "Murder Must Advertise"; "Five Red Herrings," "Clouds of Witness") and Edward Petherbridge ("Strong Poison," "Have His Carcase," "Gaudy Night") can be found here.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

On the Air.
Here is a fetching photo of me in action on "It's a Mystery," my weekly show featuring interviews with mystery authors and others in the field, old-time radio mystery plays, and music from mystery TV shows and movies, on WEBR in Fairfax, VA. WEBR is broadcast on cable TV in Fairfax and Reston, VA and Webcast on Mondays at 11A ET here. J. Kingston Pierce gave the show a nice mention on his blog "The Rap Sheet" (see "Foyle'd Again" on my interview with Foyle's War creator Anthony Horowitz).

Using my previous experience as a newscaster on University of Maryland's WMUC (the oldest college radio station in the country), I created "It's a Mystery" because I was disturbed by the dearth of broadcast outlets for mystery authors unless their name was something like Clark, Patterson, or Grisham. I felt certain that readers wanted to hear about authors beyond the bestseller list, and I was concerned about the lack of knowledge out there about classic mystery writers such as Mary Roberts Rinehart, Charlotte Armstrong, and Edgar Wallace. I found written pearls of wisdom by now deceased writers such as A. A. Fair (aka Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason) and thought, "Wouldn't it be wonderful to have an audio archive of mystery authors talking about their work before (God forbid) they leave us?" "It's a Mystery" is a small step in that direction.

WEBR is a noncommercial, public access station, where you can hear everything from early American rock 'n roll of "The Professor Rocks" and all Beatles music on "The Magical History Tour" to progressive rock, folk music, and talk shows such as the magazine format "American Odyssey"---all without paying for satellite radio. The producers are all volunteers.

To listen to the radio promo for "It's a Mystery," click here.
To listen to past author interviews, go here.

And you can listen here to a short excerpt from the theme from the 1968 TV show "Judd for the Defense," starring Carl Betz (playing a lawyer modeled on F. Lee Bailey). The theme was composed by Star Trek's Alexander Courage.