Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy birthday, Jane Langton.

Jane Langton, the creator of detective and scholar Homer Kelly, turns 84 today. She published her first novel, a children's book, in 1961. Notable books in her long career include the Edgar-nominated Emily Dickinson Is Dead (1984), the Edgar-nominated The Diamond in the Window (1962), and Steeplechase (2005).
The Firsts.

In the rush to compile "Best Mysteries of 2006" lists, the first mystery novel often is overlooked. Here are three that I enjoyed in 2006:
  • Murder 101, by Maggie Barbieri (St. Martin's). A lively academic mystery with a young professor and bon mots such as "Our school has a motto: Keep your alumni close and your rich alumni closer."
  • Billy Boyle, by James R. Benn (Soho). An interesting look at the Norwegian contribution to WWII with a Boston Irish cop-turned-soldier who is related to General Eisenhower.
  • Still Life, by Louise Penny (St. Martin's). A wise and often lyrical mystery set in Quebec that involves the murder of an artist and its effect on a small town.
And you can listen to interviews with these authors on my "It's a Mystery" Web page.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Submitted for your approval...

Happy belated birthday to the creator of the "Twilight Zone," Rod Serling, born on December 25, 1924. He died in 1975. His numerous accomplishments include screenplays for "Patterns," "Requiem for a Heavyweight," "Seven Days in May," and "Planet of the Apes."

Rod Serling is one of my personal writing heroes for his crackling dialogue, twist endings, and superb handling of dramatic situations. Watching TZ now reveals the rampant fears of nuclear war and of technology taking over man. One favorite episode of mine (written by Serling) is "Twenty-two," in which a hospital patient has a recurring nightmare of following a figure down empty corridors to Room 22, and a gothic horror of a nurse emerges and says, "Room for one more, honey."

Room 22 is the morgue.


To hear Serling deny in an interview with Mike Wallace that he would not engage in social issues in TZ is to laugh. As a teacher, he encouraged numerous fledgling writers, including mystery authors Sharan Newman and Sue Henry.

You can listen to clips from the Wallace interview and "Submitted for Your Approval," the "American Masters" program on Serling, here. Join the effort to put Serling on a U.S. postage stamp here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Book TV.

I'm a fan of C-Span's Book TV (although I'm partial to the history rather than the more politically oriented programs). This weekend's schedule included a look behind the New York Times Book Review with editor Sam Tenenhaus, copy editors, and other assorted staff, and I'm happy to say that some of their desks look worse than mine. Be sure to look at the entire room filled with ARCs that the NYTBR is not going to review.

Go here to watch online.