Friday, October 31, 2008

Audio clips of Sara Paretsky,
Laura Lippman, Valerie Wilson Wesley.

Over at Chicago's Open Books Radio, there is new audio posted from interviews with Sara Paretsky and Laura Lippman by Booklist's Donna Seaman. Other interviews of potential interest include Valerie Wilson Wesley.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Michael Connelly tonight on Thacker Mountain Radio.

Author Michael Connelly appears on Mississippi's Thacker Mountain Radio on WUMS "Rebel Radio" 92.1 tonight at 6 pm CDT; the program will be rebroadcast on Saturday at 7 pm CDT on Mississippi Public Radio.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy birthday, Fredric Brown.

Fredric Brown, Edgar winner for The Fabulous Clipjoint (1947) featuring the sleuthing Ambrose Hunter and his nephew Ed, was born today in Cincinnati in 1906. He was well known for his writings in the pulps, and a few of his works were adapted for the screen: "Madman's Holiday" became the film Crack-up (1946), The Screaming Mimi became a film for Columbia (1958), and "Arena" became an episode of Star Trek. He also wrote for Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"We ain't great. We're just some guys from Jersey."

This week, Overlook Press publishes in paperback P. F. Kluge's Eddie and the Cruisers; this whodunit features the mysterious demise of a charismatic lead singer and the disappearance of studio tapes. It spawned a 1983 film with Michael Paré and Tom Berenger as well as a top 10 single by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band ("On the Dark Side"). Its sequel, Eddie Lives, Kluge calls "a talent-free embarrassment."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy birthday, Enid Bagnold.

Enid Bagnold (aka Lady Roderick Jones) was born today in Rochester, UK, in 1889. Best known for National Velvet (1935), she also wrote poetry and plays such as the Tony-nominated The Chalk Garden (1955). During World War I she was fired from her job as a nurse when she published A Diary without Dates (1918), a moving and sometimes scathing account of her time at the Royal Herbert Hospital, and her service as an ambulance driver for the FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry) is reflected in her novel The Happy Foreigner (1920).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ian Fleming, Daphne du Maurier this week on BBC Radio 7.

Ian Fleming's Casino Royale and Daphne du Maurier's Jamaica Inn are two of the works featured this week on BBC Radio 7. Go here for the schedule or to listen.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Vintage radio commercials, including
"Lucky Beer."

Online at the Library of American Broadcasting at the University of Maryland, you can listen to various audio clips from radio commercials of the late 1950s and early 1960s, such as "Top Value Stamps (1960)—Only 15,000 books get you a split-level ranch house in New Rochelle!" and "Ingram Gasoline (1958)—98 octane! What did people drive in 1958, Indy Cars?"

Friday, October 24, 2008

Jay Gatsby and Lew Archer.

There's an interesting article posted online, "Ross Macdonald's Marked Copy of The Portable F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Study in Influence," by Robert F. Moss. In it, Moss compares and contrasts Jay Gatsby and Lew Archer and the lives of Fitzgerald and Macdonald; he also discusses Macdonald's annotations in The Portable F. Scott Fitzgerald (ed. Dorothy Parker), which suggest that Macdonald was seriously studying the craft of Fitzgerald's writing. The article also includes photographs of two pages of Macdonald's notes.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chandler: Producers have "the morals of a goat."

From the Atlantic archives: a pungent piece by Raymond Chandler, "Writers in Hollywood" (November 1945), in which he discusses the writer's lot in Tinseltown and the atmosphere of a film as "an endless contention of tawdry egos." Wonderful prose.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pulp fiction poster art by students.

The University of Buffalo is featuring a fun online exhibit "Student Poster Art: Pulp Fiction and Pop Culture at UB."

About the photo: 2008 poster by Katherine Muto.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Freeling: Allingham's Tiger in the Smoke is "deplorable trash."

I picked up Nicolas Freeling's Criminal Convictions: Errant Essays on Perpetrators of Literary License (1994), but found little within that I could embrace. Anthony Berkeley Cox's The Poisoned Chocolates Case? "Arid." Dashiell Hammett? "A bad writer." He likes Sayers's Gaudy Night and The Nine Tailors (the latter is called "a sunny, happy work of immense charm"). He is preoccupied throughout with the question of crime and metaphysics, an argument that I found difficult to follow, and likening the writer to an artist or musician. There is a good chapter on Conan Doyle ("Why worry if Doctor Grimesby Roylott—marvellous name—has brought his snake all the way here [and kept it in a safe, poor thing] expressly to bite young girls with financial expectations?"). The estimation of Margery Allingham's The Tiger in the Smoke as "deplorable trash" was the final straw.

I shall have to stick with the grace and thoughtfulness of Michael Gilbert and Vincent Starrett, methinks.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The brave new world of new media.

I thought I'd give new media a whirl, so some of my historical mystery short stories are now available in Sony ebook format:

• Two with Alice Roosevelt Longworth and FDR ("Come Flit by Me," set in TR's White House, and "Alice and the Agent of the Hun," where Alice hunts for a WWI German spy at a home of future Hope Diamond owner Evalyn Walsh McLean)

• Two with Bunbury, my sleuth in a Bath chair ("A Roman of No Importance" and "Lady Windermere's Flan"; to complete the Wildean motif, Mr. Wilde makes an appearance in "No Importance")
• "Keeper of the Flame," which won first prize in the Cape Fear (NC) Crime Festival Short Story Contest and is set in a remote Maine lighthouse

• "Unsinkable," which takes place on the Titanic
More info about the short stories' original print publication here.

I've had a great deal of fun casting Alice Roosevelt (1884–1980) as detective. She was brilliant (her light reading was Greek philosophers), rebellious, politically shrewd, and extremely well connected; she also could handle a gun (thanks to her energetic father). She liked the racetrack and a good game of poker, and her book Crowded Hours (1933, ed. Max Perkins) is interesting reading. I've often wished that she had run for office like her friend Ruth Hanna McCormick, but there were aspects of politics that she found unappealing. She was usually maligned for her cruel imitation of her cousin Eleanor and her less-than-helpful public comments during FDR's administration, but this could be viewed as retaliation for FDR and ER's actions during her half-brother Ted's New York gubernatorial campaign in the 1920s.

About the photo: Alice Roosevelt, ca. 1902. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, reproduction no. LC-USZC2-6251

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A mystery by Oscar Wilde this week on
BBC Radio 7.

Oscar Wilde's "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime," in which Lord Arthur is told that he is destined to be a murderer and thus decides he better get that out of the way, is featured this week on BBC Radio 7. Go here for the schedule or to listen.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New from Crippen and Landru.

Featured on the snazzily redesigned Web site of mystery short story publisher Crippen & Landru:
Two works by locked-room master John Dickson Carr: 13 to the Gallows and Speak of the Devil

The Battles of Jericho by the talented and sorely missed Hugh Pentecost, featuring his formidable artist-sleuth John Jericho (I loved Pentecost's hotel series with the urbane Pierre Chambrun and the Archie Goodwin-like Mark Haskell)
And teasers for C&L goodies yet to come: works by British novelist Phyllis Bentley (best known for Inheritance, 1932), Norbert Davis, Loren Estleman, E. X. Ferrars, Erle Stanley Gardner, and S. J. Rozan, among others.

Friday, October 17, 2008

They live by night: Noir City DC festival.

Sponsored by the Film Noir Foundation at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland, is the Noir City DC series, which runs today through November 5 and features some of the best noir films ever made, such as Detour (1945), Double Indemnity (1944), Kiss of Death (1947), They Live by Night (1948), and Night and the City (1950). Actor Farley Granger will make a special appearance on October 25th. Go here for author Stephen Hunter's take on the festival.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Rex Stout returns to print.

Nero Wolfe fans, rejoice: Bantam has followed up its edition of Rex Stout's Fer-de-Lance with a new edition of Some Buried Caesar (1939) and The Golden Spiders (1953).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New edition of Mertz's Red Land,
Black Land

For those who want more historical background on Elizabeth Peters's mysteries in an accessible format, there's a new edition of Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt out from Morrow. Published under the name of Barbara Mertz (Peters's real name), the book illuminates the quotidian details of a fascinating civilization.

Morrow also has issued a revised and expanded edition of Mertz's Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A whale of a tale.

The Massachusetts House of Representatives has passed a bill proposing that Herman Melville's Moby-Dick be named the state's official "epic novel." This is actually a change, as the original proposal called for it to be named the commonwealth's "official book," but the representatives from Salem and Concord objected. Salem is the birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Concord is the hometown of Louisa May Alcott. For the bill to become a law, it needs to pass the state senate and be signed by the governor.

(Hat tip to PhiloBiblos.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Conan Doyle exhibition en route to Japan.

"The Case of the Portsmouth Doctor," an exhibition featuring the collection of noted Sherlockian Richard Lancelyn Green, will be displayed in Maizuru, Japan, from October 18 to November 30. The poster for the exhibition is at left.

The collection is housed at the Portsmouth City Museum in the United Kingdom. To see actor Stephen Fry in a video about the collection, go here. To see highlights from the collection, go here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Nicolas Freeling this week on BBC Radio 7.

Nicolas Freeling's Dutch detective Piet van der Valk investigates in Love in Amsterdam this week on BBC Radio 7. Go here for the schedule or to listen.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Quote for the day.

"The crematorium was an ugly red brick building with vague suggestions of ecclesiasticism about it. The ground near it was taken up with a large car park, and there were many shrubs of the least interesting varieties. Here, if anywhere . . . there should be cypresses, the funeral trees that the Romans dedicated to Pluto because once they are cut they never grow again. Yews would take too long to grow, perhaps, for one could not imagine this public library sort of building becoming an ancient monument that would one day inspire some twenty-fifth century Gray to compose an 'Elegy written in a Country Crematorium.'"

—Leo Bruce [Rupert Croft-Cooke], Death at Hallows End 37

Friday, October 10, 2008

Kate Chopin house destroyed.

A fire has destroyed a Louisiana home once owned by The Awakening author Kate Chopin; it was a national historic landmark. Further details here.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

"The Sherlock Holmes of Saskatchewan."

Among the interesting biographies on the Web site of the Library and Archives Canada: Dr. Frances Gertrude McGill (1877-1959), a pathologist dubbed "The Sherlock Holmes of Saskatchewan" who is considered to be the first female Mountie. Go here to see the unusual uniforms (ca. 1917) of Dr. McGill and her fellow players on the Manitoba Medical Girls Basketball Team.

About the photo: Dr. Frances Gertrude McGill, Library and Archives Canada/Canadian Society of Forensic Science fonds/Accession 1984-223/e008223278

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

50th anniversary DVD, Touch of Evil.

All three versions of Orson Welles's noir film Touch of Evil (1958) appear on a new DVD release from Universal Studios Home Video. Go here for further details.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Simon Templar: Saint or Soldier?

Over on the Great War Fiction blog, George Simmers speculates about the possible wartime service of Leslie Charteris's Simon Templar (aka The Saint) and compares him to Sapper's ex-captain Bulldog Drummond.

About the photo: A Christmas card from The Saint Club.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Happy birthday, H. F. Heard.

Henry Fitzgerald Heard, aka mystery author H. F. Heard, was born today in London in 1889. His A Taste for Honey (1941), featuring a murder by bees and a beekeeper-sleuth named Mr. Mycroft, appears on the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone list of essential mysteries and is scheduled to be reprinted by Blue Dolphin Publishing. Others in the Mr. Mycroft series include Reply Paid (1942) and The Notched Hairpin (1949), both slated for reprinting by Blue Dolphin.

Heard, a friend of Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood, also wrote supernatural works such as The Black Fox (under the name Gerald Heard, 1950).

Sunday, October 05, 2008

More Simon Brett this week on BBC Radio 7.

The first book in Simon Brett's Fethering series, The Body on the Beach, is featured this week on BBC Radio 7. Go here for the schedule or to listen.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Happy centenary, Union Station.

Washington, DC's Union Station celebrates one hundred years this weekend. Go here for further details.

(Hat tip to the AHA blog)

About the photo: Theodore Roosevelt at Union Station, ca. 1918. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, reproduction no. LC-DIG-npcc-00046.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Nobel smackdown.

So Horace Ingdahl of the Nobel committee sniffs that U.S. writers are "too isolated, too insular" to merit Nobel consideration? Quoth Harold Augenbraum, the head of the National Book Foundation: "Put him in touch with me, and I'll send him a reading list."

Toni Morrison, Saul Bellow, and John Steinbeck are three of the past U.S. recipients, and I seem to recall that Philip Roth has been a bridesmaid several times.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

My review of The September Society by Charles Finch, Mystery Scene.

My latest occasional review for Mystery Scene appears in the fall issue: Charles Finch's The September Society, the follow-up to the Agatha-nominated A Beautiful Blue Death.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Olsson's bookstores shut their doors.

Olsson's, one of the oldest independent bookstore chains in the Washington, DC, area, has shut its doors, citing low revenue and increasing debt. Earlier in the year, Olsson's had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

It's a sad day in Washington, for browsers could always find books and music in Olsson's that they could not find anywhere else. It was particularly strong in books published by university presses, and its Bethesda location often hosted mystery writers.

Listen to a Peter Robinson podcast from the Library of Congress.

In this podcast prior to his appearance at the National Book Festival, Peter Robinson (Friend of the Devil, etc.) talks about the evolution of Inspector Alan Banks and writers who influenced him.