Monday, November 30, 2009

Val McDermid, Lindsey Davis this week on BBC Radio 7.

In the latest in the series Foul Play, which is written and chaired by Simon Brett, authors Lindsey Davis and Val McDermid attempt to solve the mysterious death of a doctor. Go here for the schedule or to listen.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Lamb to the slaughter.

When people think of mystery, food, and the perfect murder weapon, what frequently comes to mind is Roald Dahl's "Lamb to the Slaughter," which was adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1958 and starred Barbara Bel Geddes.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy 150th birthday, Woman in White.

On this day 150 years ago, the first serial part of Wilkie Collins's The Woman in Whiteoften regarded as the first mystery novelappeared in the periodical All the Year Round (published by Charles Dickens). Some appropriate links:

Clip from the 1997 BBC adaptation of The Woman in White starring Tara Fitzgerald as Marian (referred to as Fairlie in the production, whereas her surname in the book is Halcombe)

Clip from The Woman in White (1948) starring Gig Young as struggling art teacher Walter Hartright

• Preview trailer from Andrew Lloyd Webber's short-lived version of The Woman in White

• Michael Crawford as Count Fosco sings "You Can Get Away with Anything" from the Andrew Lloyd Webber production of The Woman in White

(Hat tip to Paul Lewis. About the photo: Wilkie Collins, bet. 1880 and 1890. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Whitlock reissues "Victorian Valley of the Dolls."

Whitlock Publishing has reissued the temperance novel Danesbury House (1860) by Mrs. Ellen Wood, which combines "addictions, insanity, forgery, and death" and is memorably characterized by its publisher as a "Victorian Valley of the Dolls."

Bestselling (take a look at these sales figures) novelist Wood, aka Mrs. Henry Wood (1814–87), may be best known for East Lynne (1861), but she also wrote a number of ghost stories and can be considered as a rival of Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon.

About the image: Portrait of Ellen Wood, from Memorials of Mrs. Henry Wood (1894).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New biography of Louisa May Alcott.

Just in time for Louisa May Alcott's birthday on November 29th, Julia M. Klein reviews Harriet Reisen's new Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women in Obit magazine and mentions that the PBS program American Masters on December 28 will focus on Alcott.

I've always enjoyed Alcott's sense of humor and penetrating eye. In 1942, scholars Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern discovered Alcott's hidden history as a writer of "blood and thunder" tales when they compared entries in Alcott's account books to published stories and so linked the A. M. Barnard pseudonym to Alcott. As I wrote in Deadly Women, these stories have lurid content such as drug addiction and murder; and A Long Fatal Love Chase, considered too sensational to be published in Alcott's lifetime, has the modern themes of domestic abuse and stalking. Klein cites Alcott's "thirst for adventure" in penning such tales; as Alcott wrote about one story, "Enjoyed doing it, being tired of providing moral pap for the young."

Klein mentions that Alcott may have suffered from lupus, but it was my understanding that mercury—the treatment for the typhoid pneumonia Alcott contracted as a Civil War nurse—likely contributed to her death some 20 years later.

About the photo: Louisa May Alcott, NYPL.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Richard Marsh, Wilkie Collins, and
John Buchan this week on BBC Radio 7.

This week on BBC Radio 7: The life of an actress is threatened in "An Illustration of Modern Science" (1896) by Richard Marsh, best known for The Beetle (1897); a policeman recalls a memorable murder case in Wilkie Collins's "Who Killed Zebedee?" (1880), read by Ronald Pickup; and Richard Hannay seeks to thwart German spies in John Buchan's classic The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915). Go here for the schedule or to listen.

About the image
: John Buchan, NYPL.

Friday, November 20, 2009

You too can indulge in academic obfuscation.

The University of Chicago's Virtual Academic can supply that perfect incomprehensible academic sentence to you after you select words and phrases from various dropdown menus (e.g., "praxis"). I came up with "The illusion of praxis gestures toward the discourse of the public sphere."

Unfortunately, I have edited sentences like that...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More items from LOC.

More interesting items I've found from the Library of Congress:
• 1934 panel from the comic strip Secret Agent X-9 (text by Dashiell Hammett; art by Alex Raymond).

• "Hungarian Baroness Scores Success as Authoress," on Baroness Orczy, from the December 24, 1905, issue of the San Francisco Call, in which the baroness reveals that she reads Edgar Allan Poe, Victor Hugo, Georg Ebers, and Bret Harte.
• A promotion for the upcoming serialization of Anna Katharine Green's Lost Man's Lane in the January 2, 1898, St. Paul Globe, in which Green talks about her writing philosophy: "I look for the naturally unexpected, and when I have found such a treasure, I take pencil in hand and take the 'dear reader' into my confidence and tell him or her just what, in my estimation, will induce him or her to go on."

About the photo
: Anna Katharine Green, taken bet. 1870 and 1890. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Edgar Rice Burroughs:
"damned sick of hearing people apologize to me for reading my stories."

Over on Letters of Note: Even prolific Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875–1950) had some down moments. As he writes to his daughter in January 1941: "If anyone says a kind word about my work nowadays, as you did, I nearly break down and cry. I have had so many refusals lately and had my classics so gratuitously insulted over here that I have lost confidence in myself."

About the image: Bookplate of Edgar Rice Burroughs, bet. 1914 and 1922, by Studley Burroughs. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Web site on Robert Louis Stevenson.

With funding from the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, a new Web site has been established that focuses on Scottish native son Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–94). Included are a biography; a look at his various travels (including his time in Monterey, CA); books such as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Kidnapped; annotations on his letters; photographs; a works chronology; associates of Stevenson such as poet W. E. Henley, Fanny Sitwell, and Andrew Lang; and a lot more.

About the image: Robert Louis Stevenson, NYPL.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ellis Peters, Arthur Conan Doyle, and
Sara Paretsky this week on BBC Radio 7.

This week on BBC Radio 7: Ellis Peters's Brother Cadfael in Dead Man's Ransom; a rebroadcast of Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower, and Charles Foley's Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters; and Sara Paretsky's Bitter Medicine. Go here for the schedule or to listen.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy birthday, George V. Higgins.

Lawyer-author George V. Higgins, best remembered for the gritty The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972), was born today in Brockton, MA, in 1939. He died in 1999.

About the image: Robert Mitchum in The Friends of Eddie Coyle (dir. Peter Yates, 1973)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What the astronauts read.

Some of what's available for recreational reading, viewing, and listening at the International Space Station, ca. 2008:
  • Isaac Asimov, multiple titles
  • Dan Brown, Angels and Demons
  • John le Carre, Absolute Friends, The Constant Gardener
  • David McCullough, 1776
  • Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in Eighty Days
  • Apollo 13
  • Hogan's Heroes
  • The Ladykillers
  • The Usual Suspects
  • College Fight Songs, vols. 1, 2, 3

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A jury of her peers.

Images pertaining to women and juries from the Library of Congress:

Illustration on future roles for women, including jury service, 1891

The first all-female jury in California (Los Angeles, 1911; see image at left)

Sarcastic cartoon on women being "too sentimental" to serve on juries, 1915

Wyoming was the first state to allow women to serve on juries, including six women on a Laramie grand jury in March 1870 that, according to I. S. Bartlett's History of Wyoming (1918) "investigated many cases including murders, cattle stealing, illegal branding, etc" (206).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Some praise for John Buchan: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction.

Nice words from Washington State University librarian J. Greg Matthews in Reference Reviews regarding John Buchan: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction (by Kate Macdonald; ed. yours truly; first in the McFarland Companions to Mystery Fiction series):
Macdonald's Companion admirably achieves what the best criticism aspires to: presents and considers an author's work in unsparing detail, presents conclusions on a foundation of solid critical evidence, and ultimately preserves the author's (or work's) autonomy while examining it in multiple contexts . . . it accomplishes something more elusive because it infuses Buchan's readers with a desire to return to his works with new enthusiasm. (34)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Isaac Asimov:
"For the sake of conscience."

Over on Letters of Note, a November 1964 letter from science fiction-mystery-etc. author Isaac Asimov to the editor of the children's lit magazine Horn Book inquires about a raise in the reviewer's rate.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Happy birthday, Charles MacArthur;
Carole Nelson Douglas.

Journalist, playwright, and screenwriter Charles MacArthur—best known for The Front Page (cowritten with Ben Hecht) and his marriage to actress Helen Hayes—was born today in Scranton, PA, in 1895. He won an Oscar for best original story for The Scoundrel (1935). He died in 1956.

And Texas resident Carole Nelson Douglas—author of the Midnight Louie and Irene Adler series, as well as a new paranormal series—turns 65 today.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Peter Temple on Radio New Zealand.

Radio New Zealand talks to Duncan Lawrie Dagger recipient and Ned Kelly Award winner Peter Temple here. His most recent novel (a follow-up to The Broken Shore) is Truth (US publication: January 2010).

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Mysteries: Not just for geezers.

After hearing dire predictions about teenagers' reading habits, I was happy to read the PW article by's Carol Fitzgerald that reported on the habits of young "uber readers." Mysteries were reported as favorite reading by 61 percent of the sample (after fiction, series, romance, fantasy, and adventure). It should be noted, however, that the respondents were overwhelmingly female (96 percent).

Monday, November 02, 2009

Bulldog Drummond this week on
BBC Radio 7.

Sapper's intrepid ex-World War I captain Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond takes to the BBC Radio 7 airwaves this week in "Bulldog Drummond." Go here for the schedule or to listen.