Wednesday, March 31, 2010

WWII-era cartoonists:
"Eat right to work and win."

This 1942 comic book, available through the University of Nebraska libraries, featured prominent cartoonists telling the American public how they should eat to foster the war effort. Chic Young's Dagwood partakes of one of his famous sandwiches, Alex Raymond 's Flash Gordon "eats plenty of meat," and Lee Falk and Ray Moore's The Phantom advises us that we should have a good breakfast. (Note that Alex Raymond was the cartoonist on Secret Agent X-9, teamed up with Dashiell Hammett).

(Hat tip to the AHA blog. About the image: The well-fed Phantom, by Lee Falk and Ray Moore)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Some Faber podcasts of interest.

Over on the Faber & Faber Web site, some podcasts of interest:
• Interview with P. D. James, primarily reflecting on Cover Her Face (1962)

• Archivist Robert Brown discusses Faber & Faber in the 1930s

Conversations with Tobias Jones (author of Dark Heart of Italy) and Nicola Upson (author of the series featuring Josephine Tey as detective)

Monday, March 29, 2010

John Creasey's The Toff this week on
BBC Radio 7.

Aristocratic man-about-town Richard Rollison, aka the Toff—just one detective of the staggeringly prolific John Creasey (1908–73)—appears in "The Toff and the Runaway Bride" (1959) this week on BBC Radio 7. For the schedule or to listen online, go here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Saving Dickens's writing retreat.

On Yale University Press's blog Michael Slater, author of Charles Dickens, discusses how Dickens's writing retreat in Kent (where he wrote part of The Mystery of Edwin Drood) has fallen into disrepair and the massive effort that will be required to save it.

About the image: Dickens's writing room, NYPL.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Goodbye, Robert Culp.

Sad news to hear that Robert Culp has died at age 79, after giving us his sardonic best (in PT 109, when he [as Ensign Barney Ross] and Cliff Robertson [as JFK] confront gun-wielding natives: "Speak to them in Latin, Jack."). Go here to listen to the I Spy theme by Earle Hagen; go here to see Culp as FBI agent Bill Maxwell in The Greatest American Hero; go here to see a 2007 interview with Culp.

About the image: Robert Culp as Kelly Robinson in the opening to I Spy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stark House reprints Oppenheim's
The Amazing Judgment (1897).

Happy to see that Stark House Press has reissued E. Phillips Oppenheim's hard-to-find novel The Amazing Judgment (1897) and Mr. Laxworthy's Adventures (1913); according to this review in the August 9, 1913, issue of New Zealand's Evening Post, the latter "holds the anxious and unwavering attention of the reader throughout." Oppenheim (1866–1946) was a favorite author of President Woodrow Wilson and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., as well as an inspiration for the thrillers of John Buchan.

About the image: E. Phillips Oppenheim, NYPL

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bookplates at Yale.

The March/April 2010 issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine has a piece on the "psychology of the bookplate" by Alex Beam. Accompanying it are two neat slideshows of bookplates in Yale's collection.

(Hat tip to the Fine Books blog. About the image: A bookplate we can all relate to, from Carl H. Getz, copyright Yale's Arts of the Book Collection)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Neglected Books blog:
They've Shot the President's Daughter (1973).

The Neglected Books blog looks at Edward Stewart's thriller They've Shot the President's Daughter! (1973), criticizing such passages as "...they snapped together like two ropes yanked into a knot." Stewart published a dozen books and died in 1996.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

But what about bolo ties?

The Chronicle of Higher Education offers a short quiz on college presidents who wear bow ties.

About the image: The late senator and university professor Paul Simon (D–IL), known for his natty bow ties.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Anthony Berkeley Cox's Jugged Journalism (1925).

Portrait of Anthony Berkeley Cox
by George Morrow,
from Jugged Journalism.
Golden Age mystery author Anthony Berkeley Cox (Before the Fact, Malice Aforethought, The Poisoned Chocolates Case, etc.) published Jugged Journalism in 1925, a collection of pieces that previously appeared in Punch. It is essentially a manual for writing in all sorts of forms, including articles, essays, and short stories, with tongue firmly planted in cheek. To wit, Cox on editors:
"The popular idea of an editor is a sort of literary ogre, gnashing with his fangs the manuscripts of hapless tyros and taking a fiendish delight in trampling upon the efforts of all those whose names are not sufficiently known to the public at large to restrain his savage instincts" (p. 25).
Several of Cox's points should be added to the famous "Decalogue: Ten Commandments for Mystery Fiction" of his fellow Detection Club member, Monsignor Ronald Knox:
• "Your detective is nearly always an amateur and he invariably has two surnames in place of the usual one and a Christian" (p. 36).

• "The mystery story should carry a love interest . . . . she must have slanting green eyes and behave inscrutably" (p. 43)
Cox's sample mystery story in this book is called, memorably, "The Frozen Fang." Also do not miss Cox's "Holmes and the Dasher," a Sherlock Holmes parody written in the style of P. G. Wodehouse:
"What, ho, Watson, old fruit," he said at last, tossing the letter over to me. "What does that mass of alluvial deposit you call a brain make of this, what, what?" (p. 258).
Sadly, this spritely book is out of print. Please, someone republish it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Orwell on Hornung and Chase.

This C-Span podcast on the George Orwell essay collection All Art Is Propaganda (featuring George Packer and Christopher Hitchens) has a small section on "Raffles and Miss Blandish," Orwell's 1944 piece comparing E. W. Hornung's Raffles works to James Hadley Chase's No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939). Says Orwell, "[Raffles and Bunny] think of themselves not as sinners but as renegades, or simply outcasts."

You can read further here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Erin go braugh: St. Patrick's Day mysteries.

For those wearin' the green today like me (who had Irish maternal grandparents), some St. Patrick's Day mysteries:

Death Takes Up a Collection, by the late (and sorely missed) Sister Carol Anne O'Marie

• A Great Day for the Deadly
, by Jane Haddam

Irish Eyes, by Kathy Hogan Trocheck (aka Mary Kay Andrews)

Plum Lucky, by Janet Evanovich

St. Patrick's Day Murder, by Leslie Meier

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Women and Social Movements database available this month.

To celebrate Women's History Month, the database Women and Social Movements in the United States is available online free of charge until the end of March. This resource has some 3600 documents.

Here are a few items of mystery interest that I found:

Various items pertaining to Charlotte Perkins Gilman, great-niece of Harriet Beecher Stowe; best known for "The Yellow Wall-Paper," she also wrote one mystery novel, Unpunished
  • Biographical sketch of Harriet Prescott Spofford, known in mysterydom for "In a Cellar" (1859) and "Mr. Furbush" (1865)
About the image: Author Harriet Prescott Spofford, n.d. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Monday, March 15, 2010

Miklos Rozsa on The Killers.

Syracuse's online exhibition "Lights, Camera, Music" features film composers Franz Waxman and Miklos Rozsa, including discussion of Rozsa's score for The Killers—namely, Rozsa's ultimately successful claim that the theme for Dragnet was lifted from The Killers.

About the image:
Burt Lancaster in The Killers (1946, dir. Robert Siodmak)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Guardian talks to Sara Paretsky.

The Guardian's Claire Armistead talks to Sara Paretsky about V. I. Warshawski's latest appearance here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

But what will Snoopy do?

WGN owner Randy Michaels has issued a directive that certain words should not be used by anchors and reporters on the talk station. This has significance for mystery writers, because the precluded words include the following:
  • shots rang out
  • fatal death (redundant, redundant)
  • gunman
  • perpetrator
  • senseless murder
  • untimely death
  • went terribly wrong

Online audio, 2009 RBMS conference.

Among the 2009 conference sessions of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section, Association of College and Research Libraries available online in audio are "Collecting, Auctions, and the Book Trade" and "Publishing and the Popular Consumption of Print Materials."

(Hat tip to PhiloBiblos)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Watch the birdie.

Dartmouth professor Hany Farid explores the history of retouching photographs, even providing some 19th-century examples. (This one, not part of Farid's discussion, features a unique visitor to the Yalta Conference of 1945).

About the photo: General Francis P. Blair, who shows up in a Matthew Brady photograph for which he actually was not present. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What they (supposedly) wanted us to read in 1895.

Harvard, as part of its exhibition "Reading: Harvard Views of Readers, Readership, and Reading History," is offering online the 1895 List of Books for Girls and Women and Their Clubs, issued for the American Library Association. The fiction list, "chosen and annotated by a reviewer for The Nation," tends to snarkiness, especially about popular books by women. Some of the listings:
Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Aurora Floyd, Eleanor's Victory, Lady Audley's Secret. "The worst that may be said of her books is that the impression of life conveyed by them is generally false."

Arthur Conan Doyle, Micah Clarke, Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. "His best books are narratives of military adventure, though perhaps the most popular describe the commission and detection of crime."

Marie Corelli, Vendetta, The Soul of Lilith. "She enjoys great popularity."

Anna Katharine Green, The Leavenworth Case, The Mill Mystery, A Matter of Millions, A Strange Disappearance. "She scorns probability both in plot and character, and, to persons of reason, her books are tiresome and nonsensical. From her popularity it would appear that reason is scarce..."

H. Rider Haggard, King Solomon's Mines, She, Heart of the World. "He is ingenious."

Anthony Hope, The Prisoner of Zenda. "...The impossibility of all is a cold afterthought."

Edgar Allan Poe, Tales. "Morbidly imaginative."

E.D.E.N. Southworth, A Leap in the Dark, The Lost Heiress. "Her distortion of truth and fact is wonderful, and her sentimentality appalling."

Lew Wallace, Ben Hur, The Fair God, The Prince of India. "His books are extremely long, the construction is intricate, and the grammar imperfect."

Ellen Wood, East Lynne, Danesbury House. "The work is much better than much of its class."
(Hat tip to PhiloBiblos. About the image: Cartoon of Mary Elizabeth Braddon from Punch, 1881, NYPL.)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Oscar Wilde's Lord Arthur Savile's Crime
on stage in DC.

Through March 21st, the Washington Stage Guild is performing in Oscar Wilde's Lord Arthur Savile's Crime, in which his lordship, receiving the news that he is destined to commit a murder, decides to get it out of the way immediately. Go here for the Washington Post review; here to read W. B. Yeats's review of Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories (1891).

About the image
: Oscar Wilde, ca. 1882. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Monday, March 08, 2010

The medium is the message this week on
BBC Radio 7.

This week BBC Radio 7 is featuring the Edgar-nominated Seance on a Wet Afternoon by Australian Mark McShane, aka Marc Lovell, in which a purported clairvoyant and her husband are involved in a kidnapping. It was filmed in 1964 by Bryan Forbes and starred Richard Attenborough and Kim Stanley.

Go here for the BBC Radio 7 schedule.

About the image: Kim Stanley in Seance on a Wet Afternoon.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Boston Massacre: Was it murder?

Richard Archer, professor of history emeritus at Whittier College, discusses on the Oxford University Press blog why he thinks the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770, was murder.

About the image: A rendering of Boston Massacre victim Crispus Attucks, ca. 1897. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Product of the day:
Sherlock Holmes chess sets.

A few samples of chess sets with a Sherlock Holmes theme:

• Sherlock Holmes chess set by Mascott Direct, ca. 1987, Toronto Public Library (there appears to be a similar one available from Hoyles)

• Sherlock Holmes chess set by Sac Games

• Sherlock Holmes chess set by Chess Baron

• Sherlock Holmes chess set from House of Staunton

About the image: Sherlock Holmes chess piece by Sac Games

Thursday, March 04, 2010

New Charles Addams exhibition.

Opening today at the Museum of the City of New York is the exhibition "Charles Addams's New York," which features city images by the late New Yorker cartoonist known for his skewed view of the world (especially the creation of the Addams Family). Go here to see a timeline of his career.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Musical geography.

More than a century before Schoolhouse Rock was an attempt to teach geography by setting rhymes to music, according to this post on Yale's Room 26 Cabinet of Curiosities. It's not as catchy as "Conjunction Junction, What's Your Function?": "Texas is low and marshy near the coast/The north and west can hills and mountains boast/Jacinto battle, eighteen thirty-six/Caught Santa Anna in a doleful fix."

About the image: A geography class in Washington, DC, ca. 1899. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Penguin at 75.

Penguin Books celebrates its 75th anniversary this year with a look back at its history, including its top-selling paperbacks, such as:
• Helene Hanff, 84 Charing Cross Road
• John le Carre, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
• Peter Robinson, Gallows View
• Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind

About the image: The "favourite Penguin" poster for February

Monday, March 01, 2010

Preview, NY Gangster Museum.

Museyon Guides previews New York's Museum of the American Gangster, which is scheduled to open March 7.

About the image: James Cagney in The Public Enemy (1931, dir. William Wellman).