Monday, February 28, 2011

Eric Ambler this week on BBC Radio 7.

Orson Welles (foreground)
and Joseph Cotten in
Eric Ambler's Journey
into Fear
(dir. Norman
Foster, 1943).
An engineer stumbles into international intrigue in Eric Ambler's Journey into Fear (1940) this week on BBC Radio 7. Go here for the schedule or to listen; episodes can usually be heard online for a week after broadcast.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Unlikely Mystery Fan #4: Tallulah Bankhead.

Part of a series on unexpected individuals who enjoy or enjoyed mystery-related works and authors.

Tallulah Bankhead,
by Carl Van Vechten.
Jan 1934. Library of
Congress, Prints and
Photographs Div
I'm a sucker for a detective story.
—Tallulah Bankhead, My Autobiography 303
Husky-voiced actress Tallulah Bankhead was not only the daughter of Alabama Congressman William Brockman Bankhead but also quite fond of mysteries. In her autobiography she mentions Graham Greene as a particular favorite and states that Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone was the first mystery that she ever read. She appeared in the comedy thriller The Creaking Chair in 1924, the play version of Blackmail in London in 1928 (filmed by Hitchcock in 1929), and George Batson's play Design for Murder with later TV veteran Joseph Campanella in 1958.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bibliophilic superheroes.

Captain America,
friend of librarians.
From the Captain
America t-shirt,
Captain America and colleagues save a rare manuscript belonging to Yale's Beinecke Library in this excerpt from Marvel Adventures: Black Widow and the Avengers, #18.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Exhibition on Holmes, Fandorin in Russia.

Vasili Livanov as
Sherlock Holmes in
Sobaska Baskerviley
(The Hound of the
, 1981)
The Voice of Russia discusses a new exhibition at the Russian State Arts Library, "Two Great Capitals—Two Great Detectives," which spans the worlds of Sherlock Holmes's London and Erast Fandorin's Moscow. It includes portraits of actors who have played Arthur Conan Doyle's Holmes and Boris Akunin's Fandorin in Russia.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy 190th birthday, Charles Scribner.

Charles Scribner, by
Thomas Emmet. NYPL
Charles Scribner, who founded his eponymous publishing firm in 1846 with Isaac Baker and Scribner's Monthly (later Century Magazine) in 1870, was born today in New York in 1821. Initially his firm published many religious works. His authors included Louis Agassiz, Henry Ward Beecher, Richard Henry Dana, and Elizabeth Fries Ellet. After his death in 1871 fellow publishers that included George Appleton, J. W. Harper, George Putnam, and E. P. Dutton lauded him in the New York Times for "his rare literary judgment, his ripe scholarship, and his generous culture."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Happy birthday, Ronald Knox.

Detection Club member and Catholic convert Monsignor Ronald A. Knox was born today in Leicestershire in 1888. His essay "Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes" (published in 1912) and his pastiche "The Adventure of the First Class Carriage" (1947) are favorites among Sherlockians. Knox published his first mystery novel, The Viaduct Murder, in 1925 and his famous Decalogue (with rules for mystery writing such as "not more than one secret room or passage is allowable") in 1929. Although his niece, novelist Penelope Fitzgerald, dubbed his sleuth Miles Bredon a "stick" in The Knox Brothers, I found his timetable mystery The Footsteps at the Lock (1928) to be diverting. Knox died in 1957.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Arthur C. Clarke's 31-word short story.

The rather paranoid star
of Arthur C. Clarke's
2001: A Space Odyssey
Letters of Note features what must be one of the shortest short stories on record: Arthur C. Clarke's "SiceneG," which was published in the May 1984 issue of Analog.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy birthday, Sax Rohmer.

Boris Karloff as the
fiendish Dr. Fu Manchu
in The Mask of Fu
British author Sax Rohmer, aka Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward, was born on February 15, 1883, in Birmingham. He died in 1959. His nefarious creation, Dr. Fu Manchu, debuted in "The Zayat Kiss" in 1912.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dick Francis this week on BBC Radio 7.

Dick Francis's Dead on Red and Proof are featured this week on BBC Radio 7 (Proof is read by Nigel Havers). Episodes can usually be heard online for a week after broadcast.

Those who prefer their Francis on DVD can obtain Blood Sport, In the Frame, and Twice Shy that feature Ian McShane.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Unlikely Mystery Fan #3: Robert Graves.

Part of a series on unexpected individuals who enjoy or enjoyed mystery-related works and authors.

Poet-author Robert Graves (I, Claudius; Good-bye to All That, etc.), wrote "After a Century, Will Anyone Care Whodunit?", which appeared in the August 15, 1957, New York Times.  In it, Graves prognosticated on which 20th-century "crime-and-detection thriller" authors will be taught in the 21st century, with quite emphatic likes and dislikes.

The mystery writers he liked:

Erle Stanley Gardner. "As a former practicing attorney he can be trusted not to cheat . . . the legal situation is always novel and fascinating."

Dashiell Hammett, "The Cleansing of Personville"/Red Harvest. "He writes a good practical English."

Selwyn Jepson (author of Man Running, adapted by Hitchcock as Stage Fright, 1950, and uncle of writer Fay Weldon). "A refreshing exception."

Georges Simenon. "a law to himself . . . his diversity and brilliance put most of his rivals to shame."

The mystery writers he dissed:

E. C. Bentley. "flat-footed."

Raymond Chandler. "...I would succumb more often to his ingenious impostures, if the style were not so sadly meretricious..."

G. K. Chesterton. "self-satisfied criminologist . . .a jolly Catholic priest."

Agatha Christie. "... nobody could promise Agatha immortality as a novelist." (never mind that Christie dedicated a book to him) 

• Edgar Allan Poe. "...Heaven knows why nobody in Paris caught sight of the ape [from "The Murders in the Rue Morgue"] during all that excitement, though it was wandering paw-loose for days and must have felt pretty hungry and thirsty."

Dorothy L. Sayers.  "Dorothy Sayers . . . will . . . sink without a trace; she clearly has no belief in her outrageous drawing-room charades..."

Graves's crystal ball seems to have been cloudy, given how seriously he missed the mark on Chandler, Christie, and Sayers, and Jepson is hardly a household name in the present day.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Behind the scenes of Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent.

Herbert Marshall in
Foreign Correspondent
The Wisconsin Center for Film and Theatre Research provides an online glimpse of its large file on the making of Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940). Apparently Hitchcock was unhappy with leading man Joel McCrea (he had wanted Gary Cooper). The photos include one of John Wayne visiting McCrea on set.

Monday, February 07, 2011

"Perry Mason: A TV Milestone" on From the Bookshelf.

Raymond Burr as
Erle Stanley Gardner's
master attorney
University of Delaware's Thomas Leitch, author of Perry Mason and long associated with Kirkus, discusses the 1957–66 TV program on KUSP's From the Bookshelf with Gary Shapiro, comparing it to The Defenders (with E. G. Marshall) and providing insights on its appeal.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Unlikely Mystery Fan #2: Winston Churchill.

Part of a series on unexpected individuals who enjoy or enjoyed mystery-related works and authors.

Winston Churchill,
n.d. Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs
Perhaps not surprisingly for someone who later broke out of a Boer prison camp, the future British prime minister was fond of the works of H. Rider Haggard, reading King Solomon's Mines several times. As Carlo D'Este reports in Warlord: A Life of Winston Churchill at War 1874–1945 (10), Haggard met with Churchill in 1888, expressing apprehension about the prospect: "I hope he will not put me through a cross-examination about my unworthy productions." Apparently it was such a meeting, but Haggard sent Churchill a copy of Allan Quatermain afterward.

Another reported Churchill favorite: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

C. J. Box on Montana Public Radio.

Montana Public Radio's The Write Question program featured C. J. Box discussing his mystery Nowhere to Run.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

G. K. Chesterton this week on BBC Radio 7.

Alec Guinness in
Father Brown (1954)
Short stories featuring G. K. Chesterton's wise priest Father Brown are on tap this week on BBC Radio 7, including "The Blue Cross," "The Queer Feet," "The Eye of Apollo," "The Invisible Man," and "The Honor of Israel Gow." Go here for the schedule or to listen; most episodes can be heard online for a week after broadcast.