Thursday, June 30, 2011

The cheery Chesterton.

In a TLS review of Ian Ker's G. K. Chesterton and William Oddie's The Holiness of G. K. Chesterton, Bernard Manzo underscores the cheerfulness of Chesterton, mentions the perception of Father Brown, and comments on the elaborate masquerade of The Man Who Was Thursday. Ker's biography indicates that Chesterton regarded Father Brown as a way to augment his bank account when funds were low and that Monsignor Ronald Knox, Chesterton's fellow Detection Club member, did not consider the Father Brown stories to be mysteries (283–84). But in Ker's description of Father Brown's "intimate knowledge of the human heart"  (284), there seem to be definite parallels with Christie's later Miss Marple, yet another sleuth who looks deceptively fluffy but is unerring in her estimation of human motivations and actions.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Daphne du Maurier's lost stories,
private paintings.

On ABC's Book Show, bookseller Ann Willmore discusses the often macabre early short stories she found by Daphne du Maurier that now appear in Virago's The Doll: Short Stories. There's also a Guardian piece on the stories, and a BBC item on 1950s paintings by du Maurier that were done during a troubled period in her life.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Robert B. Parker Companion (coauthor Foxwell) now on Nook.

The Robert B. Parker Companion that I coauthored with Dean James is now available for the Nook e-reader.

To listen to my 2006 NYPL interview with Parker, go here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Richard Matheson, Simon Brett this week on
BBC Radio 4 Extra.

This week on BBC Radio 4 Extra, Richard Matheson's A Stir of Echoes is featured (adapted for a 1999 film with Kevin Bacon as a man who agrees to be hypnotized, which reaps unexpected results) as well as Simon Brett discussing his radio career. Episodes can usually be heard for a week after broadcast.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The appeal of romantic suspense.

The unknown editor on the Mysterious Matters blog discusses the appeals of the Gothic, mentioning Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, and Phyllis A. Whitney along the way. I think this sort of book makes for
Hayley Mills in
The Moon-Spinners
(dir. James Neilson, 1964)
excellent relaxing beach reading. My particular Stewart favorites are The Ivy Tree (with one of the greatest reader fakeouts of all time) and The Gabriel Hounds, although you can't go wrong with The Moonspinners; Madam, Will You Talk?; This Rough Magic; and My Brother Michael. Those looking for the books that started it all can consult Valancourt Books' many selections; others who want a more modern take might enjoy Susanna Kearsley and Lillian Stewart Carl. Another invaluable resource is Dean James's Mystery Scene appreciation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

NYT-reviewed mysteries, June 1936.

Reviewed this week in the NYT 75 years ago:

Murder of a Matriarch by Hugh Austin. "If you can determine not only the murderer but also the method, go to the head of the class."

Strange Houses by Cora Jarrett. "a puzzle which unravels to a surprising end . . . the main lines of interest draw taut early and never slacken."

Sax Rohmer, from
the New York Tribune,
Apr 18, 1920
X. Jones of Scotland Yard by the ever-odd Harry Stephen Keeler. "A lot of pother over something that nobody cares a whoop about."

President Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer.  "Fiction's most magnificent criminal turns his green eyes on the United States."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book fountain in Cincinnati.

Super-cool Amelia Valerio Weinberg Memorial Fountain at the Cincinnati Public Library (photo on the Cincinnati Book Arts Web site; see also the Out of Print Clothing blog for another view)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Happy 81st birthday, Catherine Aird.

British author Catherine Aird, creator of Detective Chief Inspector C. D. Sloan and a master of the village mystery, was born today in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, in 1930. In 1966 she published her excellent first mystery, The Religious Body (murder in a convent). Aird also is an accomplished short story writer (see Malice Domestic 6; the Chapter and Hearse collection). Rue Morgue Press has reprinted a number of her books.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Happy birthday, Isabelle Holland.

Mel Gibson in
The Man without a Face
Isabelle Holland, who wrote a number of romantic suspense novels as well as children's books and created Episcopal priest-sleuth Claire Aldington, was born today in Basel, Switzerland, in 1920.  Holland also worked for publishers such as Crown, Lippincott, and Putnam in publicity; at Lippincott, she was responsible for the publicity for Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and became a friend of Lee's. She died in 2002.

Aldington appears in A Death at St. Anselm's (1984), Flight of the Archangel (1985), A Lover Scorned (1986), A Fatal Advent (1989), and The Long Search (1990). Holland's The Man without a Face (1972) was adapted as a 1993 film with Mel Gibson.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New painting of Colin Dexter.

The Oxford Mail discusses the first portrait painting of Morse creator Colin Dexter. It was produced by actress Celia Montague, who appeared in the "Twilight of the Gods" episode of Inspector Morse.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Collection of pulp covers on view in NYC.

"Blood on My Doorstep"
by Rafael De Soto for
New Detective Magazine
Jul 1949. Part of the
Robert Lesser Collection

"Pulp Art: The Robert Lesser Collection" exhibition is on display until July 30 at New York's Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Honoring Hitchcock composer Bernard Herrmann.

There's a movement afoot to bestow on famed film composer Bernard Herrmann's residences near London's Regent's Park an English Heritage blue plaque in time for Herrmann's centenary on June 29. To learn how you can sign the petition, go here.

Herrmann's distinguished career includes scores for The Bride Wore Black, Cape Fear, Citizen Kane, Jane Eyre, North by Northwest, On Dangerous Ground, Psycho, Vertigo, and Taxi Driver. A June 29 celebration is planned by the WQXR program Movies on the Radio, and concerts of Herrmann's works are scheduled for this month in places such as Bristol (UK), Frankfurt, Munich, Rio de Janeiro, and San Francisco.  (Hat tip to Silva Screen)

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Ctr for Fiction: Peter Straub on writing.

This practical presentation by Peter Straub (Ghost Story, A Dark Matter, etc.) from April 2011 covers, among other topics, Straub's first attempt at writing a novel ("a mash-up of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Henry James"), point of view, process, and "Five Rules to Avoid Looking Like an Idiot." Along the way, he mentions Ed McBain and the film of Chandler's Lady in the Lake (1947) with Robert Montgomery. Says Straub re writing, "You have to get used to immense amounts of loneliness"; he also thinks outlines can be too constrictive.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Anna Massey on Hitchcock.

Anna Massey in Frenzy
This week on BBC Radio 4 Extra, distinguished actress Anna Massey (daughter of Raymond, sister of Daniel, former wife of Jeremy Brett) recalls how Hitchcock cast her in Frenzy (1972). Go here for the schedule or to listen; episodes can generally be heard for a week after broadcast.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Chester Himes and Doubleday.

Chester Himes, by Carl
Van Vechten, 1946.
LOC Prints &
Photographs Div.
In the summer 2011 issue of American Literary History, Emory U's Lawrence Jackson reconstructs the events concerning Doubleday's publication of Chester Himes's first novel, If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945), that refutes Himes's version in his autobiography The Quality of Hurt (1972). The events include Himes receiving a Julius Rosenwald fellowship, meeting Doubleday editor Bucklin Moon, and hanging out with Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison. Jackson also accomplishes some literary detective work to reveal FBI surveillance of Himes as a suspected communist, determine who removed material from Himes's book pertaining to a lesbian relationship, and describe Himes's dissatisfaction with the marketing of the book: "... he resented being classed with writers of crime fiction and sex melodrama" (300).

Friday, June 03, 2011

The periodic table of storytelling.

An essential element
in ComputerSherpa's
Periodic Table of
ComputerSherpa's clever and artistic Periodic Table of Storytelling features surefire tropes in building a narrative. Mystery fans will probably appreciate element .45 Tfc (They Fight Crime); element .83 Mus (Dumb Muscle); and subtrope I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin. Prints of the periodic table are available. (Hat tip to Out of Print Clothing)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

"Bond is particularly anxious ... [re] weapons [of] Russian agents."

Ian Fleming, NYPL
Letters of Note features a 1956 response from Ian Fleming to a firearms expert regarding James Bond's choice of weapon.

Update. Guardian Books blog on "James Bond's Changing Incarnations," including a link to the 1962 Fleming essay "How to Write a Thriller."

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Cold war exhibition, RAF Museum.

The RAF Museum's National Cold War Exhibition includes biographies of key figures of the period, including the Cambridge spy ring, James Bond, and John le Carré. There are some great quotes from le Carré listed such as "a desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world."