Thursday, March 28, 2013

Today in 1967: Raymond Burr as Ironside.

The Paley Center for Media recalls that today in 1967 Raymond Burr debuted as San Francisco detective Robert Ironside, left a paraplegic after a murder attempt. Writers for the series included Stephen J. Cannell, Davis Dresser (aka Brett Halliday), and Christopher Trumbo (son of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo).

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Heyer's The Reluctant Widow (1950).

A former governess encounters spies employed by Napoleon in this adaptation of Georgette Heyer's novel (alternate film title: The Inheritance). Kathleen Byron (best known for Black Narcissus) is featured.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The life of the creator of Goodnight Moon.

With Good Reason radio program discusses the short life of Margaret Wise Brown, who wrote the children's classic Goodnight Moon (1947) and died at age 42 after an appendectomy.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Jacques Barzun, editor.

Those who miss Jacques Barzun (of the Barzun-Taylor Classic Crime Novels list) since his death at age 104 in October 2012 can now read Helen Hazen's delightful reminiscence in the American Scholar regarding his (sometimes painful) editing of her book during his time with Scribner. According to Hazen, Barzun once wrote, "I go through your pages like an angry bull."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

More on Patrick Hamilton: Hangover Square.

Coinciding with Patrick Hamilton's birthday on March 17, BBC Radio 4's A Good Read program discusses Hamilton's Hangover Square (1941). Although noting that it often is not the most comfortable book to read, the commentators admire Hamilton's insights into psychology and obsession. (Below: The trailer to Hangover Square [1945], with Laird Cregar, Linda Darnell, and George Sanders).

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Conan Doyle to editor.

Arthur Conan Doyle, NYPL
The online slideshow of materials from Toronto Public Library's special collections includes some items from its noted Arthur Conan Doyle collection and sheds light on the author's relationship with Strand editor Herbert Greenhough Smith. One letter from Conan Doyle states, "I must say that I cannot agree with your estimate of the 'Norwood Builder.' I read it to a roomful of people and I was never more conscious of holding an audience absolutely spellbound." Another letter indicates that he wants a higher limit than 50,000 words for The Hound of the Baskervilles. Other items include covers from the Strand and a figurine of Professor Moriarty.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy birthday, Patrick Hamilton.

Playwright and author Patrick Hamilton was born today in Hassocks, Sussex, United Kingdom, in 1904. He died in 1962. In mysterydom, he is best known for his plays Rope, with certain parallels to the Leopold and Loeb case (1929; filmed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1948) and Gaslight (1939, aka Angel Street; films 1940, 1944, 1947, and several TV adaptations). He also wrote the novel Hangover Square (1941; filmed by John Brahm, 1945). The TV series The Charmer, with Nigel Havers as con artist Ralph Gorse, was based on Hamilton's Mr. Stimpson and Mr. Gorse (1953). Faber Finds has reissued his Twopence Coloured (1928) and Impromptu in Moribundia (1939).

Friday, March 15, 2013

Want to back a Veronica Mars film?

Annoy, tiny blonde. Annoy like the wind.
—Logan Echolls to Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars TV series creator Rob Thomas is attempting to finance a film featuring the savvy investigator via Kickstarter. There seems to be quite a bit of enthusiasm for the venture, for the level of funding has already exceeded its $2 million goal. Donations will be accepted until April 12. The Clues 2008 theme issue on the girl sleuth had Kristen Bell on the cover and featured Alaine Martaus's article, "'You Get Tough. You Get Even': Rape, Anger, Cynicism, and the Vigilante Girl Detective in Veronica Mars." (Hat tip to Maryelizabeth Hart, Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Conference on weird fiction scheduled.

Algernon Blackwood, NYPL
The conference "The Weird: Fugitive Fictions/Hybrid Genres" will be held at the University of London on November 8, 2013. A keynote speaker is S. T. Joshi (who has done much work on H. P. Lovecraft). The conference call for papers mentions interest in papers on Lovecraft and similar writers (probably including Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, M. R. James, Arthur Machen, and Robert Louis Stevenson), but also indicates the intent to cover topics such as "modernism and the weird."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fletcher's Night Watch (1973).

Elizabeth Taylor and Laurence Harvey reunite after Butterfield 8 in this tale of a woman who has experienced a nervous breakdown and believes a murder has occurred next door. Directed by actor-director Brian G. Hutton (Where Eagles Dare, Kelly's Heroes, High Road to China), Night Watch is based on the play of the same name by Lucille Fletcher (Sorry, Wrong Number; The Hitchhiker).

Monday, March 11, 2013

Book cover design: Tiny men, women's backs.

Jack Higgins cover illustrating
the "tiny man" scenario
The Times Literary Supplement blog builds on J. Kingston Pierce's earlier blog posts (such as here and here) on book cover designs that contain similar elements. I had not noticed the "women with their backs to the reader" and "tiny men walking into the distance" trends, but the evidence seems clear. Also noted: Web sites with bad book cover designs (one of which poses the immortal question, "Whose head is she wearing?").

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The return of John Blackburn.

British mystery-horror writer John Blackburn (1923–93) returns with Valancourt Books' reissue of Broken Boy (1959), in which a dead body in a river connects to ancient evil. Valancourt's reprints of Blackburn's Bury Him Darkly (1969) and Nothing But the Night (1968; film with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, 1973) are scheduled for release this month, and more Blackburn reissues are planned by the publisher.

Blackburn may be best known for A Scent of New-Mown Hay (1958). The nonfiction author Julia Blackburn is his niece (she's the daughter of poet Thomas Blackburn, who wrote the vampire novel The Feast of the Wolf, 1971).

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Lizzie (1957).

Five months before the appearance of The Three Faces of Eve was the release of Lizzie (1957), in which a bewildered Elizabeth Richmond (played by Eleanor Parker) receives threatening letters from a stranger named Lizzie. The film (also starring Richard Boone and Joan Blondell, as well as Johnny Mathis singing "It's Not for Me to Say") was based on The Bird's Nest (1954) by Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House, "The Lottery," etc.).

Monday, March 04, 2013

Coming Soon: Crime and Detective Fiction

Crime and Detective Fiction, part of the Salem Press series Critical Insights, is scheduled for release in April. I wrote an essay for this volume—"'Your Sin Will Find You Out': Critical Perceptions of Mystery Fiction"—which examines the response to Anna Katharine Green's The Leavenworth Case, James M. Cain's Double Indemnity, Margery Allingham's The Tiger in the Smoke, and Nicholas Meyer's The Seven Per-Cent Solution. Another essay, written by Kerstin Bergman (Lund University), is on Stieg Larsson's work. The editor of the volume is Rebecca Martin (Pace University).

Friday, March 01, 2013

Today in 1971: Columbo pilot debuts.

The Paley Center for Media recalls today's debut in 1971 of "Ransom for a Dead Man," the pilot for Columbo starring Peter Falk and Lee Grant.