Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Alexander McCall Smith on serial publication.

Charles Dickens, NYPL
In this essay on BBC Radio 3, Alexander McCall Smith, creator of Botswana sleuth Precious Ramotswe, muses on the challenges of writing serial fiction (with examples from Charles Dickens) and states: "I fail to meet the standards he sets."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Boucher et al.'s Macabre (1958).

A doctor races against time to find his daughter, who has been kidnapped and buried alive. The film, which stars Jim Backus and is directed by horror meister William Castle, is based on the book The Marble Forest by Theo Durrant (aka author-critic Anthony Boucher and other members of the Northern California chapter of MWA. Thanks to Jerry House and Jeffrey Marks's Anthony Boucher: A Bio-Bibliography for additional details on The Marble Forest).

Monday, June 24, 2013

Presidential assassination by arsenic?

James Buchanan. 
Library of Congress,
Prints & Photos Div
The House of Representatives highlights the "Mysterious National Hotel Disease" that claimed the life of Pennsylvania representative David F. Robison on this date in 1859. Robison was one of several victims of what was rumored to be a plot to assassinate President James Buchanan by arsenic.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

British and US skullduggery, Revolutionary War.

Book by Jessica Warner
on John the Painter
GWU's National Security Archive provides highlights from the CIA's in-house journal Studies in Intelligence (obtained through the Freedom of Information Act), including this interesting article on the British attempts to infiltrate the US mission in Paris during the Revolutionary War. The article also features some US clandestine activities against the British such as an operation to burn the Portsmouth (UK) dockyard by a Scot dubbed "John the Painter."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Notorious Landlady (1962).

In The Notorious Landlady, US diplomat Jack Lemmon suspects that his landlady (Kim Novak) has murdered her husband. Fred Astaire costars. The screenplay is by M*A*S*H's Larry Gelbart and director-screenwriter Blake Edwards, based on the 1956 Collier's story "The Notorious Tenant" by British author Margery Sharp (best known for The Rescuers).

Monday, June 17, 2013

The religions of comic book characters.

Jimmy Olsen, Lutheran.
Wondering about the religious affiliations of Commissioner Gordon, Dick Tracy, Fu Manchu, The Space Turnip, and other comic book characters? You now can consult this handy database. (thanks to AHA blog)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Update, Bly's The Mystery of Central Park (1889).

Cover of The Mystery of Central Park
by Nellie Bly (1889)
My earlier post on Nellie Bly's only mystery novel, The Mystery of Central Park, may have had some results. The Library of Congress informed me that it has digitized its copy of the novel, which is now available through the Internet Archive. This is excellent news, as there are only three copies in US libraries.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Doctoral scholarship avbl for EU residents, work on Conan Doyle.

There is an exciting opportunity for UK and EU residents interested in doing doctoral work on Arthur Conan Doyle. From Christopher Pittard, a member of the Clues editorial board:
Conan Doyle, NYPL
The Centre for Studies in Literature at the University of Portsmouth (UK) invites applications for one student to undertake a fully funded AHRC Collaborative Doctoral studentship on the topic of "Possession and Obsession: The Case of Arthur Conan Doyle," supervised by Dr. Christopher Pittard and Dr. Patricia Pulham (University of Portsmouth), and Dr. Jane Mee (Portsmouth City Council). As part of this collaborative project, the successful candidate will also work closely with Portsmouth City Council in developing the use of the Arthur Conan Doyle collection (Lancelyn Green bequest), an extensive archive of Doyle memorabilia, and organising public outreach events related to the collection, gaining transferable skills and experience for use in the cultural services and related sectors. The AHRC will pay for fees and an annual maintenance grant of £14,276.

The broad aims of the project are:
• To examine Doyle’s relation to late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literary and cultural contexts, with reference to questions of reading communities, modes of textual production, and the historical origins of fan identity.

• To consider the cultural relationship between late Victorian fandom and twentieth- and twenty-first century constructions and appropriations of Doyle, addressing issues of authorship, intellectual property, and theoretical models of fandom.
Applications and details of proposed research projects should be made through the University of Portsmouth Web site (under the "Research Degrees" section). Proposals need to indicate that the applicant is applying for the "Possession and Obsession" studentship. Application deadline is July 5. Questions should be directed to Pittard.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The St. Louis Bank Robbery
(w/Steve McQueen, 1959).

In the gritty The St. Louis Bank Robbery, Steve McQueen is drawn into a plot for a heist (based on a real case from 1953). The film's directors are John Stix and Oscar winner Charles Guggenheim, father of documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth).

Monday, June 10, 2013

What's next? A graphic-novel Perry Mason?

Nathaniel Burney provides a lively look at criminal law via a comics format in The Illustrated Guide to Criminal Law; he talks about the book here. Sneak a peek at the upcoming follow-up, The Illustrated Guide to Criminal Procedure. These are probably destined as presents for the budding law school student, alongside of Scott Turow's One L. (thanks, Law & Humanities blog)

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Through the lens with George Bernard Shaw.

George Bernard Shaw.
Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Div.
An interesting online exhibition by the London School of Economics archives looks at playwright George Bernard Shaw as a skilled photographer. Photo subjects include sci-fi and mystery author Grant Allen (I introduced the Valancourt Books edition of Allen's Miss Cayley's Adventures), writer Rebecca West, and artists Augustus John (father of Ian Fleming's half-sister Amaryllis) and Neville Stephen Bulwer Lytton (grandson of novelist Edward). Also featured are some photos by Shaw's friends such as T. E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) and Shaw productions such as Major Barbara with Wendy Hiller.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Bulwer Lytton's The Ghost of Rashmon Hall (1947).

In The Ghost of Rashmon Hall, a psychic investigator (The Man in Black's Valentine Dyall) grapples with the presence of three poltergeists in a London house. The film is adapted from "The Haunted and the Haunters" (1859) by Edward Bulwer Lytton, who wrote proto-mysteries such as Eugene Aram (1832) and is best known these days for this writing contest.

In this article for Nineteenth-Century Contexts, Mark Knight discusses Bulwer Lytton's interest in the occult and his revision of "The Haunted and the Haunters" that reflected his attempt to reconcile leading philosophical theories of his day. It is possible that he based his fictional house on the one at London's 50 Berkeley Square, long reputed as a hotbed of paranormal activity. The story also is notable for Bulwer Lytton's choice to set it in a urban environment rather than the then-customary remote locale of such stories.

Stills from the film may be viewed at this site devoted to the work of director Harold Baim

Monday, June 03, 2013

It came from the archives: Fitzgerald's ledger.

The Irvin Dept of Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of South Carolina has digitized F. Scott Fitzgerald's ledger in which he recorded his earnings from writing, as well as income by his wife, Zelda. Entries range from the listing of his first published short story ("Babes in the Woods," Smart Set, Sept. 1918) and notations on the income from his novels to the record of his appreciation of journalist and author Ring Lardner (New Republic, Oct. 1933) and the radio piece "Let's Go Out and Play" (1935).

F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Div. 
The ledger also includes an autobiographical timeline. Although many may not be interested in the fact that Fitzgerald had colic when he was a baby and find his references to being drunk or "tight" repetitive, he notes in the 1909 entries, "Wrote the Mystery of the Raymond Mortgage." (This flawed mystery tale, later reprinted in EQMM, is found in The Apprentice Fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald, ed. John Kuehl; I discuss it in my 1999 piece for Mystery Scene, "F. Scott Fitzgerald: Mystery Writer?") There is a tantalizing notation on one of the "ten years old" pages, "He began a history of the U.S. and also a detective story about a necklace that was hidden in [sic] a trapdoor under the carpet," but the latter does not seem to have come to fruition (a trap door concealed by a carpet does appear in Fitzgerald's Pat Hobby story "No Harm Trying").

There are lively bits such as the reaction of his grade school classmates to him ("Will someone poison Scotty or find some means to shut his mouth") and sadder details such as "Zelda transferred to Sheppard [psychiatric facility in Maryland] in katatonic [sic] state."

Update. Princeton has digitized the corrected galleys to The Great Gatsby. (thanks, PhiloBiblos)