Tuesday, November 29, 2016

For GivingTuesday:
Consider mystery collections.

Phoebe Atwood
Taylor. From
Barnard College's
Mortarboard, 1930
Today's Giving Tuesday focuses attention on charitable contributions, as people consider the organizations or causes to support or to make a contribution in someone's name during the holiday season.

Libraries and archives need support to acquire, preserve, catalog, and digitize their collections as well as to present exhibitions or other programs involving their holdings. Consider contributing to your alma mater's library or one of the following collections with significant mystery elements:

Ray and Pat Browne Popular Culture Library, Bowling Green State University

Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico (home of the papers of Tony Hillerman)

Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University (home of manuscripts of many authors such as Harry Kemelman, Jane Langton, Elizabeth Linington, Phoebe Atwood Taylor, Hillary Waugh, and Donald Westlake)

Lilly Library, Indiana University Bloomington (home of the papers of author-critic Anthony Boucher and Mystery Writers of America)

Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin (home of Erle Stanley Gardner's "plot wheel")

Rose Library, Emory University (home of one of the largest collections of Victorian yellowbacks)

Special Collections, University of California Irvine (home of the papers of Kenneth Millar, aka Ross Macdonald, and Margaret Millar)

Special Collections, University of South Carolina (home of the papers of James Ellroy, George V. Higgins, and John Jakes. An ongoing and major project of the USC libraries is the preservation and digitization of 2000 Fox Movietone newsreels.)

Wisconsin Center for Film and Television Research (home of the papers of Vera Caspary, Kirk Douglas, and Dalton Trumbo. The center has recently established a portal at the Internet Archive that includes a home movie of theater legends Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.)

The Library of Congress offers several options for supporting its work (don't forget that it houses the papers of luminaries such as James M. Cain), including the National Book Festival.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Leopold and Loeb exhibition.

Northwestern University's online exhibition "The Murder That Wouldn't Die: Leopold & Loeb in Artifact, Fact, and Fiction" examines the 1924 murder of young Bobby Franks through items such as ransom notes, confessions and psychological evaluations of Leopold and Loeb, court transcripts, trial photos, and fictional versions of the case such as Meyer Levin's Compulsion and Alfred Hitchcock's Rope.

Nathan Leopold (top) and
Richard Loeb in 1924.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Rex Stout/Bertrand Russell on civil liberties.

Top: Bertrand Russell, ca. 1936. NYPL.
Bottom: Mitch Miller, Edward Whitehead, and
Rex Stout compare beards in Feb. 1957.
Ogdensburg [NY] Journal
Mystery author Rex Stout hosted the NBC radio program Speaking of Liberty during World War II. In a July 1941 episode on civil liberties (program no. 14) with philosopher-mathematician Bertrand Russell, Russell states, "Intolerance is dangerously inconsistent with the goal of liberty." Stout replies, "Nothing is more fundamentally antidemocratic or actually more uncivilized."

Monday, November 21, 2016

The crossroads of German detective fiction.

The Virginia Gazette talked to Bruce Campbell, associate professor of German studies at the College of William & Mary, about his collection (edited with Alison Guenther-Pal and Vibeke Ruetzou Petersen) Detectives, Dystopia and Poplit: Studies in Modern German Genre Fiction. Covered in the book are intersections among crime fiction, science fiction, politics, the Nazis, and the Holocaust.

Related: Campbell discusses German detective fiction on the radio program With Good Reason.

In addition, watch Campbell's Oct. 2016 W&M Tack Faculty Lecture on "The Detective Is (Not) a Nazi: German Pulp Fiction." In his lecture, Campbell discusses detective fiction, culture, and memory in Germany, and recommends some authors in English translation (such as Friedrich Duerenmatt, Friedrich Glauser, and Doris Gercke). He also points out that a German detective novel (Adolf Muellner's Der Kaliber) was published in 1828, well before Edgar Allan Poe's 1841 "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," and that the longest-running TV series in the world is the German Scene of the Crime (aka Tatort).

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Simenon's "The Old Lady of Bayeux" (1952).

Georges Simenon, May 1965.
Fotocollectie Anefo,
Dutch National Archives
In this Sept. 1952 episode of Suspense directed and produced by Robert Stevens with lots of dramatic organ music, a wealthy widow dies, and a visiting Inspector Maigret (Luis Van Rooten) doubts that a heart attack was the cause of death. The episode is based on Georges Simenon's Aug. 1952 EQMM story of the same name (trans. of "La Vieille Dame de Bayeux," 1939).

Monday, November 14, 2016

A British mystery author's work with Holocaust survivors.

Charity Blackstock.
Photo by Mark Gerson
The Neglected Books blog highlights The Children (1966) by mystery writer Charity Blackstock (pseudonym of Ursula Torday, 1912–97; 1959 Edgar nominee for The Woman in the Woods). The Children are those traumatized by the Holocaust who came for a holiday in England, sponsored by a group headed by Torday (a Gentile). The New York Times called it a "moving and remarkable memoir."

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Tourneur's "Into the Night" (1955).

Eddie Albert and Ruth Roman
in "Into the Night"
In this episode of GE Theater directed by Jacques Tourneur (Out of the Past, etc.) from a story by Charles Hoffman (The Blue Gardenia, Peter Gunn, Hawaiian Eye), a husband and wife (Eddie Albert and Ruth Roman) engage in a battle of wits with two carjackers (Dane Clark and Robert Armstrong) fleeing robbery and murder charges; Jerry Mathers appears briefly as their son. Chris Fujiwara's book on Tourneur notes the episode's parallels with Ida Lupino's The Hitch-Hiker (1953).

Monday, November 07, 2016

A silent film actor's mystery novel.

Silent film actor and author
James W. Morrison
in 1916
. . . suddenly the quiet was broken by the sharp report of a pistol, followed by the piercing sound of a police whistle.
—Woods Morrison, Road End 185
As the Daily Illini wrote on 18 June 1927, Charlie Chan creator Earl Derr Biggers stated, as the bookshelves were overflowing with mystery stories, "how pleasant it would be if all but three or four mystery novelists could be taken out and painlessly drowned. Only I can never decide as to the survivors . . . ."

However, the debut mystery of Woods Morrison, Road End (1927), had caused a rethink by Biggers. ". . . Whether I want to or not, I've got to welcome Woods Morrison. . . . [O]nce he gets going, he deals out thrills with the speed and nonchalance of a river gambler dealing cards" (4).

The first novel of Morrison (1888–1974)—a University of Chicago graduate who acted under the name James W. Morrison (including roles in the silent films Black Beauty, The Little Minister, and Captain Blood) and later taught drama at the Packer Collegiate Institute in New York—focuses on murder, the theft of a pearl necklace, strange wailing, and other mysterious occurrences at an elegant Long Island house, with a down-on-his-luck young man taking on the roles of chauffeur and sleuth. (The ending, however, is rather weak.) The book was serialized in the Philadelphia Inquirer in Feb.–May 1934 (note that some of the pages are faint, and the following are all the parts I could find):

Chapters 1–2 
Chapter 3
Chapters 5–6
Chapters 6–7
Chapters 7–8
Chapters 10–11 
Chapters 12–13
Chapters 14–15
Chapters 16–17

Silent film scholar Anthony Slide paints a sad picture of Morrison later in life crippled by arthritis, living in a small Greenwich Village apartment, and considering his silent film career to be insubstantial (despite Slide's views to the contrary).

The following are other works by Morrison:

April Luck (1932). "The moving story of a sensitive girl whom fate made into a glamorous adventuress"

• "Under Pressure" (Liberty magazine, 17 Dec. 1932)

•  "Alias Miss Williams" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 8 Oct. 1933)

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Richard Atwater on detective novels, 1930.

Illustration of Richard Atwater, frm
21 Oct 1922 Bisbee Daily Review
Richard Atwater (1892–1948) was coauthor of the Newbery Award-nominated Mr. Popper's Penguins, a classics professor at the University of Chicago, and a frequent contributor to Chicago newspapers. In a 7 Jun 1930 article in The Chicagoan, Atwater asserted that "there are only six detective novels in existence: the rest being a rewriting of the same plots" (15). The following were his picks for the two best detective novels partly because "neither . . . has a butler in it":
• G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday (1908). Chesterton's classic tale of unlikely agent Gabriel Syme infiltrating an anarchist group
• James Branch Cabell, The Cream of the Jest (1917). It is unusual to characterize this book as a detective work, as it is a satire—a fictional work with fantasy elements within a fictional work.
Tongue planted firmly in cheek, Atwater then floated his idea for a detective novel, in which a valet named Rudy offends because of his crooning (one suspects that Atwater was no fan of Rudy Vallee), and decorators "mistaking Rudy for the new wall paper, . . .  paste him to the wall of the master's study. As the master never studies, nobody discovers the error, and the crime is never known" (15).

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The Moonstone (1934).

David Manners, who plays
Franklin Blake in
The Moonstone (1934)
There's a new BBC One version of Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone, which is the seventh adaptation for the screen of the tale about a stolen gem and its effect on a family. The third screen adaptation was in 1934, with Sergeant Cuff promoted to a Scotland Yard inspector.