Monday, December 31, 2018

Students create a class murder-mystery game.

Students in the Texts and Gender, Detective Fiction course (ENG 3250), taught by Angela Gili at Hawai'i Pacific University, served as investigators in the fictional murder of Poppy Body, lead editor at Pandora Press. Faculty and staff members as well as administrators were suspects and witnesses. Drawing on various subgenres of mystery covered in class, students created game characters and developed clues. Read more here on the course and the game.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Mapping detective fiction.

The project Digital Cartographies of Spanish Detective Fiction at Grinnell College of assistant professor of Spanish Nick Phillips and undergraduate student Margaret Giles involves creating visual representations of investigations in Spanish detective fiction via the mapmaking program Carto. Authors covered include Carme Riera, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Juan José Millás, and Julio Muñoz Gijón.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Experiment Perilous (1944).

In Experiment Perilous, psychiatrist George Brent begins to ask questions after his traveling companion turns up dead, and a wife (Hedy Lamarr) is suspected of being unbalanced.  The film is directed by Jacques Tourneur, and costars include Paul Lukas.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Spain's Holmes society celebrates 25 years.

El Periódico notes the 25th birthday of El Círculo Holmes, the Sherlock Holmes society based in Barcelona.

Illustration by Sidney Paget from The Memoirs of Sherlock
Wellcome Collection

Monday, December 10, 2018

Japan's contributions to the mystery genre.

The Early Cases of Akechi Kogoro
by Edogawa Rampo
(pseud. of Taro Hirai), 2014
In the Japan Times, Mark Schreiber discusses the contributions of Japanese writers to the mystery genre, including Edogawa Rampo, Seishi Yokomizo (covered in Clues 32.2, 2014), and Seicho Matsumoto, and some fascinating precursors such as Honcho Oin Hiji (Parallel Cases from under the Cherry Tree, 1689) that describes the cases of prominent judge Itakura Shigemune.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

"Who Killed Julie Greer?" (1961).

In this episode of the Dick Powell Show written by Frank Gilroy, Powell stars as millionaire inspector Amos Burke (see Gilroy's later Burke's Law with Gene Barry), who investigates the murder of dancer-model Julie Greer (Carolyn Jones). The rest of the cast includes Ralph Bellamy, Edgar Bergen, Lloyd Bridges, Jack Carson, Dean Jones, Edward Platt, Ronald Reagan, Mickey Rooney, and Kay Thompson (known for Funny Face and her Eloise children's books).

Monday, December 03, 2018

"The Story of All Writers."

Mary Roberts Rinehart, 1926. Library
of Congress, Prints and Photographs Div.
You can read Mary Roberts Rinehart's "Writing Is Work" on the Saturday Evening Post Web site, which she published in the 11 March 1939 issue. Despite her long success as an author, Rinehart wrote, "Even today my wastebasket sees far more words of mine than the public ever does, and it is only twelve years since, with a novel half completed, I walked downstairs to the furnace and burned the whole thing. . . . .At the end of a nine-hour day . . . I may have to soak my right hand in hot water for some time, and my head feels as though it is filled with mush."

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

"Detective Waiting" (1971).

In this 14 September 1971 episode of Armchair Theatre, unpopular young detective Lewis (Richard Beckinsale, father of Kate) has a lot to prove to his skeptical colleagues when he is assigned the task of getting the goods on a slippery criminal. The screenwriter is Ian Kennedy Martin (The Saint, The Sweeney).

Monday, November 26, 2018

Pinkerton in illustration.

Jeremy Holmes (West Chester University) is one of the participating artists in the Society of Illustrators exhibition "The Original Art" at the Museum of American Illustration in New York City. The exhibition includes his illustrations for the children's book by Marissa Moss, The Eye That Never Sleeps: How Detective Pinkerton Saved President Lincoln (2018). Some of Holmes's illustrations for the book can be seen here.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The best of Grant Allen.

Grant Allen.
Author Brian Busby, series editor for Canada's Ricochet Books that is reissuing vintage noir works by Canadian writers, discusses his choices for the best books of Canadian-born mystery author Grant Allen (1848–99), who was attended on his deathbed by physician friend and neighbor Arthur Conan Doyle. Calling Allen "a writer of great imagination . . . [with] memorable characters and . . . a dab hand at clever, intricate plots," Busby acknowledges that he is still working his way through Allen's oeuvre. However, some of his picks are The Devil's Die (1888), the prize-winning What's Bred in the Bone (1891), and Hilda Wade (1900, Allen's work with a nurse sleuth completed posthumously by Conan Doyle).

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Guilty (1947).

Based on the story "He Looked Like Murder" (1941) by Cornell Woolrich, The Guilty features Bonita Granville as twins; a murder; and suspects that include the other twin, a veteran, and a lodger in the home of the women's mother.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Foxwell presentation, Nov 13.

Nurse Sallie Marshall Jeffries.
On November 13 at 7 pm at the Lyceum in Alexandria, VA, I’ll be speaking on “‘The Glorious Undying Spirit of Pluck’: Alexandria Women in World War I.” I also will be signing copies of my book In Their Own Words: American Women in World War I (sold by Alexandria’s bookstore Hooray for Books). Tickets are $10 (including wine/dessert reception), available here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Nocturne (1946).

George Raft in Nocturne (1946)
In Nocturne, detective George Raft doubts that a composer has committed suicide.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Crime comics, LOC.

The Headlines & Heroes blog of the Library of Congress highlights crime comics.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (1939).

Bonita Granville
Bonita Granville stars in the fourth film featuring the intrepid girl detective, looking into skullduggery involving the residence of two elderly sisters.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Jim Thompson and the WPA.

Jim Thompson in
Farewell, My Lovely (1975)
This Tahlequah Daily Press article on the WPA Writers Project in Oklahoma mentions the role of future hardboiled writer Jim Thompson, who supervised fellow writer Louis L'Amour on the project.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books:
The Hidden Wrath by Stella Phillips (1968).

What am I supposed to do with them, send them round the doors asking "Does your daughter, lodger, neighbour have homicidal tendencies?"
—Inspector Furnival, The Hidden Wrath 99
In The Hidden Wrath, a college library community confronts the murder of the chief cataloguer of the county library who was spearheading the cataloguing of its collection and was "gauche, earnest, a bit of a bore" (6). So why was she a threat? Inspector Matthew Furnival and Sergeant Reg King must sort through a plethora of suspects. Is it the warden or his wife? Is it the college secretary, who had dark secrets in his past and a crush on the victim? Is it the secretary's spouse, who doubles as college housekeeper, is weary of her husband's serial infatuations, and chafes at village life? Is it a volunteer cataloguer who yearns to break free of her querulous invalid father? Is it the new college graduate at a bit of a loose end? Is it the scion of a distinguished family? Is it the jaded director of a production of the Scottish play? Or is it someone else?

This novel is ideal for bibliomystery fans, featuring passages of exquisite writing, superb portrayals of characters' lives, and hints of disquiet at home for Furnival.

Retired librarian Stella Phillips (1927–?) wrote eight novels. The Hidden Wrath is the second featuring Furnival and King. The others are Down to Death (1967), Death in Arcady (1969), Death Makes the Scene (1970), Death in Sheep's Clothing (1971), and Three May Keep a Secret (2004). Novels outside the series include Dear Brother, Here Departed (1975) and Yet She Must Die (1973). (see photo of Stella Phillips)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Long Memory (1953).

In The Long Memory, John Mills seeks revenge on witnesses who lied during his trial and sent him to prison for a murder he did not commit. The film is based on the novel by screenwriter-author Howard Clewes.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It (1977)

In The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It, John Cleese stars as the grandson of Sherlock Holmes, enlisted to thwart the nefarious plans of a descendant of Professor Moriarty. Costars include Joss Ackland, Connie Booth, Denholm Elliott, Arthur Lowe, and Ron Moody.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Deadline approaches for Clues issue on interwar mysteries.

A reminder that the manuscript submission deadline for the Clues: A Journal of Detection issue "Interwar Mysteries: The Golden Age and Beyond" is October 12. The issue is guest edited by Victoria Stewart (University of Leicester). Manuscripts may be submitted to Janice M. Allan, Clues executive editor.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Laura (1962).

This German version of Vera Caspary's novel features Anton Walbrook as Waldo Lydecker, Hildegard Knef as Laura Hunt, and John Van Dreelen as Shelby Carpenter.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The fictional detective that inspired Isaac Bashevis Singer.

In the fall 2018 issue of PaknTreger of the Yiddish Book Center, David Mazower, Elissa Sperling, and Michael Yashinsky discuss Yoyne (Jonas) Kreppel's Max Spitzkopf—the "Viennese Sherlock Holmes" that inspired Isaac Bashevis Singer: "These are not just detective stories but tales of Jewish ingenuity featuring an armed Jewish superhero." Kreppel died at Buchenwald in 1940.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Last Alarm (1940).

Polly Ann Young and
J. Farrell MacDonald in
The Last Alarm
In The Last Alarm, a retired firefighter (J. Farrell MacDonald), his daughter (Polly Ann Young, sister of Loretta Young), and her fiance (Warren Hull) team up to track down the arsonist who has killed the firefighter's best friend.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Thin Man opens in Canada.

Ad for After the Thin Man (1936)
The Thin Man has opened at Calgary's Vertigo Theatre and will run until October 14. There is an interview with the playwright, Lucia Frangione: "Nick and Nora are surrounded by a gaggle of hilarious and volatile personalities."

The Thin Man is part of a BD&P Mystery Theatre Series that will include Ira Levin's Deathtrap and Might as Well Be Dead: A Nero Wolfe Mystery (adapted by Joseph Goodrich from the novel by Rex Stout).

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Judge (1949).

In The Judge, an attorney feels remorse for the criminals freed by his defense work and seeks revenge on a police psychiatrist, who had an affair with his wife.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Mystery and 19C periodicals.

Vanity Fair cartoon of Wilkie
Collins by Adriano Cecioni,
Feb. 1872
"All the Year Round: Exploring the Nineteenth-Century Periodical," an online exhibition from the University of Otago in New Zealand, includes an 1872 tribute in Vanity Fair to Wilkie Collins for his role in the rise of sensation literature , as well as Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" and The Hound of the Baskervilles from the Strand Magazine (1892, 1902).

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

The Steel Trap (1952).

Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright in The Steel Trap
In The Steel Trap, Joseph Cotten steals $1 million from the bank that employs him and is en route to Brazil with his ill-gotten gains when his wife (Teresa Wright) leaves him for his actions. Can he return the money before the bank reopens? This film marks a reunion for Cotten and Wright after Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Conan Doyle and ectoplasm.

Arthur Conan Doyle. NYPL
The Bowery Boys podcast looks at Arthur Conan Doyle's 1922 lectures on ectoplasm, the substance supposedly emitted by mediums during seances. The post states, "Others blamed a series of mysterious murders and suicides in New York City during this time period on Conan Doyle’s disturbing lectures."

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Back-Room Boy (1942).

In Back-Room Boy, a BBC employee sent to a remote Scottish island faces an influx of models and Nazi spies.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Clues 36.2: Atkinson, Conan Doyle, Chandler, Hammett, Macdonald, and a noir graphic novel.

Vol. 36, no. 2 (2018), of Clues: A Journal of Detection has been published. Contact McFarland to order the issue or a subscription. For e-versions: visit the Kindle link, the Nook link, or the Google Play link).

To keep up to date on Clues, subscribe to the new RSS feed for the Clues tables of contents, or visit the Clues website. There is currently a call for papers on interwar mysteries (submission deadline: October 12, 2018).

Introduction  JANICE M. ALLAN (Univ of Salford)

Transvestism and Transgender in the Crime Fiction of Andrea G. Pinketts BARBARA PEZZOTTI (Monash Univ)
This article focuses on the figure of the transvestite and the treatment of transgender in the novels of Italian crime writer Andrea G. Pinketts. The aim is to determine whether Pinketts’s highly entertaining, parodic hard-boiled series succeeds in subverting a traditional discourse on transvestism and transgender in Italian crime fiction.

Bending the Genre: Portraying the Genders of Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey in the Detective Fiction of Dorothy L. Sayers SALLY BERESFORD-SHERIDAN (Univ of Waterloo)
This essay explores how the fictional female detective of Dorothy L. Sayers works outside normative gender conventions of the interwar years. By positing a female character who can become a detective, Sayers allows both Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey to break and redefine social expectations of masculine behaviors, feminine behaviors, and gender stereotypes.

Cherchez la Femme: A Good Woman’s Place in Hard-Boiled Detective Fiction KELI MASTEN (Western Michigan Univ)
Hard-boiled detective fiction often limits women to the roles of femme fatale or love interest of the detective. However, Effie Perine (Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon) and Anne Riordan (Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely) embody the femme fiable (“dependable woman”), a survivor who goes where the detective cannot and avoids the fate of the femme fatale.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Scotland Yard Investigator (1946).

In Scotland Yard Investigator, a German collector plans a heist when the Mona Lisa is moved to England for safekeeping during World War II. C. Aubrey Smith, Erich von Stroheim, and Stephanie Bachelor costar.

Monday, August 20, 2018

ABA Journal's 25 greatest legal movies.

As the Law & Humanities blog highlights, the ABA Journal has selected the 25 Greatest Legal Movies. Its choices include Criminal Court (1946), The Lincoln Lawyer (based on the book by Michael Connelly, 2011), Loving (2016), Michael Clayton (2007), The Post (2017), Spotlight (2015), and 12 Angry Men (1957).

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Bedelia (writ. Vera Caspary, 1946).

In Bedelia, a new bride (Margaret Lockwood) is suspected of bumping off her previous husbands for their insurance money, and the question is whether current husband Ian Hunter is at risk. Vera Caspary wrote the novel and collaborated on the screenplay. Jill Esmond (the first wife of Laurence Olivier) costars.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Taipei's mystery bookstore.

This article in China Daily discusses Murder Ink, one of the small number of bookstores in Taiwan that focuses primarily on detective novels. Despite the enthusiasm of owner and translator Tommy Tan, his store only serves a few customers per day.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Inquest (1939).

When a woman is accused of killing her husband, a courtroom battle ensues between her barrister and the coroner. Directed by Ray Boulting, the film is based on the play of the same name by Michael Barringer.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Man in the Net (1959).

Directed by Michael Curtiz with a screenplay by Reginald Rose (Twelve Angry Men, etc.) and based on the novel by Hugh Callingham Wheeler (aka Patrick Quentin), The Man in the Net features Alan Ladd as a former advertising agency artist who is suspected of foul play when his wife (Carolyn Jones) disappears.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Unpunished.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
Library of Congress, Prints &
Photographs Division
Harvard's Houghton Library recently transitioned from its Oasis catalog to one called Hollis, and one of the goodies I found is the corrected typewritten manuscript of Unpunished, the only mystery novel of feminist icon Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860–1935). Unpunished, thought to have been written in the 1920s, was not published until 1997, when the Feminist Press edition was issued.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Nancy Drew exhibition, UNCG.

Special Collections and University Archives at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro's Jackson Library is hosting the exhibition "Nancy Drew: Girl Detective and Cultural Icon" that includes books and artifacts from the archives (such as The Nancy Drew Mystery Game and lunchbox).

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Crown v. Stevens (1936).

In this film directed by Michael Powell (Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, etc.), a young man (Patric Knowles) becomes entangled in the murder of a moneylender and the schemes of his employer's wife (Beatrix Thompson) to inherit her husband's estate early. The film is based on Laurence Meynell's Third Time Unlucky.

Link to clips at

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Great Detective film series in Australia.

Michael Redgrave and
Margaret Lockwood in
The Lady Vanishes (1938)
Envy the lucky Australians who can attend The Great Detective, a series showcasing mystery films at Australian Cinémathèque, Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland Art Gallery, until September 2. Films include the following:
  • Sherlock Holmes (1916)
  • Sherlock Jr. (1924)
  • The Lady Vanishes (1938)
  • And Then There Were None (1945)
  • Rear Window (1954)
  • Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
  • Vertigo (1958)
  • Charade (1963)
  • A Shot in the Dark (1964)
  • Dirty Harry (1971)
  • Death on the Nile (1978)
  • The Mirror Crack'd (1980)
  • Evil under the Sun (1982)
  • Erin Brockovich (2000)
  • Mystic River (2003)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Hammett's Woman in the Dark (1934).

Based on the novella "Woman in the Dark" (1933) by Dashiell Hammett, this film features Fay Wray on the run from villain Melvyn Douglas, entangling ex-con Ralph Bellamy along the way.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The game is afoot.

Mention of the Parker Brothers game Sherlock Holmes
in Life 3 Dec. 1904: 586

The Law & Humanities blog features the article by Ross E. Davies (George Mason University) "A Grand Game Introduction, or the Rise and Demise of 'Sherlock Holmes,'" which traces the short-lived history of the Parker Brothers game Sherlock Holmes.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Decoy: "Stranglehold" (1957).

1958 ad for Decoy
This pilot episode of the TV series Decoy features Beverly Garland as undercover policewoman Casey Jones, whose assignment is to get close to a murder suspect's girlfriend (Joanne Linville, who is known for her role as a Romulan commander on Star Trek) in an effort to find the suspect.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Abstract portal opens,
2019 Popular Culture Assn conference.

The next Popular Culture Association conference will take place on April 17–20, 2019, at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, DC. The portal for abstract submissions is now open through October 1, 2018 (must register for an account to access the portal). The PCA's Mystery and Detective Fiction Area has always been very active; first-time presenters are eligible for the Earl Bargainnier Award (named for a distinguished mystery scholar). Please encourage undergraduate and graduate students to submit paper proposals; members of the Mystery/Detective Fiction Area always have been interested in nurturing the next generation of mystery scholars.

Can't make it to DC? Check out the regional Popular Culture Association conferences.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Spy in Black (1939).

In The Spy in Black, British agents attempt to thwart a German plan to sink British ships in 1917. Stars include Conrad Veidt, Valerie Hobson, Marius Goring, and June Duprez. Based on the book by J. Storer Clouston, the film is directed by Michael Powell, the screenplay is by Powell's Archers partner Emeric Pressburger, and the scenario is by Roland Pertwee (the father of Dr. Who's Jon Pertwee).

Monday, June 25, 2018

Martin Edwards on locked room mysteries.

On The Men Who Explain Miracles podcast, Detection Club President Martin Edwards talks about locked-room mysteries such as Murder of a Lady (1931) by Anthony Wynne and other titles in the British Library Crime Classics series for which he serves as a consultant.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Forbidden Cargo (1954).

In Forbidden Cargo, a customs officer (Nigel Patrick) is on the trail of drug smugglers, assisted by an aristocratic birdwatcher (Joyce Grenfell). Jack Warner, Elizabeth Sellars, Greta Gynt, Theodore Bikel, and Michael Hordern costar.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The career of Edward Stratemeyer.

Edward Stratemeyer.
The New Antiquarian blog of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America looks at the career of Edward Stratemeyer (1862–1930), who launched the Stratemeyer Syndicate that published the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and countless other children's series.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Murder on the Campus (1933).

Charles Starrett, ca. 1931
In Murder on the Campus, a reporter (Charles Starrett) seeks to exonerate his coed girlfriend (Shirley Grey), who is accused of murder. The film is based on The Campanile Murders (1933) by author-screenwriter Whitman Chambers (thanks to Mystery*File for link to serial version of The Campanile Murders).

Monday, June 11, 2018

Clues CFP: "Interwar Mysteries"
(deadline Oct 12, 2018).

The Bat (1926), adapted
from the play by
Mary Roberts Rinehart
and Avery Hopwood
A new Call for Papers has been posted for a theme issue of Clues: A Journal of Detection on "Interwar Mysteries: The Golden Age and Beyond." It will be guest edited by University of Leicester's Victoria Stewart (author, Crime Writing in Interwar Britain: Fact and Fiction in the Golden Age, and a previous contributor to Clues). Although the period between the World Wars is known as the Golden Age of traditional mystery fiction, other literary forms such as the hard-boiled subgenre, true crime, and noir emerged that often reflected a grimmer reality. Articles of between 3300 and 6000 words are sought that examine this important crossroads in mystery, detective, and crime fiction, with a deadline of Oct 12, 2018.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

The Hand (1960).

In The Hand, an inspector learns that the murder of a one-handed man has roots in a POW camp in Burma.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Simenon exhibition opens in China.

Georges Simenon,
10 May 1965.
Anefo, Dutch Nat Archives
The exhibition "Simenon, auteur belge a multi-facettes” (Simenon, multifaceted Belgian author) opened in Guangzhou Library's Multiculture Library on May 13 and will be displayed until June 8. It features details on Georges Simenon's life and work, as well as posters of film adaptations of Simenon's books. Cosponsors are the library, the Consulate General of Belgium, and Wallonie-Bruxelles Internationale. Guangzhou Library holds both French editions and Chinese translations of Simenon's works.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Agatha Christie exhibition coming to Derby, UK.

Agatha Christie, 17 Dec 1964.
Anefo, Dutch Natl Archives
Pickford's House in Derby, United Kingdom, is hosting the exhibition "Agatha Christie: Mysteries, Murder, and More" from June 2 to November 3, 2018. The exhibition will feature books and objects related to Christie's life and work.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Stolen Jools (1931).

This short comedy film involving the theft of Norma Shearer's jewelry was produced to benefit the National Variety Artists tuberculosis sanitarium, with stars such as Wallace Beery, Joe E. Brown, Maurice Chevalier, Gary Cooper, Joan Crawford, Irene Dunne, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Hedda Hopper, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, Victor McLaglen, Edward G. Robinson, Barbara Stanwyck, Fay Wray, Loretta Young, and Petey the Dog.

Monday, May 21, 2018

New edition, Blood on Their Hands
(with Foxwell short story).
The MWA Classics edition of Blood on Their Hands has been published and is now available in paperback and ebook from amazon. Edited by Lawrence Block, the collection focuses on characters who take the law into their own hands. "No Man's Land," my Agatha-winning and Macavity-nominated short story set in World War I, is included in the collection, along with stories by Rhys Bowen, Marcia Talley, Elaine Viets, and the late Jeremiah Healy and Henry Slesar.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Green Scarf (1936).

In The Green Scarf, Michael Redgrave defends a deaf, dumb, and blind man accused of murder.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys exhibition.

On view until June 8 at the Lawrence Library in Pepperell, MA, is "Mysteries Revealed Book Illustration: Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys," an exhibition of original cover art and first editions of both children's series.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

"Murderers' Meeting" (1951).

In this episode of Suspense directed by Robert Stephens and aired on 24 April 1951, a killer (Jackie Cooper) tries to escape from a building after a botched robbery, only to encounter the eccentric members of the "International Association of Assassins" (possibly suggesting the Mystery Writers of America. Blacklisted writer Alvin Sapinsley, who wrote the screenplay, later received an Edgar Award for "Sting of Death," the TV adaptation of H.F. Heard's A Taste for Honey). Mildred Natwick (clutching a cat) and Wally Cox costar.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Boucher picks the best mysteries of 1951.

In the 2 Dec 1951 New York Times, author-critic Anthony Boucher (aka William Anthony Parker White) listed "Boucher's Choices"—his selections for the best mysteries of 1951. They were:
  • John Dickson Carr, The Devil in Velvet. "swashbuckling romance . . . strict detection." 
  • Agatha Christie, They Came to Baghdad, . "adept . . . spy thriller."
  • Dorothy Salisbury Davis, A Gentle Murderer. "distinguished."
  • Cyril Hare [Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark], An English Murder . "adroit . . . social satire."
  • Geoffrey Household, A Rough Shoot and A Time to Kill. "realistic political melodrama."
  • Michael Innes, The Paper Thunderbolt. "funny and chilling."
  • Eric Linklater, Mr. Byculla. "Deft."
  • John Ross Macdonald [Ross Macdonald, Kenneth Millar], The Way Some People Die. "a worthy successor to Dashiell Hammett."
  • William McGivern, Shield for Murder. "Complex and memorable study of a rogue cop."
  • Ngaio Marsh, Night at the Vulcan. "Marsh's best to date."
  • Elliott Paul, Murder on the Left Bank. "Fun."
  • Ellery Queen, The Origin of Evil.  "intricate ingenuity."
  • John Sherwood, Mr. Blessington's Imperialist Plot. "Ruritanian spy-melodrama."
  • Bart Spicer, Black Sheep, Run and The Golden Door.  "appealing variants on the hardboiled story."
  • Julian Symons, The 31st of February. "Striking satire."
  • Lawrence Treat, Big Shot. "A notable novel about detectives."

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Woolrich's Street of Chance (1942).

Claire Trevor, Sheldon Leonard, and
Burgess Meredith in Street of Chance (1942)
In Street of Chance, Burgess Meredith is accused of murder, but he has no memory of the crime or of his past. The film is based on The Black Curtain by Cornell Woolrich. Costars include Claire Trevor, Sheldon Leonard, and Jerome Cowan.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Music from Shetland available.

For those who enjoy Ann Cleeves's mysteries and their adaptation as the television program Shetland, Silva Screen has just released a CD of John Lunn's music from the TV series (individual tracks also available).

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Cry Wolf (1947).

Errol Flynn and Barbara
Stanwyck in Cry Wolf (1947)
In Cry Wolf, Barbara Stanwyck arrives at an estate expecting to attend the funeral of her husband but encounters a household controlled by a sinister Errol Flynn. Based on Cry Wolf (aka The Demarest Inheritance) by future Edgar nominee Marjorie Carleton, the film costars Geraldine Brooks, Richard Basehart, and Jerome Cowan.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Dorothy B. Hughes's classic mystery library.

Claude Rains and Edward Norris in They Won't Forget (1937),
adaptation of Ward Greene's Death in the Deep South
In the 13 Nov 1977 Los Angeles Times, author-critic Dorothy B. Hughes made 23 selections for a classic mystery library. Hughes defined a classic as "a book to which you return over and again ... primarily because for you it satisfies a hunger for the felicity of beauty and craft..."(N3). For Hughes, "style is the most important element in any mystery, let alone a classic" (N3).

Hughes did not include any works by Arthur Conan Doyle and Erle Stanley Gardner (although Hughes would publish a biography of Gardner), explaining that in the case of these and some other authors (such as Ellery Queen), their body of work constitutes the classic rather than a single book. Hughes's choices for her classic mystery library are the following:
  • Eric Ambler, A Coffin for Dimitrios. "a hunt-and-search story with a background of the Near East leading to Paris"
  • Edgar Box [Gore Vidal], Death in the Fifth Position. " . . . the world of the ballet, presented with perception and verisimilitude"
  • Vera Caspary, Laura. "an enviable creator of plots which twist and turn and startle."
  • Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely. "his making of poetry out of the tawdry was indeed something unforgettable"
  • Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and And Then There Were None. "two classic books"
  • Len Deighton, The Ipcress File. "Deighton . . . devised a new style."
  • Helen Eustis, The Horizontal Man. "a true academic background against which the tragicomedy is played."
  • William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust. "a mystery sensation"
  • Michael Gilbert, Close Quarters. "he has built a cathedral and its close, and has peopled it with verisimilitude."
  • Graham Greene, Brighton Rock. "two sad insignificant persons revealed in their small moment of significance."
  • Ward Greene, Death in the Deep South. "a classic of the regional and one of the first dealing with ethnic problems"
  • Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon. "a classic romantic-adventure"
  • H. F. [Gerald] Heard, A Taste for Honey. "Another of the instant classics"
  • Francis Iles [Anthony Berkeley Cox], Before the Fact."a book whose plot must remain secret"
  • Charlotte Jay [Geraldine Halls], Beat Not the Bones. "the primitive culture of Africa in collision with the 20th century"
  • John le Carre [David Cornwell], The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. "tragic power"
  • Meyer Levin, Compulsion. "a classic of major proportion"
  • Marie Belloc Lowndes, The Lodger. " . . . a true crime story, in fiction form"
  • Ngaio Marsh, Death of a Fool. "breath-taking"
  • E. Phillips Oppenheim, The Great Impersonation. "a landmark"
  • Dorothy L. Sayers, The Nine Tailors. "background became not just background, but important"
  • Josephine Tey [Elizabeth MacKintosh], The Daughter of Time. "Simply written but brilliant in premise and performance."

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Bon Voyage (dir. Hitchcock, 1944).

In Bon Voyage, a short film directed by Alfred Hitchcock for the British Ministry of Information, a French intelligence officer questions an RAF sergeant about his escape from France, as the involvement of a German agent is suspected. The film is in French (with English subtitles), with John Blythe as the sergeant and members of the Molière Players in the other roles.

Monday, April 16, 2018

CFP for essay collection on the cozy.

La Salle University's Phyllis Betz (Katherine V. Forrest: A Critical Appreciation; Lesbian Detective Fiction: Woman as Author, Subject and Reader) plans to compile a collection of essays on the cozy mystery. Prospective topics/approaches of interest include the following:
  • Discussion of authors, including precursors such as Mary Roberts Rinehart, Anna Katharine Green, and Agatha Christie
  • Settings
  • Main characters, including their careers
  • Other characters
  • Themes
  • Subgenres such as the gothic cozy and cozy noir
  • Problems, including the definition of the cozy and those authors who can be defined as cozy writers
  • Narrative strategies
Have questions or seek further information? Contact Betz.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Spider and the Fly (1949).

In The Spider and the Fly, a French intelligence official (Eric Portman) is forced to turn to a gentleman thief (Guy Rolfe) during World War I to crack a safe that holds a list of German agents. A woman (Nadia Gray) loved by both men provides additional complications. Maurice Denham and Sebastian Cabot costar.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Laura Thompson on Agatha Christie.

From the Bookshelf's Gary Shapiro discusses Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life with author Laura Thompson. Thompson calls Christie's six novels under the pseudonym Mary Westamacott "gold," singling out Absent in the Spring (1944); calls Christie's Five Little Pigs (1943) her best novel; and addresses Christie's 11-day disappearance in 1926.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Five Angles on Murder
(aka The Woman in Question, 1950).

After a fortuneteller is murdered in Five Angles on Murder, a police superintendent (Duncan Macrae) finds that those in her circle have different views of her, such as her housekeeper (Hermione Baddeley), her sister (Susan Shaw), her sister's boyfriend (Dirk Bogarde), a pet store owner (Charles Victor), and a sailor (John McCallum). The film is directed by Anthony Asquith.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Real locations of LA noir.

Inside Hook discusses with Jim Heimann his new book Dark City: The Real Los Angeles Noir, which features photographs of the real-life locations that inspired writers (such as that pertaining to the Black Dahlia case and those used by Raymond Chandler).

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Dancing with Crime (1947).

In Dancing with Crime, a London cab driver and his girlfriend (real-life spouses Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim) take on a gang of criminals when the cabbie's best friend is killed.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Craig Johnson on Walt Longmire.

On the radio program Reader's Corner hosted by Boise State University president Bob Kustra, author Craig Johnson talks about Sheriff Walt Longmire and his latest novel The Western Star.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Mystery of Mr. X (1934).

An inspector (Lewis Stone) thinks that a jewel thief (Robert Montgomery) also is a serial killer of policemen, and the thief sets out to catch the murderer himself. Directed by Edgar Selwyn (a cofounder of Goldwyn Pictures), the film is based on Philip MacDonald's X v. Rex (aka The Mystery of the Dead Police).

Monday, March 19, 2018

Clues 36.1: Christie, Conan Doyle, Green, Hammett, Ray, Silva, and more.

Clues 36.1 (2018) has been published; order the issue from McFarland. Abstracts are listed below.

Updates, 3-24-18 and 6-16-18. The issue is now available on Google Play, Nook., and Kindle.

Introduction Janice M. Allan (University of Salford)
E Pluribus Unum: A Transnational Reading of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express
Stewart King (Monash University)
This article questions both the Englishness and generic stasis ascribed to Agatha Christie and argues that her Murder on the Orient Express (1933) displays an inherent transnationalism that questions the strict taxonomies supposedly separating the English clue-puzzle from the American private-eye novel.

Psychogeography and the Detective: Re-evaluating the Significance of Space in Agatha Christie’s A Murder Is Announced
Sarah Martin (University of Chester)
The author discusses the nature of the village space and its influential role in plot, character, and structure of Agatha Christie’s A Murder Is Announced. The concept of psychogeography unearths the true nature of space and its influence on the construction and preservation of social identity in the book.

Do We Know His Methods? Ratiocination in the Works of Arthur Conan Doyle
Jackie Shead
This article discusses Arthur Conan Doyle’s explanation of Sherlock Holmes’s methods, contrasting them with his presentation of the detective in action. It explores contradictions in the Holmes stories, suggesting Conan Doyle’s investment in a hyperrational sleuth is at odds with his intuitive understanding of detective methodology.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Phantom Lady (1944).

Ella Raines and
Thomas Gomez in
Phantom Lady
Directed by Robert Siodmak (The Spiral Staircase, etc.), this adaptation of Cornell Woolrich's book features Ella Raines turning sleuth to exonerate her boss, who is accused of killing his wife.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Last day to RSVP for Foxwell presentation.

Adelia Chiswell,
member of the
Red Cross
Motor Corps
Tomorrow is the last day to RSVP for the March 16 luncheon of the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of DC where I'll be speaking on "DC Women in World War I." They include Adelia "Tess" Chiswell, a member of the Red Cross Motor Corps who served in France with future U.S. minister to Norway Daisy Harriman. I'll also be signing my book In Their Own Words: American Women in World War I.

The luncheon, which is open to nonmembers, will be held at Capitol Skyline Hotel (Metro stop: Navy Yard) from 12–2 pm and is $35 per person. To RSVP, visit the AOI Web site.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

"Novel Appeal" (1957).

Mary Roberts Rinehart.
Claudette Colbert plays author Mary Roberts Rinehart in "Novel Appeal," a 3Dec 1957 episode of Telephone Time that dramatizes Rinehart's part in exonerating a man convicted of murder. Directed by Arthur Hiller, the episode costars John Carradine.

The real-life case involves the 1896 murders on the Herbert Fuller of Captain Charles Nash; his wife, Laura Nash; and August Blomberg, the second mate. Thomas M. C. Bram, the first mate, was convicted of the crimes in a second trial held in 1899 and originally was sentenced to death; his sentence was changed to life imprisonment after a Supreme Court appeal.

According to Rinehart (see "Mary Roberts Rinehart Shows How Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction" and her autobiography My Story), a Pittsburgh lawyer told her about the case, and she subsequently read about it in a magazine for lawyers. Her choice for the perpetrator was the ship's Scandinavian wheel-man, Justus Leopold Westerberg, who was nicknamed Charley Brown. Westerberg had tried to kill his nurse while he was a patient in a mental hospital. A fictionalized version of Brown, Charlie Jones, appears in Rinehart's novel The After House (1913). The After House began serialization in McClure's in June 1913, attracting further interest to the case, and Bram was paroled in August 1913. 

As Reader's Digest editor Fulton Oursler (aka mystery writer Anthony Abbot) relates in The Mystery Bedside Book (ed. John Creasey, 1960), Theodore Roosevelt read The After House and called on Rinehart. Oursler states that Roosevelt concurred with Rinehart's view of the case and wrote President Woodrow Wilson, asking for a pardon for Bram. Wilson granted the pardon in June 1919. Bram went on to captain the ship Alvena and to own a restaurant in Florida.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Paretsky on Green and more.

The winter 2018 issue of the University of Chicago Magazine features "Criminal Mastermind," an article on alumnus Sara Paretsky, in which she talks about her role in the mystery world as "the aging diva," the work of Anna Katharine Green, and her experiences as a student at the university. Says Paretsky, "Crime fiction is the place in literature where law and justice in society come together."