Welsh-born author Dorothy Simpson (b. 1933) started out her career as a French teacher and then spent many years as a marriage counselor, before turning to writing full time. She's known for the fifteen books in her series featuring Inspector Luke Thanet (and his colleague Sergeant Michael Lineham), the last of which was published in 1999 before a severe repetitive stress injury forced her to stop writing in 2000. One of the Thanet series, Last Seen Alive, received the Silver Dagger Award from the UK Crime Writers Association in 1985.
Simpson's very first novel was the 1977 psychological thriller Harbingers of Fear. Although that book was successful, Simpson's next four manuscripts were rejected, which is why she turned to writing the more traditional procedurals, determined to "devote her next efforts to creating an intriguing murder mystery staged around an engaging sleuth." Harbingers of Fear remains Simpson's only standalone thriller.
The plot of the novel centers on pregnant wife Sarah Royd, who finds a strange message left in her purse, BOAST NOT THYSELF OF TOMORROW; FOR THOU KNOWEST NOT WHAT A DAY MAY BRING FORTH, and thinks it might be the work of a religious maniac. But soon she realizes she's also being spied on and more of the sinister white cards with their macabre prophecies mysteriously appear and vanish after she has read them, each message more menacing than the last.
Out of fear, she turns to her husband, to friends and to the police, but none of them believes her, all attributing her claims to pregnancy hormones and hysteria. Left to fend for herself, Sarah delves into the mystery, starting to wonder herself if she's really going insane—as everyone seems to believe—until she's driven to a final, fateful confrontation with the source of her terror.
Since the author was a marriage counselor herself, it's not surprising that the relationship between the introspective, insecure Sarah and her strong-willed, much older husband would be as important to the plot as the mystery of the campaign to terrorize Sarah. Fortunately, the book doesn't read like a marriage manual, with the characters well drawn. Or as Kirkus said of another Simpson title, "Straightforward and absorbing, deftly written and adroitly plotted: another quiet winner."
Harbingers of Fear was reprinted as part of the Black Dagger Crime Series in 1986, and several of the author's works were also published in new editions from the mid-1990s to 2001. But all of Simpson's novels are somewhat difficult to find and will hopefully benefit from the increasing move of backlists to digital versions.
The North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers announced nominees for the annual Hammett Prize for a work of literary excellence in the field of crime writing by a US or Canadian author. The nominees include
The organization will name the winner during the NoirCon literary conference in Philadelphia, October 26-30 with the winner receiving a bronze trophy designed by sculptor Peter Boiger.
Malice Domestic also announced today the nominees for the conference's annual Agatha Awards. The finalists for Best Contemporary Novel are:
For the complete listing of the Agathas, with winners announced at the awards banquet on May 1, check out this list.
The Deutscher Krimi Preis (the German Prize for Crime Fiction), handed out annually by the Bonner Krimi Archiv in Germany, also announced their top three finalists: Day Without a Name: A Case for Jakob Franck (Der namenlose Tag) by Friedrich Ani; Sea Damage (Havarie) by Merle Kröger; and Fade to Black (Schwarzblende) by Zoë Beck.
This Friday, February 05, at 6:00 p.m., the Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C., will present crime authors James DeVita and Quintin Peterson in conversation about their Shakespeare-inspired novels A Winsome Murder and Guarding Shakespeare.
At the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona, this past weekend, authors Ian Rankin, Diana Gabaldon, Michael Koryta and store owner Barbara Peters celebrated the start of Koryta's tenure as the Diana Gabaldon/Poisoned Pen Writer-in-Residence. Koryta will serve as host at a variety of author events at the bookstore and at Mesquite Library. He'll also lead two workshops: one for students at Phoenix Country Day School and another for community members at the Poisoned Pen, both of which will explore narrative writing and the use of suspense in fiction and nonfiction.
The next issue of Mystery Readers Journal will focus on crime fiction set in New York, New York, and editor Janet Rudolph is looking for submissions of reviews (50-250 words), articles (250-1,000), and Author! Author! essays (500-1,500). But don't wait too long: the deadline is February 20.
Janet Rudoloph's Mystery Readers Fanfare blog also posted a timely list of crime fiction themed on and around the Super Bowl and American football in general.
The International Crime Fiction Group posted a call for chapter submissions (6-8,000 words each) to the upcoming anthology, From the Domestic to the Dominant: The New Face of Crime Fiction. Celebrating domestic noir as typified by the works of Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and Megan Abbott, potential submissions should address various aspects of the genre, with writers submitting abstracts of 400 – 500 words including up to five keywords by March 18, 2016
The New Yorker's Paul Grimstad wrote an article on "What Makes Great Detective Fiction, According to T. S. Eliot."
The February issue of Mystery Weekly features new short crime fiction by Tim Kane, Benjamin Cooper, Maddi Davidson, Tom Barlow, and Robb White, plus a "You Solve It!" mystery.
Writing for The Guardian, author Sophie Hannah asked (with tongue firmly in cheek) if the popularity of dark crime fiction written by women really the sign of a game-changing new genre? "Only if you have forgotten PD James, Ruth Rendell, Daphne du Maurier ..."
This week's crime poem at the 5-2 is "Fifty-seven Lousy Bucks" by Bill Baber, and the new story up at Beat to a Pulp is "Town Pride" by Dave Zeltserman.
In the Q&A roundup, Writers Who Kill welcomed Terrie Farley Moran, who won an Agatha for Best First Novel and recently collaborated with bestselling author Laura Childs; The Mystery People snagged screenwriter and author Scott Frank to talk about his satirical crime fiction debut, Shaker; Dana King stopped by Omnimystery News to discuss the most recent mystery in his Nick Forte series, The Man in the Window; Dr. Richard Michael Cartmel took the 9mm Interview at Crime Watch about his trilogy of crime novels set in the Burgundy wine region in France; and Shots Magazine sat down with actor David McCallum (Man from U.N.C.L.E. and NCIS), about his debut crime novel, Once a Crooked Man.
The Screen Actors Guild announced this year's winners for outstanding performances in both film and television. Idris Elba was a standout, making history by winning two awards for his roles in Beasts of No Nation (film) and Luther (BBC-TV). On the film side, Leonardio DiCaprio took home a trophy for his role in The Revenant and Brie Larson also won for her portrayal in Room, while the award for ensemble acting went to the film Spotlight. Viola Davis also won another statue (among her many awards to date) for her work in ABC's How to Get Away With Murder.
Harrison Ford and Anthony Hopkins are set to star opposite Paul Bettany, Natalie Dormer and Martin Freeman in the political thriller Official Secrets. The story centers on a young British intelligence officer who became famous when leaking information to the press, alleging that the NSA was engaging in illegal activities in order to pressure the U.N. Security Council to approve a resolution of war against Iraq in 2003. Hopkins will portray a retired U.K. general, and Ford has been cast as a C.I.A. agent.
Robert Zemeckis is directing another spy thriller, which just signed on Jared Harris in the lead role. The untitled project, set in World War II and based on a script by Steven Knight, follows married assassins who fall in love and wed in Casablanca while on a mission to assassinate a German ambassador - until the husband receives intel that his wife may be a double agent working for the Germans. Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard are set to play the married spies.
Kathryn Bigelow will take the director's chair for an untitled true crime drama from an original screenplay by Mark Boal. The film will be set against the backdrop of Detroit’s devastating riots that took place over five summer days in 1967
Jaume Collet-Serra Collet-Serra and Liam Neeson have worked on several films together, including 2015’s Run All Night, 2014’s Non-Stop and 2011’s Unknown, and now they are re-teaming for The Commuter, a thriller that follows a man (Neeson) who gets caught up in a criminal conspiracy.
The team behind the 2000 cult classic American Psycho is reuniting for a look at real-life American psycho Charles Manson titled The Family, from director Mary Harron and screenwriter Guinevere Turner. The project actually centers on the infamous Manson Family murders through the eyes of graduate student Karlene Faith as she works with three young, brainwashed women who were part of the cult.
Johnny Depp is in early talks to star in Paramount’s crime thriller Triple Frontier, about the world of smuggling, organized crime, and terrorism in South America. The ensemble thriller also has an offer out to Tom Hanks and had hoped to snag Will Smith, but the actor had scheduling conflicts.
Clive Owen has come aboard the psychological thriller Anon, written and directed by Andrew Niccol. Set in a world with no privacy, ignorance, and anonymity, the thriller centers on a detective in a world without privacy, ignorance and anonymity - the end of crime. But when Owen’s character stumbles on a young woman who doesn’t exist, he discovers it may not be the end of crime but the beginning.
If you're wondering when your much-anticipated new film is going to be released during 2016, Cinema Blend has a handy schedule for you of all of the upcoming projects.
Julia Roberts is set to star in and produce ADX, a drama based on the real life groundbreaking lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Prisons over the treatment of inmates at the infamous ADX supermax facility in the Rocky Mountains. The project is based on a NY Times Magazine article, “Inside America’s Toughest Federal Prison,” written by Mark Binelli.
The CW added two paranormal thrillers to its pilot season, including Frequency, a re-imagining of the time-travel film of the same title (that starred Dennis Quaid, Jim Caviezel and Elizabeth Mitchell). Written by Supernatural alum Jeremy Carver, the small-screen project centers on a contemporary female police detective who discover she can speak via ham radio with her estranged father (also a detective) who died in 1996. They forge a new relationship while working together on an unresolved murder case, but unintended consequences of the “butterfly effect” wreak havoc in the present day.
NCIS is adding a new team member to help fill the vacuum left by the outgoing Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo (played by Michael Weatherly). "Tess" will be an FBI Special Agent in her late 30s who has recently transferred to Washington D.C. from New York City’s Counter-Terrorism Unit. She's described as thrice-divorced, "quick-witted, sarcastic, and shrewd to boot." The show is looking for a “name” actress to tackle the role, with the character introduced in time for the Season 13 finale to set up her character arc for Season 14.
Julie Ann Emery (Fargo and Better Call Saul) will guest star in the final five episodes of Major Crimes' fourth season on TNT. She'll play Detective Stephanie Dunn, a hard-nosed narcotics investigator who is asked to transfer to Major Crimes and aid in the search for a murderer who may be connected to the killing of an off-duty cop from 12 years earlier.
The 24 reboot 24: Legacy has chosen its female lead in the form of Homeland's Miranda Otto, who will star opposite Corey Hawkins in the Fox pilot. Otto will play Rebecca Ingram, the smart former head of CTU now married to a U.S. Senator and struggling with second thoughts about having left the counterterrorism agency.
Unfortunately, the latest Crime Vault podcast will be its last, since Little Brown didn't renew the commission for hosts Michael Carlson and Mark Billingham. But you can enjoy the final show that features a Q&A with Alex Marwood whose new novel The Darkest Secret is out in ebook and audio; a chat about the 100 Bestsellers of the year 2015 and the changing place of women in the list; a "Game Changers" profile – a look at books that shifted the landscape; more new release reviews and much more.
Crime and Science Radio had an interview with forensic pathologist Judy Melinek and her co-author/husband TJ Mitchell (who is himself a a forensic pathologist).
On Crime Cafe, private eye author M. Ruth Myers chatted with mystery author Debbi Mack about her Maggie Sullivan mystery series and other work.
Suspense Radio's Beyond the Cover podcast welcomed Yannick Bisson, star of the TV show Murdoch Mysteries, and David McCallum (star of The Man from U.N.C.L.E and NCIS), who just released his debut crime novel, Once a Crooked Man. (Note if you're at work - this podcast has an auto-start feature).
Bestselling author John W. Mefford joined Crime Fiction FM for their first ever audio AND video episode to discuss his new book, the first in his new Alex Trout thriller series, At Bay.
American playwright Joseph Goodrich's world premiere stage adaptation of the Ellery Queen whodunit Calamity Town is running now through February 21 at the Vertigo Theater in Calgary. Canada’s only professional theatre dedicated to the mystery genre takes on the 1940-set production, which sees the amateur sleuth and mystery author moving to a quiet New England town only to find dark secrets lurking around every corner.
Ever hear a song used over and over in commercials and wonder where it came from? Advertisers seem to use the same classical tunes ad infinitum, and here is one you've probably heard in ads and movies, but may not know its source, the very lovely "Flower Duet" from the opera Lakmé by French composer Leo Delibes (sung here in an excerpt by Anna Netrebko & Elina Garanca):
Howard Melvin Fast (1914–2003) is perhaps best known for his popular historical fiction like Spartacus (the basis for the 1960 film by Stanley Kubrick) and his television scripts, including such programs as How the West Was Won and the Battle of Lexington and Concord, based on one of his novels. He was also blacklisted by the House un-American activities committee during the McCarthy era and became unpublishable. As a result, he started self-publishing (including Spartacus) and remade himself as the author of thrillers written under the pen name E.V. Cunningham, most featuring Masao Masuto, a Japanese-American detective in the Beverly Hills Police Department who's devoted to growng roses and Zen meditation.
Fast also wrote standalone crime fiction under his pseudonym, including the very first book he published as E.V. Cunningham, 1960's Sylvia, made into a film five years later, directed by Gordon Douglas and starring Peter Lawford, George Laharis and Carroll Baker. In his introduction to the 1992 reprint of the novel, published under the author's real name, Fast wrote "It began with a woman's name: Sylvia. I loved the name, I loved the (Franz Schubert) song, 'Who is Sylvia and what is she?' And the other sweet song 'Sylvia's hair is like the night.' Dark hair, raven black, a tall woman and beautiful. I could envision her as I might a living person."
Sylvia is a novel of suspense rather than crime-based detection story, focusing on would-be teacher of ancient history turned private investigator, Alan Macklin, who is handed a tough case by wealthy businessman Frederic Summers: trace the past of a beautiful woman you've never met, with only a book of poems, two lines of handwriting, and a fake story to go on. The mysterious woman in question is Summers' fiancee, Sylvia West, who owns property in Coldwater Canyon, raises prize-winning roses, is independently wealthy and fluent in French, Spanish and Chinese. But the story of her past doesn't check out, which is why the suspicious Summers hires Macklin to investigate.
Despite hating Summers for his cold objectivity and himself for taking the job for the money, Macklin sets out on an elusive trail through Sylvia's past, which grows more sordid yet strangely compelling as he travels to Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, New York City, El Paso, and across the border into Mexico. As he learns more of Sylvia's troubled past and her dark secrets, the down-on-his-luck private eye finds he's not only become obsessed with his phantom target, he's falling in love with her.
As Fast's first foray into the crime fiction genre, his neophyte chops become obvious when his characters tend to over-philosophize, such as Macklin noting, "There can be nothing as cold and deadly as an evening of pedagogues frozen in their timidity of thought and multifold institutional fears, or pompous and irrational in their half-knowledge and their book-bound ignorance. . . ." Yet Sylvia was popular enough at the time to be well received, praised in its reviews and sold to Paramount Pictures for the 1965 film. As an interesting aside, in France, where they didn't care about U.S. blacklists, Sylvia was published under Howard Fast's own name and sold over a hundred thousand copies.
Peter James was awarded the Crime Writers' Association Diamond Dagger, handed out each year by the CWA to a writer with a career marked by sustained excellence. James, who joins previous winners such as Elmore Leonard, Lee Child, Simon Brett, Lindsey Davis, and Val McDermid, is best known for his series of novels about the adventures of Detective Superintendent Roy Grace.
The inaugural issue of Dead Gun magazine is out, with new short tales of mayhem and murder from Paul Heatley, T. Fox Dunham, Bill Baber, Jeremy Estes, Robin Wyatt Dunn, Dusty Wallace, Christopher Davis, S.W. Lauden, J. David Jaggers, Jay Helmstutler, Bruce Harris, and Mark Sim. (Hat tip to Sandra Seamans.)
Writing for The Independent, author Benjamin Black discussed why The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler is not only the book of a lifetime but without question Black's favorite novel, even if it's not the best or most technically accomplished of the Marlowe novels.
If you are unfamiliar with Raymond Chandler's "Rules for Writing Mysteries," here's a refresher.
The Crime Fiction Ireland Blog profiled Dublin-born author Freeman Wills Crofts (1879–1957), one of the "big five" in the Golden Age of detective fiction who is largely unknown now, but whom Raymond Chandler described as "the soundest builder of them all when he doesn't get too fancy."
The International Crime Fiction blog noted there is a tendency in Western culture to present the evolution of crime fiction during the 20th century "as a purely Western phenomenon," and pointed out the genre was not exactly absent in Soviet Russia.
The Los Angeles Times profiled "A place where crime is often stranger than fiction."
Are you addicted to the true crime-based series Making of a Murderer? If so, Jeff Somers compiled a list for B&N of "7 Books to Read After You Binge-Watch Making a Murderer."
Speaking of true crime, researchers and trial consultants worry that shows like Making of a Murderer, along with fictional shows like Law & Order, may transmit undue biases onto future juries.
Meanwhile, The Guardian tapped author Rohan Gavin to opine on red herrings, maguffins, and double identities, in his "Top tips for writing detective fiction."
If you were one of those unlucky (like me) not to be able to join the recent Agatha Christie-themed cruise that followed the crime-writer’s visit to Tenerife in the late 1920s, travel writer and Christie fan Allis Moss has a summary for you, complete with Christie’s grandson Mathew Prichard and on-board plays.
Flavorwire took a look at "Bizarre Hollywood Murder Cases," some that remain unsolved.
The new crime poem at the 5-2 is "Minnesota Jump" by Kurt Nimmo, and the new monthly story at Beat to a Pulp is "Fundamental Breach" by William E. Wallace.
In the Q&A roundup this week, Criminal Element sat down with Suzy Spencer, author of the book Breaking Point, which deals with the case of Andrea Yates, who drowned all five of her children in 2001; the Mystery People ensnared Josh Stallings to talk about his novel Young Americans, a heist novel set in the glam-rock scene of seventies-era San Francisco; Omnimystery News welcomed Jim Stewart (author of Ochoco Reach) and Rebecca Marks (On the Rocks); Libby Cudmore took Paul D. Brazill's "Short, Sharp, Interview" challenge about her debut novel, The Big Rewind; Icelandic author Ragnar Jónasson talked with Eurodrama about his influences and being published in the UK; and Karin Slaughter interviewed fellow author Alifair Burke about Burke's new thriller, The Ex.
Emma Donoghue, the writer of both the novel and Academy Award nominated-screenplay Room, is teaming up with Monumental Pictures to make a feature adaptation of her novel Frog Music. The novel is set in the summer of 1876 in San Francisco in the grip of a record-breaking heatwave, smallpox epidemic, and festering racism and fear, and is inspired by the real-life unsolved murder of a young woman, Jenny Bonnet.
Kill the Messenger director Michael Cuesta has signed on to helm American Assassin, based on a script by Stephen Schiff from the Vince Flynn spy novel. CBS Films has been aiming to make a movie centered on Flynn's protagonist, Mitch Rapp, for several years and has decided to focus first on how Rapp became a CIA agent.
Sam Raimi is circling the director's chair for the remake of Jacques Audiard’s thriller, A Prophet, based on the screenplay rewrite by author Dennis Lehane. The original film followed an illiterate French-Arab teen who is sent down for six years and initiated into the prison’s criminal underworld, then starts plotting "his rapid rise through the violent and brutal inmate hierarchy to become a formidable player."
Robert Knepper has been cast in Paramount’s upcoming sequel Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, playing Gen. Harkness, a retired general-turned-CEO of a private military contractor firm. The film once again stars Tom Cruise in the title role as he returns to the headquarters of his old Army unit, only to find he’s been accused of a 16-year-old murder.
Theo James is in talks to take over the role Josh Hutcherson was to play in the political thriller Backstabbing for Beginners, playing an idealistic UN program coordinator who becomes involved in the fight for oil in post-war Iraq and uncovers a conspiracy. Ben Kingsley is already on board to play a mentor for Hutcherson's character in the project, which is based on international relations veteran Michael Soussan’s memoir Backstabbing For Beginners: My Crash Course In International Diplomacy.
USA Network has given a 10-episode, straight-to-series order to Eyewitness, an adaptation of the Norwegian crime thriller Øyevitne. The show explores a grisly crime from the point of view of the eyewitnesses, two innocent teenage boys who secretly witness a shooting in a forest and barely escape with their lives.
David Simon’s The Deuce, set in the porn industry during the 1970s and ’80s and starring James Franco, has landed a series order from HBO. The project is co-written by author George Pelecanos and centers on twin brothers, Vincent Martino and Frankie Martino, (both played by Franco) who became fronts for mob control of the volatile and lucrative sex industry.
In addition to a new Nancy Drew reboot, CBS gave pilot commitments for two new crime dramas from Supergirl executive producer Greg Berlanti. The first is Out of Body (written by Jennifer Johnson), which follows a criminal who finds himself transported into the bodies of people in peril, and must use his experience to keep from being killed, and the second is an untitled project (from writer Chris Fedak) that follows a young billionaire tech genius who utilizes his cutting-edge technology to partner with a street-smart but old-school San Francisco police detective.
Sherlock fans may be disappointed to hear that the fourth season of the show probably won't air until sometime in 2017, according to PBS president Paula Kerger. Although the show will begin production early this year, the busy schedules of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman add up to a delay in Sherlock's timeline.
ABC released a trailer for the return of How to Get Away with Murder, which premieres on February 11th.
A trailer was also released for the second season of the BBC's Yorkshire crime drama Happy Valley, with Catherine Cawood continuing to head up her team of police officers in The Calder Valley. James Norton, who plays Tommy Lee Royce, also returns for Season 2, although there will be new stars and new story lines.
The BBC also posted a trailer for its upcoming miniseries adaptation of John Le Carré's novel The Night Manager, starring Tom Hiddleston as a former soldier working as a night manager at a hotel who is recruited by British Intelligence to complete an undercover mission, with double-crossing courtesy of Hugh Laurie.
Suspense Radio's Inside Edition podcast started off the new year with a trio of bestselling authors, including Alan Jacobson, Jeff Abbott, and Leigh Adams.
Private eye author M. Ruth Myers chatted with mystery author Debbi Mack on Crime Cafe about Myers' Maggie Sullivan mystery series and other works.
CrimeFiction.FM welcomed debut author R.W. Wallace to talk about her atmospheric mystery, The Red Brick Cellars, set in Toulouse, France, where two unlikely sleuths team up to solve the murder of a beloved politician.
Theatre Out, Orange County's gay and lesbian theatre company, is presenting an all-male version of the Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler classic Sweeney Todd (The Demon Barber of Fleet Street), which, like the recent Broadway revival, will be set in an insane asylum. David C. Carnevale directs the production, which continues through Feb. 13 at the California venue.
The stage thriller Gaslight opened at Toronto's Ed Mirvish Theatre, with a run through February 28th. The show features northern Irish actress Flora Montgomery alongside Game of Thrones stars Owen Teale and Ian McElhinney in the psychological tale of a woman convinced she's losing her mind when her husband is away on business - but is the terror only in her imagination or are dark secrets living in her home? The surprise arrival of a retired detective leads to a shocking discovery that shakes her respectable Victorian marriage to its core.
I heard my first steel drum band when I attended the World's Fair in Knoxville in 1982. These musicians are pretty amazing, and can carry off some pretty complicated tunes, like an arrangement of the "Hallelujah" chorus from Handel's Messiah. Here's a version by the Invaders Steel Drum Orchestra from the Dollywood Festival of Nations:
And for a kick of historical fun, check out another version via a clip from the David Frost show that also featured Liberace.