Due to the holiday and the demands of travel, this week's Media Murder for Monday post is a montage of classic TV crime drama openers from the past. It seems fitting somehow to reflect on days of yore as we look ahead to the future and the New Year.
(I'm posting this "classic" reprint for the holidays).
I love digging around in the library stacks at my local Arlington library, and this week I uncovered four holiday-themed anthologies of short stories. Not able to decide on just one for today's posting, I decided to include all four. After all, this is the perfect time of year for short stories, because you can read one while waiting for gift wrapping, in-between baking sessions or standing in line for that must-have game console or at the post office to mail your packages.
Starting in chronological order, there's Christmas Stalkings, collected by Charlotte MacLeod and dating from 1991. The anthology includes 13 tales in all, mostly in the "cozy" or traditional vein, perfect for cuddling up with some hot chocolate and gingerbread. MacLeod contributes one story, and there are others from Reginald Hill, Margaret Maron, Eric Wright, Bill Crider and Elizabeth Peters, et al. Evelyn E. Smith's offering features her humorous series character in "Miss Melville Rejoices," where philanthropist/assassin Miss Melville vows to rid the world of a sadistic dictator at a Christmas Eve party.
Mystery for Christmas from 1994 is edited by Richard Dalby and features mostly British stories of "ghosts, murder, strange disappearances and journeys through time." Offerings range from works by Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy to a John Glasby whodunit; a "Christmas Carol" updating from H.R.F. Keating; and one Sherlockian pastiche by Ron Weighell.
Tim Heald edited 1995's A Classic Christmas Crime, with 13 tales ranging from Yorkshire on across the Pond to south Florida. P.D. James contributes a wartime country house mystery, Catherine Aird writes of "Gold, Frankincense and Murder," and Simon Brett takes "Political Corrections" to a twisty end. The stories range in tone and mood "from the light to the disturbing," putting plenty of diabolical presents in your reading stocking.
Carol-Lynn Rössel, Martin H. Greenberg and Jon L. Lellenberg edited two anthologies of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, the first in 1998 titled Holmes for the Holidays. Anne Perry is the headliner with her story "The Watch Night Bell," in which Holmes and Watson must foil a foul murder scheme taking place midnight on Christmas; Loren D. Estleman's story puts the sleuth duo into a real life-murder perilously paralleling Dickens Christmas Carol; and Reginald Hill sets Holmes in Rome for the holidays, matching wits with an ambitious rival.
Fox 2000 has optioned the rights to Robert Crais's novel Suspect, which marks the first time the author has agreed to sell film rights to his bestselling Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series. The team that finally encouraged him to do includes producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson (the duo behind The Hunger Games) and screenwriter David DiGilio (Eight Below). (Hat tip to Omnimystery News.)
Up and coming screenwriter Julie Bush has been tappedy by Universal to script a new draft of The Sigma Protocol, an adaptation of the last novel by the late Robert Ludlum. The novel is described as being in the vein of Three Days Of The Condor and Bourne Identity, in which a man vacationing in Switzerland runs into an old friend who guns down six people, forcing the vacationer into a run for his life.
Well Go USA Entertainment acquired North American rights to Clarence Fok Yiu-Leung’s film Special ID, the story of an undercover cop (Donnie Yen) who goes deep inside China’s most ruthless crime syndicate.
The producer of the futuristic procedural Dreddhas acquired English-language remake rights to Kim Jee-Woon’s 2010 South Korean serial-killer thriller I Saw the Devil. The original film followed an elite special agent whose pregnant fiancé is murdered by an evil madman, prompting the agent to lure the killer into an increasingly violent and twisted game of cat-and-mouse.
The upcoming film Jack Ryan is getting an IMAX release in January 2014. The latest film, based on the C.I.A. analyst Jack Ryan from Tom Clancy's spy novels (a role previously played by Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Alec Baldwin), stars Chris Pine as the titular hero who must try and unravel a massive terrorist plot in Moscow.
A new trailer was released for the upcoming thriller Grand Piano, about a celebrated pianist (Elijah Wood) who returns to the stage after a hiatus induced by an intense bout of stage fright. During the concert, he finds himself targeted by a mysterious sniper (John Cusack), who informs him that if one wrong note is played, the pianist will die onstage.
A trailer was also released for 3 Days a Kill, a thriller starring Kevin Costner as a spy trying to wind down his career and reconnect with his wife and teenage daughter. But his plans are derailed when he's poisoned by a former colleague who will only give him the antidote if he does one more job.
On January 7, The American Experience on PBS will air The Poisoner's Handbook, taking a look at the history of modern forensics. Starting with New York City's first trained medical examiner, Charles Norris, and his talented chief toxicologist, Alexander Gettler, the show will follow forensic chemistry's path toward a formidable science, setting the standards that the rest of the country would ultimately adopt. For an interactive feature, check the PBS online link above.
ABC has ordered a drama pilot from Shondaland (the company behind Scandal) titled How To Get Away With Murder. The project is billed as a law-school legal thriller about students and their mysterious criminal defense professor who get involved in a murder plot. (Hat tip to Omnimystery News.)
ABC also placed a pilot order for the crime drama Sea Of Fire, from Sony Pictures TV. The story centers on the aftermath of three teenage girls starring in a pornographic film, which tears their families apart and leads to a disappearance, a murder and other secrets in a small town.
Producer Garry Marshall, best known for his 1970s sitcoms, is teaming up with Nickelodeon for a children's "crime procedural" feauturing all kids playing grown-up characters including a male cop, his DA brother and the female judge they both have a crush on. It's said to be in the same vein the gangster musical Bugsy Malone starring a then-young Scott Baio and Jodie Foster.
The Sundance Channel is developing the six-episode reality seriesLoredana, ESQ, which traces the life of Loredana Nesci, a former LAPD officer-turned-lawyer as she navigates the criminal defense system.
NBC shared the new teaser poster for the second season of Hannibal, which also reveals the premiere date for Season 2 at the end of February.
Michael Connelly was a guest on Face the Nation yesterday, participating in a panel on the best books of 2013.
St John's College, University of Oxford, recently held a two-day event focusing on detective fiction and Oxford crime fiction. A video from the event has been posted online featuring Peter Kemp, the Sunday Times fiction editor, speaking about British Detective Fiction.
The London premiere of American Psycho, the musical based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel, is a sold-out hit. The production stars Matt Smith (Dr. Who) as the serial killer Patrick Bateman.
Melville Davisson Post (1869-1930) was born into a prosperous family in West Virginia and practiced criminal and corporate law for several years. However, after the success of his first novel series, he promptly dropped his law career to write full time. He was a prolific writer, penning numerous stories in national magazines like The Saturday Evening Post and The Ladies Home Journal.
He wrote a couple of series and some standalone novels, but it may have been his twenty-plus stories featuring the mystery-solving and justice dispensing West Virginian backwoodsman, Uncle Abner, which helped make Post popular. Ellery Queen called the stories "an out-of-this-world target for future detective-story writers," and the 1941 review of the mystery genre, Murder for Pleasure, declared that Uncle Abner was, after Edgar Allan Poe's Arsène Dupin, "the greatest American contribution" to the cast of fictional detectives.
Uncle Abner is described as "a big, broad-shouldered, deep-chested Saxon, with all those marked characteristics of a race living out of doors and hardened by wind and sun. His powerful frame carried no ounce of surplus weight. It was the frame of an empire builder on the frontier of the empire. The face reminded one of Cromwell, the craggy features in repose seemed molded over iron but the fine gray eyes had a calm serenity, like remote spaces in the summer sky. The man's clothes were plain and somber. And he gave the impression of things big and vast."
Abner is also a Puritan at heart who always carries a Bible in his pocket and has a knack for finding out the truth. As his nephew, Martin, who frequently narrates the stories, says, “for all his iron ways, Abner was a man who saw justice in its large and human aspect, and he stood for the spirit, above the letter, of the truth.” He is a stern authoritarian figure but equally so a kind and compassionate philosopher.
Uncle Abner, Master of Mysteries was the first anthology (1918), and contained 18 Uncle Abner stories all told by Martin. The crimes primarily deal with murder or robbery and start after the crime has been committed and the killer thinks he's gotten away with it. "The Doomdorf Mystery," is the first story in the collection and also one of Post's best known. It features more than one possible suspect who all admit to being the killer, as well as a locked-room scenario ("the wall of the house is plumb with the sheer face of the rock. It is a hundred feet to the river ... but that is not all. Look at these window frames; they are cemented into their casement with dust").
The stories are most definitely of their pre Civil War setting, in that they feature the attitudes toward African-Americans prevalent at the time (with the associated language that today's readers might find offensive). If you can get past that, these are entertaining for the shrewd characterizations, tight plots and for the dispensing of frontier justice in an era that predated American police forces and procedures.
Open Road Media via NetGalley is offering excerpts from Christmas mysteries and thrillers, including classic favorites, contemporary bestsellers, and little-known gems.
Janet Rudolph keeps expanding her comprehensive listing of Christmas-themed mysteries via her blog, Mystery Fanfare. The list is so extensive, it's broken down into several sections, including A-D; E-H; I-N; and M-Z.
Cressida Cowell, author of the How to Train Your Dragon novels, launched the UK Christmas Mini-Challenge scheme to encourage children to read over the holidays. Similar to summer reading challenges, the program rewards kids for reading and reviewing books and "keeps them in touch with what's happening at their local library," according to Lynne Taylor of the Reading Agency, the group that runs both programs.
Mystery Scene posted some holiday gift book ideas, including one seasonal title, the recently-released Big Book of Christmas Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler.
The "Best of the Year" book awards keep on coming. NPR created an App (that you can use online) including their picks in various categories, including Best Mysteries & Thrillers.
The 2013 Specsavers National Book Award winners were announced during a ceremony held at London’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel last week. Popular Fiction Book of the Year was given to An Officer and a Spy, by Robert Harris; Crime & Thriller Book of the Year went to The Carrier, by Sophie Hanna; the International Author of the Year is Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl; and the Waterstones UK Author of the Year is Kate Atkinson for Life After Life. (Hat tip to the Rap Sheet.)
The Swedish publisher of the best-selling The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy says it has hired author David Lagercrantz to write a sequel to the series by Stieg Larsson, who died in 2004. The title will be a new story about journalist Mikael Blomqvist and hacker Lisbeth Salander that doesn't include any material from the fourth book in the series Larsson was writing when he died.
The Q&A roundup this week includes Michael Connelly, interviewed by the New York Times; Mike Lawson, who visits the Seattle Mystery Bookshop blog; also stopping by the Seattle blog was Carola Dunn, talking about her Daisy Dalrymple series; Steve Weddle takes Paul Brazill's "Short, Sharp Interview" challenge; Luca Vesta drops by Declan Burke's blog; and Todd Robinson answers "Twenty Questions" from Dana King.