Josephine Bell is the pen name of Doris Collier Ball (1897-1987), who became a University College Hospital of London physician and married fellow doctor Norman Dyer Ball. After her husband died in a car accident in 1936, the tragedy pushed Bell to try her hand at writing, although she also maintained her medical practice until the age of 57. She continued to write full time until she was 85, creating numerous sleuths in over forty novels and several short stories, including Amy Tupper, Dr. Henry Frost and Dr. David Wintingham. She was a co-founder of the Crime Writers' Association, serving as its chair in 1959, and a member of the Detection Club.
It's the idealistic Dr. David Wintringham who is featured in Bell's novel from 1950, The Summer School Mystery. The school in the title refers to the summer music school at Falconbury, which proves to be more eventful than any of the students or lecturers could have imagined. The school is in the country, but many of the pupils and their instructors have traveled from the Royal School of Music in London. Derek Fox and his fiancée Belinda Power fail to turn up on time and nobody knows where they are. When the body of Belinda is discovered inside one of her own timpani, suspicion falls on Derek, who turns to Dr. Wintringham for help. But Derek is not forthcoming with information leaving David with little to go on. What is Derek hiding? And who killed Belinda if Derek is innocent?
It's been said that Bell's fiction marks a transition from British Golden Age style, in a society facing prewar industrial depression, wartime restrictions, and postwar austerity at the time that Bell began writing, which also served as the backdrop in many of her books. Dr. Wintringham is the type of professional working-man sleuth featured in such works, a physician at Research Hospital in London, who is married with four children and a frequent consultant to his friend Inspector Mitchell of Scotland Yard. Wintringham appeared in 18 novels and proved his skill at spotting incorrect medical diagnoses as well as clues left at crime scenes.
Bell was popular in her native England, but her novels didn't cross the Pond until 1955. Black Dagger Crime has brought back a few of her novels in print over the past several years, but in general, her books aren't easy to find.
Voting in the Goodreads Choice Awards kicked off this week and continues over three rounds through November 23, 2015, with 300 nominees across 20 different categories. For the complete list of nominees in the mystery and thriller category, check out this link.
If you’re in London on November 10, you can check out a free German crime fiction event at the Goethe Institut London. Titled "In the library with the lead piping," it will feature two German authors, Mechtild Borrmann and Mario Giordano, and two British authors, Michael Ridpath and Louise Welsh.
Editor Kim Idol is seeking essays for a publication titled The Butterfly Effect: Tracking Chaos Theory in Detective Fiction. In this view of chaos theory, villains bring disruptions that cause pain, but that also root out what is already rotting inside the social structures that had existed previous to the murder; and detectives are seekers who may not understand or be able to articulate what they know, but who understand disaster as a cause and effect of stability. Submissions should be abstracts of 200-250 words in length and should a brief author biography. Submit to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many articles recently have focused on Agatha Christie and how her knowledge of poisons was central to her mystery plots, but Mental Floss takes a look at one instance when a hysterical news media, and even the author herself, became alarmed she may have taken things too far. It all centered around a group of contract killers using an obscure poison that was virtually unknown before the Christie used it in a book.
Lyndsay Faye snagged Otto Penzler for a discussion about the enduring appeal of Sherlock Holmes, on a recent Criminal Element blog feature. Plus, you can enter for a chance to win a copy of The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories edited by Penzler.
For another chance to win a copy of Penzler's new comprehensive collection of Sherlockian tales, you can write a Sherlock Holmes story of your very own with this fill-in-the-black game to create your own unique mystery.
Issue #20 of ThugLit is out in ebook and print formats, with "eight brand spankin' new stories of darkest crime to infect your mind."
The Spectator examined John le Carré's novels and how the real subject at the heart of the author's work may be his conman father Ronnie.
What would Sherlock Holmes do without Dr. Watson at his side? Or Rizzoli without Isles? The Weekly Lizard focused their magnifying glass on five "power duos" of mystery and thriller fiction.
The new crime poem at the 5-2 Weekly is "Financial I.V." by Dennis Weiser, and the most recent story at Beat to a Pulp is "Little Troubles" by Steve Weddle.
In the Q&A roundup, the Mystery People lassoed Jason Starr to talk about his modern tales, including his latest, Savage Lane; Greg Rucka spoke with Comics Alliance about his new supernatural crime drama graphic novel, Black Magick; Julie Mulhern stopped by Omnimystery News to dicsuss the second mystery in her Country Club Murders series Guaranteed To Bleed; and the latest author to take the 9mm Interview Challenge at KiwiCrime is Tom Bouman, discussing his latest novel, Dry Bones in the Valley.
Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart are set to star in a film about Lizzie Borden. Pieter Van Hees will direct the untitled psychological thriller about the grisly murders of the Borden family, with Sevigny playing Borden, the woman who was infamously tried and acquitted for murdering her father and stepmother with an ax in 1892. Stewart would play the Bordens' live-in maid, Bridget Sullivan, a witness to the family tension who may have been in the home when the murders were committed.
Although there has been no official word from the studio, Sandra Bullock is allegedly set to topline an all-female version of Ocean's 11 with Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) directing, and George Clooney producing. No plot details have been revealed, and it’s not yet clear whether the new Ocean’s Eleven will be a remake or reboot, although there’s a chance Clooney could cameo as Danny Ocean.
Justin Theroux is circling a lead role in director Tate Taylor‘s adaptation of Paula Hawkins' novel The Girl on the Train. Theroux would fill the role previously considered by Chris Evans, playing the ex-husband of Emily Blunt’s character. Jared Leto, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett and Edgar Ramirez round out the cast. Meanwhile, Walt Disney Pictures announced a release date of October 7, 2016 for the picture.
Willem Dafoe has joined the cast of the gritty crime-thriller, Dog Eat Dog, based on the award-winning book of the same name by celebrated author Eddie Bunker and directed by two-time Golden Globe and Palme d’Or nominee and WGA Laurel Award-winner Paul Schrader (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver). The story follows a trio of ex-cons in Los Angeles who are hired for a kidnapping but when the abduction goes awry, find themselves on the run, vowing to stay out of prison at all costs.
The sequel to 2014's John Wick has added to its cast. Common will star the main baddie opposite Keanu Reeves' titular assassin, and Ian McShane will return in his role of Winston, the owner of the infamous Continental Hotel.
Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service) is nearing a deal to join Charlize Theron and James McAvoy in the spy thriller The Coldest City. David Leitch (John Wick) will direct from a script by Kurt Johnstad that follows a spy (Theron) who must find a list of spies a murdered MI6 officer was smuggling into the West.
Last week, I noted that the BBC is arranging for the Sherlock special to air in theaters in China and other selected cinemas around the globe. But Sherlock: The Abominable Bride will also appear on 500 movie screens January 5-6 in the U.S. with 20 minutes of exclusive, additional footage. Details will be announced around November 5.
Bestselling author Charlaine Harris (of True Blood fame) is working with NBC on a new drama for fall 2016 that will be based on the author's Midnight, Texas, series about a fictitious and creepy town in the Lone Star state. Executive producer David Janollari added that one of the draws is that "All the books have great murders at the center."
Marc Webb (Limitless) has another project in development at CBS, Smoke & Mirrors, written and produced by NCIS: Los Angeles co-executive producer Dave Kalstein. The premise centers on a mysterious detective in the LAPD Robbery Homicide Division, a modern Houdini-like character who uses her knowledge of deception and misdirection to solve seemingly impossible crimes committed by criminal masterminds.
Brian Burns, executive producer of CBS’s Blue Bloods, has sold a script for another police procedural to the network. Tentatively titled 40-Year-Old Rookie, the project centers on a former criminal defense attorney who, in order to clear his conscience and be on the right side of justice, becomes a 40-year-old rookie cop working alongside his son in the same precinct.
In their first writing collaboration since creating Gossip Girl nine years ago, producing partners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage are set to write and executive produce the ABC show The Party, which follows a murder investigation told over the course of 24 hours.
Hulu will debut the nine-hour limited series 11.22.63, based on the time-travel novel by Stephen King about the JFK assassination, on Presidents Day, Feb. 15, 2016. J.J. Abrams, Stephen King, Bridget Carpenter and Bryan Burk serve as executive producers, with James Franco starring as a high-school history teacher who travels back in time to stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The studio also revealed the first teaser photos from the series.
CBS is shaking up its Monday night schedule, thanks to the strong ratings of its recently-premiered Supergirl. Starting next week, for the first time since 1949, CBS won’t offer any comedy on Monday nights and instead offer Supergirl, Scorpion and NCIS: Los Angeles.
Mulder and Scully are going monster-hunting in a new trailer for the revival of Fox’s X-Files.
Fox also released a new trailer for Lucifer, which centers on the devil who retires from Hell and moves to Los Angeles to help the LAPD punish criminals.
Patricia Cornwell discussed her latest crime thriller Depraved Heart on PBS' Tavis Smiley program.
Robert Galbraith, a/k/a JK Rowling, stopped by NPR to discuss her latest private eye novel. Rowling is also scheduled for a BBC Radio 2 interview today.
CrimeFictionFM welcomed author Jeri Westerson to discuss her new book, the eighth in her Crispin Guest Medieval Noir Mystery series, The Silence of Stones.
A story from EQMM’s Passport to Crime series is featured as this month's podcast from the 'zine. Belgium author Bavo Dhooge's story “Stinking Plaster” appeared in the September/October 2011 issue of EQMM and is read on the podcast by Josh Pachter, who translated the story into English for its publication in EQMM. (Note: if you're at work reading this, be aware that this podcast has auto-start audio.)
Misery, the new Broadway suspense thriller based on Stephen King's novel of the same name, began performances Oct. 22 at the Broadhurst Theatre, toplined by Emmy Award winners Bruce Willis and Laurie Metcalf, as well as Leon Addison Brown. Playbill offered up a "first look" photo from the production.
Margaret Millar (1915-1994) was married to Kenneth Millar, better known as crime fiction author Ross MacDonald, but despite having an Edgar Award and over 25 novels to her credit, she never gained the same popularity as her husband. My local public library only had one of her books in the stacks, but several MacDonalds. A likely reason for the neglect is that she didn't have a breakout series character like MacDonald's Lew Archer, writing mostly standalones.
The Millars made a good writing team, such as the times Margaret helped her husband with dialogue. "I did teach him to write better dialogue so that everybody didn't sound like him. In the first two books, all of the characters talked like Ken! I don't even know anybody who talks like Ken. And I told him he had to listen...And we went around to a lot of places: pawn shops, low bars...And he realized how different people talk." Apparently, Kenneth also once said that the best lines usually resulted from the many arguments the couple had. If you want to read a truly in-depth article on the writing Millars and how they influenced each others' work, see if you can grab a copy of Mystery Readers Journal from Fall 2001 and read "Ross Macdonald and Margaret Millar: Partners in Crime" by Tom Nolan.
The Soft Talkers is the U.K. title for Margaret Millar's novel from 1957, originally released in the U.S. as An Air That Kills. It follows the seemingly perfect married couple, Harry and Thelma Bream. Harry's best friend Ron Galloway invites his pals to his lakeside hunting lodge for the weekend, but then fails to show up. The worried friends call Galloway's house and speak to his wife, Esther, to find out what's keeping him, but the wife tells them Galloway left a long time ago. Then Thelma drops the bombshell on friend-caught-in the-middle Ralph Turee that she is pregnant with Ron's child. The investigation grows cold, and it isn't until much time has passed, when Ron is found dead buckled into his submerged convertible, that the even colder, twisted truth comes to light.
Millar's attention to dialogue is evident, part of the meticulous detail she gives to building her characters. Although she admittedly wasn't a fan of action-driven plots, her meticulous weaving of plot, clues and misdirection are all in fine form here, as is her zingy prose, examples of which you can find on nearly every page, like these:
He had a sensation that he and Harry were stationary and the night was moving past them swiftly, turbulent with secrets. To the right the bay was visible in the reflection of a half moon. The waves nudged each other and winked slyly and whispered new secrets.
Thelma, the day-dreamer, who fed her mediocrity with meaty chunks of dreams until it was fat beyond her own recognition. Under this system of mental dietetics Thelma became a woman equipped with great psychic powers...
It was merely the skeleton of the truth. Only an expert could add the flesh and blood and muscle and all the vital organs that would make it a whole, borrowing a little here, a little there...
Although it's a shame Millar isn't as well known as MacDonald, it's nice to see that a couple of her novels have been reissued recently by Stark House Press. Maybe new readers can discover why Anthony Boucher said of her writing, "Devilishly devious trick-plotting given substance by acute and terrifying psychological insight."
Congratulations to Oakmont, Pennsylvania's Mystery Lovers Bookshop, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary on Halloween with a free all-day event. Features will include author Nancy Martin reading from her new novel, Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything, and store founders Mary Alice Gorman and Richard Goldman will participate in a meet and greet and a "very special announcement." There will also be a 10-Cent Book Sale, with all proceeds going to charity. (HT to Shelf Awareness.)
Don Winslow has won the 2015 T. Jefferson Parker Mystery Award for The Cartel. The other finalists in the annual award handed out by the the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association were Marry, Kiss, Kill by Anne Flett-Giordano and The Replacements by David Putnam.
Janet Rudolph has a list of dozens of Halloween Crime Fiction titles on her Mystery Fanfare blog for you, enough to haunt you for weeks.
Suspense Magazine kicked off the holiday season handing out treats like exclusive interviews with Karin Slaughter, Sandra Brown, Simon Toyne, Matthew Palmer, and Pan Jenoff. There are also columns on forensics from Dr. D.P. Lyle, thriller news from Jenny Milchman, and over 20 pages of book reviews, short stories, and other articles; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar talks about his new mystery featuring Mycroft Holmes; and much more.
If you're near Berkeley, California, tomorrow evening, join Mystery Readers NorCal for a panel on Jewish Noir. The panel is in celebration of a new anthology featuring contemporary tales of crime and other dark deeds and will feature editor, Kenneth Wishnia, and co-conspirators Summer Brenner, Michael J. Cooper, Steven Wishnia, Melanie Dante, Wendy Hornsby and Stephen Jay Schwartz.
The fall edition of Mystery Scene magazine features an Oline Cogdill interview with author Craig Johnson, as well as Robert Taylor, who plays the Johnson's Wyoming sheriff in the Netflix series Longmire; and Michael Mallory offers an overview of Bradbury’s early pulp short stories and innovative mystery novels.
Wondering what to serve at your Halloween party this year? Mashable has an assortment of Halloween cocktails inspired by your favorite horror movie villains, and the Mystery Lovers Kitchen has healthy Edible Witches' Brooms and decadent spider cookies.
If you're panicking over your Halloween costume and Jack o'Lantern carving, Book Riot has a scary array of literary Halloween costumes you can wear year 'round, and Mashable has three no-carve pumpkin ideas (no guts!).
If you're mood for a classic horror flick on Halloween the Classic Film and TV Cafe blog lists and ranks the Dracula films.
This obituary notice came too late for last week's Melange blog post, but mystery author Joyce Lavene, wife of Jim Lavene, has passed away. The couple authored over 60 novels including the Pumpkin Patch Mysteries; Purple Door Detective Agency, Taxi for the Dead Paranomal Mysteries, Retired Witches Mysteries, Missing Pieces Mysteries, Renaissance Faire Mysteries, Peggy Lee Garden Mysteries, and Sharyn Howard Mysteries, and much more.
The crime poem at the 5-2 Weekly is "Ode to the Homicidal 'Gentlemen'" by Tonia Kalouria. Also, editor Gerald So put out a call for poems about James Bond, Ian Fieming, the theme songs, the movies vs. reality, etc. by November 6, 2015, the U.S. premiere date of SPECTRE. Accepted poems will appear on the site in December and beyond.
The Q&A roundup this week includes Jimmy Vargas taking Paul D. Brazill's "Short, Sharp Interview" challenge; Kevin Hurley stopped by Ominimystery News to talk about his new thriller Cut and Cover; and the San Diego Tribune chatted with Elizabeth George about her latest book in the Inspector Lynley series, A Banquet of Consequences.
George Clooney has come on board the latest Coen Brothers film - this time to direct. The project is based on the Coens' script Suburbicon, a noirish, small crime drama set in the 1950s.
Indican Pictures has snapped up film rights to This Last Lonely Place, a noir thriller executive produced by the Santana film division of the Humphrey Bogart Estate, with hopes for an early 2016 release. Directed and written by Steve Anderson, the project tells the story of an unsuspecting cab driver (Rhys Coiro) who, on his last night on the job, finds himself roped into helping a wealthy investment banker (Xander Berkeley) cover up a brutal crime.
Hollywoodland screenwriter Paul Bernbaum is penning the screenplay for a new period noir thriller, Skin Trade, based on the true story of FBI agent Pat Livingston and the Mafia-related pornography sting that nearly claimed his life.
Veteran character actor and Oscar winner Chris Cooper is joining Ben Affleck’s adaptation of Dennis Lehane's novel, Live By Night. Cooper joins an all-star case headed by Affleck, Chris Messina, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller and Zoe Saldana. The story follows a young gangster’s climb up the ranks during the Prohibition era.
The next Jack Reacher film added its final cast members just in time for production to start in New Orleans. Holt McCallany signed on for the sequel to the 2012 Tom Cruise film and will play one of the villains. The second Reacher outing finds returning to his old army base and ends up being accused of the murder of his old friend, so he must solve the mystery of the murder while also running from the law.
Scott Shepherd has been added to the cast of the new Jason Bourne movie in a role that’s rumored to be the director of the CIA. He joins Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, and Tommy Lee Jones for the project.
Fox is developing a drama from writer David Slack (Person Of Interest) and Sleepy Hollow co-creator and executive producer Len Wiseman. Inspired by the July New York Times Magazine article, “Who Runs the Streets of New Orleans” by David Amsden, the show will explore what happens "when an enigmatic tech billionaire makes a deal with a bankrupt, dying city to provide a privately owned-and-operated police force."
Fox also put in development the pilot Incrimination, an hourlong legal drama from Mistresses executive producer Rina Mimoun and writer-producer Justin Lo. The project is described as "a salacious soap" and centers on a young woman with narcissistic personality disorder who infiltrates a law firm in order to find the truth behind her sister’s murder.
CBS gave a full season order to Limitless, the follow-up to the 2011 Bradley Cooper film of the same name, about a slacker who unlocks the full potential of his mind when he takes a brain-enhancing drug called NZT and sets about helping the FBI solve their most complex cases.
Anne Heche has signed on to guest-star on Quantico, playing a former FBI agent and medical examiner named Dr. Susan Langdon.
The BBC is working on a deal with China to release the Sherlock Victorian Christmas special in movie theaters there, part of the global cinema event executive producer Steven Moffat talked up at Comic-Con in July that will see the project released in “select theaters” around the world.
Meanwhile, PBS revealed the broadcast date for the Sherlock Victorian special as January 1, meaning it will premiere in both the U.S. and the U.K. on the same date. Shooting for season 4 of the series will begin in the spring.
Misha Glenny's non-fiction 2008 book McMafia is going to be adapted for a BBC1 drama series with eight 60-minute episodes centering around one Russian family living in exile in London. The Mail praised the book as "organised crime's version of Fast Food Nation" for its hard-hitting look at global crime and its far reaching influence. The project has an impressive pedigree, with creators Hossein Amini (Snow White And The Huntsman) and James Watkins (The Woman in Black) and writers David Farr (Spooks), Peter Harness (Doctor Who) and Laurence Coriat (Me Without You).
B.D. Wong will be making a guest appearance on Law & Order: SVU this November, reprising his role as SVU resident head shrinker Dr. George Huang.
FX released two new teaser clips for the upcoming American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. The videos don't show Cuba Gooding Jr., who stars as O.J. Simpson, although they do show John Travolta's as Simpson's lawyer Robert Shapiro.
Hank Phillippi Ryan was the latest guest on Crimefiction FM, discussing the new (and fourth) book in her suspenseful Jane Ryland series, What You See.
The most recent Speaking of Mysteries podcast profiled the new work, Women Crime Writer’s: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s, edited by Sarah Weinman.
New York Times bestselling author Russell Blake joined CrimeFiction.FM to discuss his new book, the fifth in the Artemis Black Mystery series, Black in the Box.
Debbi Mack's Crime Cafe featured a rebroadcast of the classic, The Adventures of Philip Marlowe - "Who Shot Waldo?", courtesy of Old Time Radio Researchers Group.
Crime and Science Radio offered Part Two in an interview with the FBI’s Betsy Glick and Edward You, and Biotech Futurist Andrew Hessel.
Suspense Radio One on One featured a discussion with two mystery authors, George Chronis and Melissa Lenhardt.
Last week, it was Russian oktavists, this week, it's Tuvan throat singing. If you're not familiar with it, it's a technique used by the people of Tuva, Mongolia, and other Asian regions wherein the vocalists sings not one tone at a time, but two, three, or four - also called overtone singing or throat singing. It's something that takes a long time to learn, but it's pretty amazing. Have a listen (this clip is from a performance on Dave Letterman's Late Show):
When I was last in the York Emporium used bookstore in York, PA, I picked up Detective Fiction: Crime and Compromise by Dick Allen and David Chacko from 1974. This anthology was apparently intended for a college class on detective and mystery fiction—or as it states in the Preface, "a form of popular fiction that is forever concerned with the basic questions of 'right' and 'wrong' in human behavior."
Allen and Chacko included short stories, selected passages from novels, two poems, and a final section of essays by writers in the genre, organized into four sections: Manifestations, The Detective, The Genre Extended and Theories. Each selection is followed by analytical questions, and there also an appendix with topics for writing and research, a bibliography and some suggestions for further reading. Something I also appreciated from the Preface: "The genre as a whole has too long been ignored in the classroom."
The first section is designed to give an overall perspective on some metaphysical questions regarding the genre, and Allen and Chacko chose an unusual opening, Robert Frost's poem "Design," which poses an initial question about the presence of evil and horror in the world. Just to show that the definition of crime fiction can cast a wide net, the section also includes Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Browning and Agatha Christie.
The section on the Detective is a good overall overview of the topic, while The Genre Extended casts the net even wider to demonstrate how the element of "detection" operates in all forms of literature like "The Tree of Knowledge" by Henry James. And, as the editors point out, Ross Macdonald and Dashiell Hammett demonstrate how the gap between pure detection stories and "literary" fiction narrowed. The final section, Theories, begins with Dorothy L. Sayers' examination of the genre's history and winds its way to Fred P. Graham's essay, "A Contemporary History of American Crime." It also includes the Raymond Chandler essay "The Simple Art of Murder."
Although I wasn't able to find much on how well the book was received by student readers, this near 40-year-old book is among the first to give crime fiction the respect it is rightfully due. An interesting side note: one of the editors, Dick Allen, is primarily a poet who became Connecticut State Poet Laureate in 2010, and I find it interesting he chose this topic as one of only a few nonfiction books he has published. But then, the very best crime fiction has poetry at its heart, one reason perhaps that Esquire called George Pelecanos "the poet laureate of D.C. crime."