American author Joseph Hansen (1923-2004) was born in South Dakota, the son of a shoe shop owner who lost the business during the Depression, prompting moves to Minneapolis and eventually a citrus grove in California belonging to the author's married sister. Hansen was to spend the rest of his life in California, making a living as a writer and teacher.
Hansen fell in love with a worker at Lockheed's Los Angeles aircraft plant, Jane Bancroft, and married her in 1943. He was gay, she was a lesbian, and they both had affairs, but as the author later remarked, "something was right about it, however bizarre it may seem to the rest of the world." They remained happily together until Jane's death 51 years later, and had a daughter who later underwent gender reassignment.
Hansen penned over 40 books and other works, many with homosexual themes, not widely accepted during the pre-Stonewall 1960s, prompting him to use a pen name with small West Coast publishers. His breakthrough, and the first of his works to use his own name, came with the detective novel Fadeout in 1970. In the St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers, Hansen said that "Homosexuals have commonly been treated shabbily in detective fiction -- vilified, pitied, at best patronized...I wanted to write a good, compelling whodunit, but I also wanted to right some wrongs. Almost all the folksay about homosexuals is false. So I had some fun turning clichés and stereotypes on their heads in that book. It was easy."
Fadeout and 11 subsequent books in the series featured Dave Brandstetter, an openly gay insurance investigator/private eye who still had the tough, no-nonsense qualities of the classic hardboiled protagonist. The novels are also known for their colorful descriptive portrayal of Los Angeles during the late 60's and 70's. Hansen was a fan of Ross Macdonald, "but it bothered me that his detective never had any personal life, and he never changed. My joke was to take the true hard-boiled character in an American fiction tradition and make him homosexual. He was going to be a nice man, a good man, and he was going to do his job well."
Troublemaker, the third book in the series from 1975, finds Brandstetter investigating the murder of Rick Wendell, the owner of a local gay bar and all-around nice guy. Wendell's body had been discovered by his mother, who found a young man, stark naked, wiping off a revolver with Rick lying dead at his feet. It seems like an open-and-shut case, but Brandstetter digs deeper, both in his job as investigator for Medallion Life Insurance and because he doesn't like easy solutions. What happened to the large sum of money Wendell had just withdrawn from the bar's bank account? And why are the only fingerprints on the gun those of the victim's mother--the beneficiciary of her son's insurance policy?
Hansen wrote compelling dialogue and multi-layered characters, as in this description of the victim's mother:
"She wore jeans, high-top work shoes, an old pullover with a jagged reindeer pattern. Somebody's ski sweater once, somebody even bigger than she was. Her son? She was sixty, but there was nothing frail about her. The hands gripping the grainy rake handle were a man's hands. Her cropped hair was white. She wore no makeup. Her skin was ruddy, her eyes bright blue. Hearty might have described her. Except for her mouth. It sulked. Something had offended her and failed to apologize. Not lately--long ago. A lifetime probably."
The New Yorker said of the Brandstetter series, "Unusual in two respects. One is that the insurance investigator, though ruggedly masculine, is thoroughly and contentedly homosexual, the other is that Hansen is an excellent craftsmen, a compelling writer." And as a nod to Hansen's writing as solid private-eye fiction, not just gay private-eye fiction, the Los Angeles Times called the author, "The most exciting and effective writer of the classic private-eye novel working today." In 1992, Mr. Hansen received a life achievement award from the Private Eye Writers of America.
This summer, residents and tourists in London have had an added treat with the addition of literary-themed benches, from Shakespeare to more modern times. Here are a few highlights from the project, which aims to raise money for the National Literacy Trust:
Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
James Bond (Ian Fleming)
Liam McIlvanney's Where the Dead Men Go won the the prestigious Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel at the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival this past Saturday. (Hat tip to Craig Sisterson at Kiwicrime.) The other finalists were Joe Victim by Paul Cleave, Frederick’s Coat by Alan Duff, and My Brother’s Keeper by Donna Malane.
The Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards announced shortlists for the CWA Goldsboro Gold Dagger for Best Crime Novel of the Year, the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger for Best First Novel, and the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for Best Thriller of the Year. (Hat tip to It's a Crime.)
Hard Case Crime, the award-winning line of vintage-style crime fiction from editor Charles Ardai and publisher Titan Books, announced it will publish a newly-discovered pulp crime novel by Gore Vidal, lost for more than 60 years and never before published under the author’s real name. Thieves Fall Out, the story of an American trying to smuggle an ancient treasure out of Egypt on the eve of a bloody revolution, will be published in hardcover in April 2015.
The latest issue of Noir Nation features several stories by Canadian authors as well as stories set in Canada by non-Canadian writers. In keeping with the journal’s international flavor, there are also stories from other parts of the globe. This particular edition is dedicated to Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor, who was murdered during the terrorist attack at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi.
The new Yellow Mama edition also has new crime fiction and poems on themes of everything from vengeance to snooty writers' workshops and even a "mystically-empowered Samurai vigilante."
The recently-released Thuglit Issue Thirteen is titled "Hepcats and Kittens," with "eight new hardboiled treats to keep you purring."
Mike Ripley's latest "Getting Away with Murder" column for Shots ezine has a profie of the "Prince of Storytellers," a/k/a Edward Phillips Oppenheim (1866-1946), a review of a new biography of John Creasey, and much more.
New York and Minnesota now have at least one more thing in common: they both have "floating libraries." The Minneapolis location, in the middle of Cedar Lake, features a wooden raft with around 80 artists’ books and is staffed by friendly librarians. Simply pull up your kayak or boat and you're in business. New York's is slightly different: The Lilac Museum Steamship will host a pop-up floating library at Pier 25 on the Hudson River from September 6 through October 3.
Over at the 5-2, the weekly crime poem is "The Saturday Night Special in Gary, Indiana" by Joseph S. Pete.
The Q&A roundup this week includes Gregg Hurwitz chatting with The Mystery People about his latest, Don’t Look Back, set in the jungle because he wanted to "write something where cell phones and cops and evidence played no role"; Anonymous-9 is interviewed by Anthony Neil Smith about her new book Bite Harder; and Kristi Belcamino spoke with Omnimystery News about her series featuring San Francisco reporter Gabriella Giovanni.
Eleven-year-old Sebastian Griffith and his father Kevin have recreated 100 scenes from the 1,079-page David Foster Wallace novel Infinite Jest in Lego.
In case you were wondering, ShotsMag reported that Yorkshire did indeed beat the Guinness World Record for the Most People Dressed as Sherlock Holmes, on August 31, with a total of 443!
I'm not sure I'm ready for fall, but there is one good thing to look forward to, and that's all the autumnal literary conferences. One coming up next is Fall for the Book, a week-long, multiple-venue festival in Northern Virginia that runs September 11-18. From the official press release we learn that:
"The Mid-Atlantic Chapter of Mystery Writers of America is sponsoring one of the major events at this year’s Fall for the Book festival: One of only two U.S. appearances by internationally bestselling thriller writer Sophie Hannah, author of the The Monogram Murders—the first new Hercule Poirot novel in nearly 40 years and the first time ever that Agatha Christie’s estate has allowed another writer to use one of Christie’s characters for an original novel. Hannah will talk about the book and her path to writing it on Tuesday, September 16, at 7:30 p.m. in Harris Theatre, George Mason University, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax, VA. A booksigning follows, and to celebrate Christie’s 124th birthday—the day before—we’ll also have a birthday cake!"
But wait, there's more:
"A mystery panel featuring members of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of MWA: E.A. Aymar, Mason alumnus and author of I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead; Barb Goffman, Macavity Award-winning short story writer with her debut collection Don’t Get Mad, Get Even; Mary Miley, historian and author of the Roaring Twenties mystery series, including The Impersonator, winner of the 2012 Mystery Writers of America Best First Crime Novel award, and the soon-to-be-released Silent Murders; and Kathryn O’Sullivan, a playwright and professor at Northern Virginia Community College, whose mystery debut Foal Play won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. Moderated by Donna Andrews, Agatha, Anthony, Barry, and Lefty Award-winning author of the Meg Langslow series, most recently including The Good, The Bad, and the Emus.
Throughout the week, Fall for the Book also hosts a wide range of mystery and suspense writers—from children’s book author Chris Grabenstein to nonfiction writer (and novelist!) Kate Flora to an array of noir-themed writers at Fall for the Book’s first “Nightfall” event. Stories span from the Middle Ages right up to the present moment, including the debut novel from Washington Post journalist Neely Tucker, inspired by D.C.’s last serial killer. And events take place across the region—at George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus, at libraries throughout Northern Virginia, at One More Page Books in Arlington, VA, and at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD."
Most of these events are free and open to the public, so if you happen to be in the area, check out the schedule and set a course for some "mysterious" book discovery.
Fifty Shades of Grey star Jamie Dornan has been tapped to play the lead in the psychological thriller The Ninth Life of Louis Drax, adapted from the novel by Liz Jensen.
Screen Media Films has acquired U.S. rights to writer-director Riley Stearns’ indie thriller Faults, which stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Leland Orser, Beth Grant, Chris Ellis, Jon Gries and Lance Reddick. The story centers on a woman under the grip of a mysterious cult called Faults and the battle of wills between her and the deprogrammer the woman's parents hire to kidnap their daughter.
Millennium Entertainment acquired all domestic rights to the movie adaptation of The World Made Straight based on the thriller novel by Ron Rash. The project stars Jeremy Irvine, Minka Kelly, Noah Wyle, Adelaide Clemens and Haley Joel Osment in the tale of a rebellious young man (Irving) who struggles to decide between the dark path he is on and the chance at a new life.
A new trailer was released for the adaptation of Gillian Flynn's novel Gone Girl, which arrives in theaters on October 3.
Gaumont Film Company and Drafthouse Films released an international teaser for Cédric Jimenez’s 1975-set crime thriller The Connection, starring The Artist Oscar winner Jean Dujardin and based on real-life events.
A poster was released for the comic noir caper Kill Me Three Times, which premieres in Toronto September 6th. The ensemble cast is headed by Simon Pegg who plays a "beleaguered, kvetching assassin."
Crime dramas scored well at last week's Emmy Awards: the departing series Breaking Bad won several awards, including Best Drama Series, Best Actor, and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series; Sherlock: His Last Vow brought home awards for Benedict Cumberbatch (actor, miniseries or movie), Martin Freeman (supporting actor, miniseries or movie), Stephen Moffat (writing, miniseries, movie or dramatic special), and cinematography. True Detective also won a Best Director nod for Cary Joji Fukunaga, and Fargo was awarded for Best Direction in a Miniseries (Colin Bucksey).
After three seasons, A&E canceled Longmire, the series based on the novels of Craig Johnson, but the producers of the show will shop it around in hopes of landing a new network home.
Fox is developing the crime drama Jack Irish, an adaptation of the 2012 Australian mini-series starring Guy Pearce, which in turn was based on the detective novels by Peter Temple. The new adaptation once again centers on Jack Irish, a part-time lawyer, debt collector, and apprentice cabinet maker, who is getting his life back together after the murder of his wife.
HBO and Paramount Television are developing the TV drama Ashecliffe, a origin tale based on Martin Scorsese’s crime thriller Shutter Island, which was in turn an adaptation of Dennis Lehane's novel of the same name.
The Iain Banks novel Stonemouth is being developed as a two-part drama by BBC Scotland and Slate North, the first TV adaptation of Banks's work since his death in 2013. The project will be adapted by David Kane (Prime Suspect) and directed by Charles Martin (Wallander) and start filming on location in Scotland this October.
The BBC optioned author Peter May's Lewis crime fiction Lewis Trilogy, set in the Outer Hebrides, with plans to create three separate two-hour TV movies, beginning with The Blackhouse.
Author Ed Gorman reported that his novella Moonchasers will be optioned for a feature film—for the ninth time. Ed and his fans hope the ninth time is the charm.
The NBC series The Blacklist, which stars James Spader, has been acquired by Netflix syndication for $2 million per episode.
NPR's summer "Crime in the City" series continues with a profile of Selcuk Altun and her mysteries set in Istanbul amid the monuments and history of Byzantium.
Authors Stephen Maitland, Jeff Ayers, and D.P. Lyle were featured on the recent Suspense Radio podcast.
The Vineyard Theater in New York City will stage a production of Billy & Ray this fall. The play follows the antagonistic relationship between Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler during the creation of the 1944 film Double Indemnity.
Edward John "Ted" Wood, was born in Sussex, England in 1931 and served in the RAF during the Second World War. In 1954 he emigrated to Canada and was a Toronto police officer for three years before switching to advertising and copyrighting. The dual law enforcement/writing experience prompted him to pen several published crime fiction (and non-genre) short stories and a teleplay.
His first novel was Dead in the Water in 1984, a police procedural that won the Scribner's Crime Novel Award and was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel. It was the first of what became a series featuring policeman Reid Bennett, an ex-marine and Vietnam vet, who relocated to the small fictional Canadian resort town of Murphy's Harbour after he took a bad rap for murdering two guys to prevent a rape. He's aided by his trusty German Shepherd, Sam, who serves as companion and protector.
In Fool's Gold, the fourth novel in the series (also nominated for an Arthur Ellis Award), gold found in the mountains of Canada prompts a sudden influx of prospectors, chopper pilots, construction workers and drifters, all hoping to get rich quick. It also brings the dead body of geologist Jim Prudhomme, who's found mauled beyond recognition presumably by a bear, even though bear attacks in that area are rare. But the mystery increases when a witness claims to have seen Prudhomme days after the murder, and then Prudhomme turns up dead for real. As Bennett digs deeper, he doesn't discover gold but rather a plot to defraud the gold mine. With the help of the local police chief out for one last big case and a beautiful motel keeper with secrets of her own, Bennett races to get to the bottom of the scheme, dodging blackmailers, vengeful miners and a mounting body count.
A tendency to skirt the rules makes Bennett take chances that aren't always credible, but Woods' plots are known for their many twists and turns, and also witty dialogue and elements of suspense. Fans of the series are particularly fond of Sam, who Publisher's Weekly described as "…a multitalented utility infielder who can 'keep,' 'track,' 'seek,' 'fight,' 'guard,' sniff out cocaine and corpses, save lives and generally pinch-hit for a dozen patrolmen."
Woods went on to write 10 Bennett novels in all (from 1984 to 1995) and three novels featuring private eye John Locke from 1986 to 1991 (written under the pen name Jack Barnao). Woods also also served as president of the Crime Writers of Canada from 1987 to 1988.
Check out the other FFB links, hosted today by Evan Lewis.
A Memorial Gathering for the late Canadian mystery author Lou Allin is scheduled for Sunday, September 14, 2-4:30 p.m. in Victoria, BC. Mystery Fanfare has all the details.
All Due Respect magazine, edited by Chris Rhatigan and Mike Monson, has brought readers "uncensored, kick-ass" short crime fiction since 2010, and now they've started publishing collections, novellas, and novels under the All Due Respect Books imprint. They're starting off with You Don’t Exist, a book of two novellas by Chris Rhatigan and Pablo D’Stair, and plan on releasing one title per month. For updates and more info, you can head on over to the ADR blog.
The Clark Library at the University of Michigan is featuring interactive literary maps of the United States in an online exhibition, including several mystery authors. (Hat tip to Elizabeth Foxwell.)
Meanwhile, the New York Public Library blog profiled several "Mysteries with a Sense of Place."
The Yorkshire town of Temple Newsam, Leeds, in the UK is aiming for a new Guinness World Records title for the Most People Dressed as Sherlock Holmes. On August 31, entrants who pay the £15 fee will receive a Deerstalker hat, pipe and magnifying glass. Organizers hope for at least 250 people, the number needed to set the record, and are using proceeds from the event to help raise money for the Yorkshire Brain Research Centre at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals.
Mystery Readers Journal editor Janet Rudolph is looking for 500 to 1,500 word personal essays from authors about their books featuring bibliomysteries for the next issue of the magazine. The deadline for submissions is September 5.
The winners of the annual Bulwer Lytton contest for "worst writing" were announced. Elizabeth Dorfman of Bainbridge Island, WA, is the 32nd grand prize winner, and you can read her woefully wonderful entry here.
The weekly crime poem at the 5-2 is "The Morning of" by Tom Brzezina. To maintain the flow of submissions year-round, 5-2 editor Gerald So is instituting a voluntary theme each week, challenging poets to write about crimes beginning with a particular letter of the alphabet.
The Q&A roundup this week includes a conversation with James Lee Burke at Omnimystery News; Matthew McBride chatted with the Mystery People about A Swollen Red Sun; and Marton Limon joined the MP folks to talk about his latest, The Iron Sickle.
The National Book Festival, sponsored by the Library of Congress, changes venues this year as it moves from the grounds of the Mall over to the Washington Convention Center. The move indoors may be disappointing to some, but it allows for new evening activities such as a "Great Books to Great Movies" pavilion that will explore classic literary adaptations through discussions and screenings, a "super-session" for graphic-novel enthusiasts, and a poetry slam.
Over 100 award-winning authors, illustrators and poets will beon hand to discuss and sign their books on August 30th, including the following from the fiction and mystery realm:
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