This week's installment for Patti Abbott's Friday's "Forgotten" Books is from Ed McBain (1926-2005), the pen name of Salvatore Albert Lombino who later legally changed his name to Evan Hunter in 1952. The prolific output of McBain/Hunter included over 110 novels, which have sold more than one hundred million copies worldwide, as well as numerous short stories and collections and a few plays and screenplays. He was the first American author to receive the Diamond Dagger, the highest award given by the British Crime Writers Association. He was also a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master and an Edgar Award recipient for his 2002 novel Money, Money, Money.
His greatest success came with his 87th Precinct series, which began in 1956 with Cop Hater, made into a film in 1958. The series also served as the basis for a television show in the early 1960s, starring Robert Lansing, Gena Rowlands, Norman Fell, Ron Harper and Gregory Walcott. The 87th Precinct books are set in New York City (going under the alias of Isola in the books) and pioneered many of the elements of police procedurals today such as using multiple plot lines and viewpoints and an ensemble cast.
The synopsis for Nocturne, from 1997: In Isola, the hours between midnight and dawn are usually a quiet time. But for 87th Precinct detectives Carella and Hawes, the murder of an old woman makes the wee hours anything but peaceful — especially when they learn she was one of the greatest concert pianists of the century long vanished. Meanwhile 88th Precinct cop Fat Ollie Weeks has his own early morning nightmare: he's on the trail of three prep school boys and a crack dealer who spent the evening carving up a hooker.
This is a McBain procedural romp on one hand, with the usual cast of characters, as well as members of the 88th precinct chasing down the killers. There are the touches of whimsy, such as the recurring in-joke involving references to The Birds, "that movie that Alfred Hitchcock wrote," prompting corrections from Detective Steve Carella that "I don't think Hitchcock actually WROTE that..." (Ed McBain, as Evan Hunter, actually did write the screenplay for The Birds.) But there is also more explicit violence and graphic sexual language than is usual even in these gritty novels. Still, it's a good introduction to the 87th and McBain's procedural prowess.
Kelli Stanley and Lisa Brackmann are helping coordinate a "Noir at the Bar" event at the upcoming Left Coast Crime conference. They're taking over the hotel bar Thursday (tomorow) night in a flashmob event they're calling "Occupy: Noir!" Readers include Gary Phillips, Terry Shames, Darrell James, Holly West, Deborah J. Ledford and many more. If you're headed to the LCC, check them out.
The upcoming issue of Clues: A Journal of Detection features papers discussing the works of Irish author Tana French, including a contribution from Edgar nominee Maureen T. Reddy. Journal editor Elizabeth Foxwell also has a new call for papers on the topic of "Re-Evaluating Patricia Highsmith" (guest editor: Fiona Peters, Bath Spa Univerity in the UK). Article proposals are due by May 1.
The finalists for this year’s New Pulp Awards were announced last week. The winner will handed out March 23, during MidSouth Con in Memphis, Tennessee. (Hat tip to the Rap Sheet.)
The Library Journal's annual survey of public libraries in the U.S. found that libraries lent mysteries more than any other kind of book in 2013. Close to 95% of respondents reported it as one of their top five fiction loan choices. Also good to hear: every size library posted circulation gains, with a 2% increase overall.
Speaking of libraries, Forbes posted a slideshow of its choices for the "World's 20 Most Stunning Libraries."
SJ Parris recommended five of her favorite historical murder mysteries, from Josephine Tey to Matthew Pearl, for The Telegraph.
Glenn Harper, over at the International Noir Fiction blog, wrote about the "Swedish Agatha Christie," Maria Lang, the pen name of Dagmar Maria Lange. She may well be the founder of Scandinavian crime fiction (definitely one of the founders), and her works are getting new editions soon.
The featured story at Beat to a Pulp this week is the previously-unpublished "A Professional Job" by Walter Tyrer (1900-1978), a British writer who wrote in a wide variety of genre fiction. This week's crime poem over at the 5-2 is "The New Ireland" by Seamus Scanlon.
The Q&A roundup features the continuation of author Hank Phillippi Ryan's series of interviews with authors, with this week's guest, Kathy Lynn Emerson (Guest of Honor for the upcoming Malice Domestic conference); Chris Pavone chats with The Mystery People about his latest novel, The Accident; and DA Mishani gets grilled by fellow author Declan Burke.
A new bookstore in Texas caught my eye the other day. The Wild Detectives in Dallas is a combination bookstore (a small, curated section of books) and cafe and bar. Or, as the article in the Dallas Observer notes, "you can order up a Lakewood Lager, pull out your beat-up copy of a Jonathan Lethem novel or T.S. Eliot poems and read in peace. An eclectic playlist softly fills the space, only interrupted by the occasional conversation or the hiss of the bartender steaming milk." It also hopes to be a hub for creative thought, perhaps hosting author talks or book clubs, which is something many indie bookstores are already doing today.
So I wonder if this is the new norm for indie bookstores? Combination shops as opposed to books-only (or primarily) stores? I think it sounds like fun, and the owners seem pleased with possibly breaking even, but I can't help but wonder if this is another sign of the demise of traditional bookstores or just the inevitable evolution. Even Barnes and Noble integrated coffee shops into its locations years ago and now sells an increasing amount of non-book items like toys, games and software.
Would a concept like The Wild Detectives make you more or less likely to visit a bookstore?
Jon Favreau is set to co-star in Universal's crime thriller Term Life, starring Vince Vaughn as a thief who plans and sells heists to the highest bidder. Vaughn's character is forced to take his estranged daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) on the lam when a job goes bad, and takes out a life insurance policy on her for her protection—but it doesn't take effect for 21 days.
Sienna Miller edged out Thor actress Jaimie Alexander to star opposite Bradley Cooper in Clint Eastwood's film adaptation American Sniper. The film is based on the American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwan and Jim DeFelice.
Ciaran Hinds has joined the cast of the thriller Agent 47, playing against villains Zachary Quinto (Star Trek) and Thomas Kretschmann (Stalingrad). Rupert Friend had earlier signed on to play the title character.
A trailer was released for Devil's Knot, headed to theaters in May. Based on Mara Leveritt's book Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three, the project is directed by Atom Egoyan and stars Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Amy Ryan, Mireille Enos, Stephen Moyer, Alessandro Nivola and Dane DeHaan.
Indiewire posted a featurette that discusses the adaptation of Jose Saramago's thriller novel The Double into the movie showing currently, retitled Enemy. producer Niv Fichman, director Denis Villeneuve, screenwriter Javier Gullón, and actor Jake Gyllenhaal add their thoughts about the making of the film.
Josh Duhamel is returning to television to star in Battle Creek, the CBS series written by Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan and House creator David Shore. The story follows Detective Russ Agnew (Dean Winters) and FBI agent Milton Chamberlain (Duhamel), two men with different worldviews who team up to fight crime in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Production company eOne is adapting Gloria Killian's true story about putting herself through law school while in prison and fighting a wrongful conviction for murder. Titled Inside Out, the project is based on Killian's book Full Circle: A True Story of Murder, Lies and Vindication (co-authored with Sandra Kobrin).
Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace) has landed a leading role in CBS' untitled terrorism drama (w/t Red Zone). The project centers on a retired CIA operative-turned-high school football coach pulled back into action after a terrorist event rocks Washington, D.C.
TNT announced the premiere dates for several of its summer shows, including the new sci-fi series Falling Skies; the apocalyptic The Last Ship; Legends, starring Sean Bean as an undercover FBI agent who may be losing his grip on reality; and the new crime drama, Murder in the First, from executive producer Steven Bochco. The network also announced show dates for returning series Rizzoli & Isles, Dallas and Franklin & Bash.
Crown Media Family Networks announced it's rebranding the Hallmark Movie Channel as Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, starting the fourth quarter of 2014. One of the cornerstones of the new lineup is the 'Mystery Wheel" feature that will launch in early 2015 with Garage Sale Mystery, a series of movies starring Lori Loughlin (When Calls the Heart, Full House). The second movie franchise in the "wheel" stars Dylan Neal (Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove) who will star in and executive produce The Gourmet Detective, based on the series of books by Peter King. The third film series in the Mystery Wheel is TBA.
Anne Heche is set to star opposite Jason Isaacs in USA six-episode event series Dig. Heche will play the head of Jerusalem's FBI office and Isaacs's boss and love interest. The plot hinges on the accidental discovery of a conspiracy 2,000 years in the making while investigating an archaeologist's murder.
CBS announced the 18 shows it was renewing for fall in the U.S. markets, including NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, Person of Interest, CSI, Hawaii Five-0, Blue Bloods, Criminal Minds, Elementary, and The Good Wife. Not making the cut were The Mentalist and Intelligence, two shows that are on the bubble.
Andrea Bogart (General Hospital) has booked a recurring role on Showtime's Ray Donovan playing the wife of FBI agent Volcheck (Kip Pardue). The project centers around professional celebrity "fixer", Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber).
Gillian Anderson and fellow cast members have begun filming the second series of BBC2's thriller The Fall. Gillians plays Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson who is on the trail of serial killer Paul Spector (Fifty Shades of Grey star Jamie Dornan).
CBS's Hawaii Five-0 is promoting Jorge Garcia (Lost) to a series regular. Garcia plays plays Jerry Ortega, a conspiracy theorist and high school classmate of Chin Ho Kelly.
Likewise, HBO has upped Nazanin Boniadi (playing a strong-willed Muslim CIA analyst) to a Homeland series regular.
NBC announced Josh Lucas is joining Debra Messing in the drama pilot The Mysteries of Laura. Lucas will play the soon-to-be-ex husband of Messing's titular female detective character.
NBC released a "first look" of Matt Ryan playing occult detective John Constantine in the upcoming series Constantine.
On CBS This Morning last week: Janet Evanovich, author of the Stephanie Plum series and co-author, along with Lee Goldberg, of The Heist.
Scottish author Denise Mina joined Craig Ferguson on The Late Late Show on CBS talking about the writing life, writer's conferences and her works, with a healthy dose of humor added in (her spot starts about 30:00 into the video).
I'm pleased to have a story in the just-released anthology Plan B III. I'm grateful to editor Darusha Wehm for her hard work on this series, and very happy to be sharing space with such fine authors as the very talented Patti Abbott, who also happens to be a friend and fellow blogger, as well as a writer extraordinaire. Plan B is quickly making a name for itself in short crime fiction circles, with one of Mike Miner's stories recently named a finalist for a Derringer Award.
From the editor's Foreword: "From Cold War espionage to small town stick-ups, high-powered diplomacy to the opportunism of poverty, these are stories of the darkness of the human heart. And once in a while, how the light of our common humanity can transcend that darkness."
Here's the Table of Contents:
“Sirens” by Gary Cahill
“House Cleaning” by Ian Creasey
“Murderous Lies” by Peter DiChellis
“Doing God’s Work” by Wayne Scheer
“Um Peixe Grande” by Patti Abbott
“Loveable Alan Atcliffe” by S.R. Mastrantone
“Slice” by Tom Barlow
“How Green Was My Valet” by John H. Dromey
“The Least Of These” by BV Lawson
“Miscellany” by Eryk Pruitt
“Stars & Stripes” by James Power
“Alten Kameraden” by Ed Ahern
“The Farm” by Kevin R. Doyle
The dime novel detective "Old Sleuth" was the creation of Harlan Halsey, a former director of the Brooklyn Education Board, and said to be the first character to use the word "sleuth" to denote a detective. In fact, the owners of the "Old Sleuth" copyright sued over the use of the word "sleuth," claiming exclusive ownership of the term, but they lost (thankfully, for us today). Halsey's original detective, who first appeared in 1872 in the six-cent weekly Fireside Companion, wasn't elderly at all but a young man with almost superhuman abilities who liked to disguise himself as an older, bearded man.
In the 1880s and 1890s, the character Old Sleuth became popular enough to warrant a separate publication of his own, and George Munro began publishing Old Sleuth Library. These series of dime novels (actually they sold for five cents a copy) claimed to be "A Series of the Most Thrilling Detective Stories Ever Published," containing "twice as much reading materials as any other five-cent library." There were 101 issues before the series was bought by a succession of other companies. Several of these issues featured female detectives front and center.
In Old Sleuth's Freaky Female Detectives, published 1990 by Popular Press, the editors (Garyn G Roberts, Gary Hoppenstand and Ray B. Browne) explain the term "freaky" for these female dime novel detectives: freakish as in the usage of the day, as in someone who had unusual talents—knife throwers, trick gun marksmen—people who were both normal and abnormal. These women sleuths used an androgynous, masculine type of heroism in the stories, but at the end embrace their feminity and end their detective careers to get married. As the editors note, "So they [female detectives] were doubly talented; no man of the time could assume the double roles women played as detective hero—hero and weakling, masterful and subservient—or had to. Men did not have to be freaky—women did."
The stories included are:
1) Lady Kate, The Dashing Female Detective
2) The Great Bond Robbery Tracked by a Female Detective
3) Madge The Society Detective: A Strange Guest Among The Four Hundred
Both the "Lady Kate" and "Robbery" works feature a protagonist named Kate who attempt to prove the innocence of a man wrongly accused of a crime. They use disguises and end up "physically clobbering male villains left and right," thereby saving the lives and reputations of the accused men before promptly marrying the men they rescued. In the third story, "Madge" more closely resembles modern female detectives and uses her powers of deduction. Madge is described as "one of the most brilliant and clever detectives in the great metropolis" and takes on work for the money as much as the thrill. These female detective stories were popular on their own for a time, but by the end of the Great Depression, the dime novel female sleuth had virtually disappeared.
Congratulations to Laura Lippman, the winner of the first Pinckley Prize for a Distinguished Body of Work. Gwen Florio also won the Pinckley Prize for a Debut Novel for her first book, Montana, published by Permanent Press. The Pinckley Prizes were established to honor the memory of Diana Pinckley, longtime crime fiction columnist for The New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Thanks to Janet Rudolph at Mystery Fanfare for noting the 2014 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year shortlist. The finalists include Closed for Winter by Jørn Lier Horst; Stange Shores by Arnaldur Indriðason; The Weeping Girl by Håkan Nesser; Linda, as in the Linda Murder by Leif G W Persson; Someone to Watch Over Me by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir; and Light in a Dark House by Jan Costin Wagner.
The Lambda Literary Awards, honoring lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) books published in 2013 have announced their finalists, including those in the mystery categories. (Hat tip to the Rap Sheet).
Dave Zeltserman posted the Readers Choice Awards from all 2013 Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine stories, which happens to include his own "Archie Solves the Case" taking the top spot. Congrats to Dave and all the other Top Ten stories of the year. The list will also appear in the May 2014 issue of EQMM, available in bookstores.
Crime fiction blogger Ayo Onatade noted she's one of the participants for the upcoming Queens of Crime Conference in June accepted at The Institute of English Studies, University of London. Her topic is "Contemporary Contenders for the Title Queen of Crime - Who would you pick and why?" The Keynote speakers for the conference are Val McDermid and Dr Lee Horsley, and there will be many more papers and speakers announced in the coming months.
The new Dark & Stormy crime fiction festival in UK's Brighton is gearing up ahead of its May 23-25 launch. The event will include authors, screenwriters, actors, directors and musicians in a variety of discussions, interviews, movie screenings and performances. (Hat tip to Shots Magazine.)
The new issue of Mystery Scene magazine includes a review of Laura Lippman's latest by Kevin Burton Smith; Oline Cogdill chats with author Chris Pavone; Joseph Goodrich considers Sally Cline's new biography of Dashiell Hammett and fictional portraits of the writer in two recent novels; Mystery Scene critics present their "Fave Raves of 2013," and much more.
The March issue of Suspense Magazine includes Jeffery Deaver, Allison Brennan, C.J. Box, Steven Saylor, Allan Leverone, Steven L. Shrewsbury, and B.J. Daniels being interviewed, with insights into their books. There's a new section with the International Thriller Writers (ITW) Reader's Corner where you'll get inside scoop on what ITW members are recommending. Anthony J. Franze (a/k/a Lisa Gardner) and M.J. Rose also "FaceOff on the Rules of Fiction."
The Top Suspense Group announced it was shutting down, three years after it was formed. The experiment was a coalition of eleven authors who sold their books and anthologies together via a web site an on various eBook platforms, as well as sponsoring a blog. Fans of the authors should not despair, because they will continue to write and publish via other platforms.
This week's crime poem at the 5-2 is "Take a Bite Out of Crime" by Catherine Wald; this week's featured story at the Beat to a Pulp webzine is "Final Encore" by Bracken MacLeod.
The Q&A roundup this week includes Hank Phillippi Ryan interviews fellow author Julia Spencer Fleming; and Cara Black chats with The Mystery People.
The 15th Century Voynich manuscript, described by some as either the "world's most mysterious document" or an elaborate hoax, has haunted historians, cryptographers, and linguists for centuries. Although the manuscript was dated to the early 1400s, it virtually disappeared until 1912 when antique book dealer Wilfrid Voynich bought it in a group of other documents. Among the document's strange features are over 170,000 glyphs including exotic plants, stars, and mysterious human figures, as well as many pages written in an unknown text. It's believed that of the many encrypted texts since the Middle Ages, 99.9% have been cracked. The exception was the Voynich manuscript—until (possibly) now.
The theories attributed to the manuscript, other than the hoax theory, included everything from a cryptic language developed for a secret society, to Aztecs, to the lost tribes of Israel, to aliens (the UFO kind). But in February, Stephen Bax, Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Bedfordshire, announced he may have cracked at least part of the "code." He started by using medieval herbal manuscripts in Arabic and other languages and by identifying patterns in the text placed next to stars and some plants. His initial results lead him to believe the work is "probably a treatise on nature, perhaps in a Near Eastern or Asian language."
Although Bax's work may leave many people disappointed at the relative mundane nature of the strange document, it's only a partial de-coding, and many mysteries still remain: is it an encoded version of a known language or a totally invented language? Who created it? Many other scholars also aren't convinced Bax has really solved anything, and that we may never know the true secrets of the work. If you'd like to take a crack at it, the complete work has been digitized and is available online.