Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Green Scarf (1936).

In The Green Scarf, Michael Redgrave defends a deaf, dumb, and blind man accused of murder.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys exhibition.

On view until June 8 at the Lawrence Library in Pepperell, MA, is "Mysteries Revealed Book Illustration: Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys," an exhibition of original cover art and first editions of both children's series.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

"Murderers' Meeting" (1951).

In this episode of Suspense directed by Robert Stephens and aired on 24 April 1951, a killer (Jackie Cooper) tries to escape from a building after a botched robbery, only to encounter the eccentric members of the "International Association of Assassins" (possibly suggesting the Mystery Writers of America. Blacklisted writer Alvin Sapinsley, who wrote the screenplay, later received an Edgar Award for "Sting of Death," the TV adaptation of H.F. Heard's A Taste for Honey). Mildred Natwick (clutching a cat) and Wally Cox costar.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Boucher picks the best mysteries of 1951.

In the 2 Dec 1951 New York Times, author-critic Anthony Boucher (aka William Anthony Parker White) listed "Boucher's Choices"—his selections for the best mysteries of 1951. They were:
  • John Dickson Carr, The Devil in Velvet. "swashbuckling romance . . . strict detection." 
  • Agatha Christie, They Came to Baghdad, . "adept . . . spy thriller."
  • Dorothy Salisbury Davis, A Gentle Murderer. "distinguished."
  • Cyril Hare [Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark], An English Murder . "adroit . . . social satire."
  • Geoffrey Household, A Rough Shoot and A Time to Kill. "realistic political melodrama."
  • Michael Innes, The Paper Thunderbolt. "funny and chilling."
  • Eric Linklater, Mr. Byculla. "Deft."
  • John Ross Macdonald [Ross Macdonald, Kenneth Millar], The Way Some People Die. "a worthy successor to Dashiell Hammett."
  • William McGivern, Shield for Murder. "Complex and memorable study of a rogue cop."
  • Ngaio Marsh, Night at the Vulcan. "Marsh's best to date."
  • Elliott Paul, Murder on the Left Bank. "Fun."
  • Ellery Queen, The Origin of Evil.  "intricate ingenuity."
  • John Sherwood, Mr. Blessington's Imperialist Plot. "Ruritanian spy-melodrama."
  • Bart Spicer, Black Sheep, Run and The Golden Door.  "appealing variants on the hardboiled story."
  • Julian Symons, The 31st of February. "Striking satire."
  • Lawrence Treat, Big Shot. "A notable novel about detectives."

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Woolrich's Street of Chance (1942).

Claire Trevor, Sheldon Leonard, and
Burgess Meredith in Street of Chance (1942)
In Street of Chance, Burgess Meredith is accused of murder, but he has no memory of the crime or of his past. The film is based on The Black Curtain by Cornell Woolrich. Costars include Claire Trevor, Sheldon Leonard, and Jerome Cowan.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Music from Shetland available.

For those who enjoy Ann Cleeves's mysteries and their adaptation as the television program Shetland, Silva Screen has just released a CD of John Lunn's music from the TV series (individual tracks also available).

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Cry Wolf (1947).

Errol Flynn and Barbara
Stanwyck in Cry Wolf (1947)
In Cry Wolf, Barbara Stanwyck arrives at an estate expecting to attend the funeral of her husband but encounters a household controlled by a sinister Errol Flynn. Based on Cry Wolf (aka The Demarest Inheritance) by future Edgar nominee Marjorie Carleton, the film costars Geraldine Brooks, Richard Basehart, and Jerome Cowan.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Dorothy B. Hughes's classic mystery library.

Claude Rains and Edward Norris in They Won't Forget (1937),
adaptation of Ward Greene's Death in the Deep South
In the 13 Nov 1977 Los Angeles Times, author-critic Dorothy B. Hughes made 23 selections for a classic mystery library. Hughes defined a classic as "a book to which you return over and again ... primarily because for you it satisfies a hunger for the felicity of beauty and craft..."(N3). For Hughes, "style is the most important element in any mystery, let alone a classic" (N3).

Hughes did not include any works by Arthur Conan Doyle and Erle Stanley Gardner (although Hughes would publish a biography of Gardner), explaining that in the case of these and some other authors (such as Ellery Queen), their body of work constitutes the classic rather than a single book. Hughes's choices for her classic mystery library are the following:
  • Eric Ambler, A Coffin for Dimitrios. "a hunt-and-search story with a background of the Near East leading to Paris"
  • Edgar Box [Gore Vidal], Death in the Fifth Position. " . . . the world of the ballet, presented with perception and verisimilitude"
  • Vera Caspary, Laura. "an enviable creator of plots which twist and turn and startle."
  • Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely. "his making of poetry out of the tawdry was indeed something unforgettable"
  • Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and And Then There Were None. "two classic books"
  • Len Deighton, The Ipcress File. "Deighton . . . devised a new style."
  • Helen Eustis, The Horizontal Man. "a true academic background against which the tragicomedy is played."
  • William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust. "a mystery sensation"
  • Michael Gilbert, Close Quarters. "he has built a cathedral and its close, and has peopled it with verisimilitude."
  • Graham Greene, Brighton Rock. "two sad insignificant persons revealed in their small moment of significance."
  • Ward Greene, Death in the Deep South. "a classic of the regional and one of the first dealing with ethnic problems"
  • Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon. "a classic romantic-adventure"
  • H. F. [Gerald] Heard, A Taste for Honey. "Another of the instant classics"
  • Francis Iles [Anthony Berkeley Cox], Before the Fact."a book whose plot must remain secret"
  • Charlotte Jay [Geraldine Halls], Beat Not the Bones. "the primitive culture of Africa in collision with the 20th century"
  • John le Carre [David Cornwell], The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. "tragic power"
  • Meyer Levin, Compulsion. "a classic of major proportion"
  • Marie Belloc Lowndes, The Lodger. " . . . a true crime story, in fiction form"
  • Ngaio Marsh, Death of a Fool. "breath-taking"
  • E. Phillips Oppenheim, The Great Impersonation. "a landmark"
  • Dorothy L. Sayers, The Nine Tailors. "background became not just background, but important"
  • Josephine Tey [Elizabeth MacKintosh], The Daughter of Time. "Simply written but brilliant in premise and performance."

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Bon Voyage (dir. Hitchcock, 1944).

In Bon Voyage, a short film directed by Alfred Hitchcock for the British Ministry of Information, a French intelligence officer questions an RAF sergeant about his escape from France, as the involvement of a German agent is suspected. The film is in French (with English subtitles), with John Blythe as the sergeant and members of the Molière Players in the other roles.

Monday, April 16, 2018

CFP for essay collection on the cozy.

La Salle University's Phyllis Betz (Katherine V. Forrest: A Critical Appreciation; Lesbian Detective Fiction: Woman as Author, Subject and Reader) plans to compile a collection of essays on the cozy mystery. Prospective topics/approaches of interest include the following:
  • Discussion of authors, including precursors such as Mary Roberts Rinehart, Anna Katharine Green, and Agatha Christie
  • Settings
  • Main characters, including their careers
  • Other characters
  • Themes
  • Subgenres such as the gothic cozy and cozy noir
  • Problems, including the definition of the cozy and those authors who can be defined as cozy writers
  • Narrative strategies
Have questions or seek further information? Contact Betz.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Spider and the Fly (1949).

In The Spider and the Fly, a French intelligence official (Eric Portman) is forced to turn to a gentleman thief (Guy Rolfe) during World War I to crack a safe that holds a list of German agents. A woman (Nadia Gray) loved by both men provides additional complications. Maurice Denham and Sebastian Cabot costar.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Laura Thompson on Agatha Christie.

From the Bookshelf's Gary Shapiro discusses Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life with author Laura Thompson. Thompson calls Christie's six novels under the pseudonym Mary Westamacott "gold," singling out Absent in the Spring (1944); calls Christie's Five Little Pigs (1943) her best novel; and addresses Christie's 11-day disappearance in 1926.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Five Angles on Murder
(aka The Woman in Question, 1950).

After a fortuneteller is murdered in Five Angles on Murder, a police superintendent (Duncan Macrae) finds that those in her circle have different views of her, such as her housekeeper (Hermione Baddeley), her sister (Susan Shaw), her sister's boyfriend (Dirk Bogarde), a pet store owner (Charles Victor), and a sailor (John McCallum). The film is directed by Anthony Asquith.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Real locations of LA noir.

Inside Hook discusses with Jim Heimann his new book Dark City: The Real Los Angeles Noir, which features photographs of the real-life locations that inspired writers (such as that pertaining to the Black Dahlia case and those used by Raymond Chandler).

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Dancing with Crime (1947).

In Dancing with Crime, a London cab driver and his girlfriend (real-life spouses Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim) take on a gang of criminals when the cabbie's best friend is killed.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Craig Johnson on Walt Longmire.

On the radio program Reader's Corner hosted by Boise State University president Bob Kustra, author Craig Johnson talks about Sheriff Walt Longmire and his latest novel The Western Star.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Mystery of Mr. X (1934).

An inspector (Lewis Stone) thinks that a jewel thief (Robert Montgomery) also is a serial killer of policemen, and the thief sets out to catch the murderer himself. Directed by Edgar Selwyn (a cofounder of Goldwyn Pictures), the film is based on Philip MacDonald's X v. Rex (aka The Mystery of the Dead Police).

Monday, March 19, 2018

Clues 36.1: Christie, Conan Doyle, Green, Hammett, Silva, and more.

Clues 36.1 (2018) has been published; order the issue from McFarland. It is not yet available in ebook formats; this post will be updated with links once these are available. Abstracts are listed below.

Update, 3-24-18. The issue is now available on Google Play.

Introduction Janice M. Allan (University of Salford)
E Pluribus Unum: A Transnational Reading of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express
Stewart King (Monash University)
This article questions both the Englishness and generic stasis ascribed to Agatha Christie and argues that her Murder on the Orient Express (1933) displays an inherent transnationalism that questions the strict taxonomies supposedly separating the English clue-puzzle from the American private-eye novel.

Psychogeography and the Detective: Re-evaluating the Significance of Space in Agatha Christie’s A Murder Is Announced
Sarah Martin (University of Chester)
The author discusses the nature of the village space and its influential role in plot, character, and structure of Agatha Christie’s A Murder Is Announced. The concept of psychogeography unearths the true nature of space and its influence on the construction and preservation of social identity in the book.

Do We Know His Methods? Ratiocination in the Works of Arthur Conan Doyle
Jackie Shead
This article discusses Arthur Conan Doyle’s explanation of Sherlock Holmes’s methods, contrasting them with his presentation of the detective in action. It explores contradictions in the Holmes stories, suggesting Conan Doyle’s investment in a hyperrational sleuth is at odds with his intuitive understanding of detective methodology.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Phantom Lady (1944).

Ella Raines and
Thomas Gomez in
Phantom Lady
Directed by Robert Siodmak (The Spiral Staircase, etc.), this adaptation of Cornell Woolrich's book features Ella Raines turning sleuth to exonerate her boss, who is accused of killing his wife.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Last day to RSVP for Foxwell presentation.

Adelia Chiswell,
member of the
Red Cross
Motor Corps
Tomorrow is the last day to RSVP for the March 16 luncheon of the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of DC where I'll be speaking on "DC Women in World War I." They include Adelia "Tess" Chiswell, a member of the Red Cross Motor Corps who served in France with future U.S. minister to Norway Daisy Harriman. I'll also be signing my book In Their Own Words: American Women in World War I.

The luncheon, which is open to nonmembers, will be held at Capitol Skyline Hotel (Metro stop: Navy Yard) from 12–2 pm and is $35 per person. To RSVP, visit the AOI Web site.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

"Novel Appeal" (1957).

Mary Roberts Rinehart.
Claudette Colbert plays author Mary Roberts Rinehart in "Novel Appeal," a 3Dec 1957 episode of Telephone Time that dramatizes Rinehart's part in exonerating a man convicted of murder. Directed by Arthur Hiller, the episode costars John Carradine.

The real-life case involves the 1896 murders on the Herbert Fuller of Captain Charles Nash; his wife, Laura Nash; and August Blomberg, the second mate. Thomas M. C. Bram, the first mate, was convicted of the crimes in a second trial held in 1899 and originally was sentenced to death; his sentence was changed to life imprisonment after a Supreme Court appeal.

According to Rinehart (see "Mary Roberts Rinehart Shows How Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction" and her autobiography My Story), a Pittsburgh lawyer told her about the case, and she subsequently read about it in a magazine for lawyers. Her choice for the perpetrator was the ship's Scandinavian wheel-man, Justus Leopold Westerberg, who was nicknamed Charley Brown. Westerberg had tried to kill his nurse while he was a patient in a mental hospital. A fictionalized version of Brown, Charlie Jones, appears in Rinehart's novel The After House (1913). The After House began serialization in McClure's in June 1913, attracting further interest to the case, and Bram was paroled in August 1913. 

As Reader's Digest editor Fulton Oursler (aka mystery writer Anthony Abbot) relates in The Mystery Bedside Book (ed. John Creasey, 1960), Theodore Roosevelt read The After House and called on Rinehart. Oursler states that Roosevelt concurred with Rinehart's view of the case and wrote President Woodrow Wilson, asking for a pardon for Bram. Wilson granted the pardon in June 1919. Bram went on to captain the ship Alvena and to own a restaurant in Florida.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Paretsky on Green and more.

The winter 2018 issue of the University of Chicago Magazine features "Criminal Mastermind," an article on alumnus Sara Paretsky, in which she talks about her role in the mystery world as "the aging diva," the work of Anna Katharine Green, and her experiences as a student at the university. Says Paretsky, "Crime fiction is the place in literature where law and justice in society come together."

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Phantom of 42nd Street (1942).

In Phantom of 42nd Street, a drama critic turns sleuth when people connected to a former theatrical company begin dying one by one. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Milton Raison and Jack Harvey.

Monday, February 26, 2018

BYU's annotated bibliography of
academic mysteries.

Florence Converse,
As the Law & Humanities blog points out, Brigham Young University Library has produced "Murder at BYU: A Finding Guide to and Annotated Bibliography of Murder Mysteries in the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU Involving Universities, Colleges, Professors and/or Students." It has expected entries (e.g., Dorothy L. Sayers's Gaudy Night, 1935) and lesser known ones (e.g., Florence Converse's Into the Void, 1926). There are drawbacks, however, in the bibliography's reliance on dated sources and absence of periodical references such as Clues and Journal of Popular Culture. Although the bibliography states, "No infor[mation] on author" regarding Converse, an ad for Into the Void in 11 Sept. 1926 issue of the Living Age reveals that Converse (1871–1967) was born in New Orleans, was an assistant editor at the Atlantic Monthly, and lived in Wellesley (the milieu of Into the Void is rumored to be Wellesley College). A graduate of Wellesley College (BS, 1893; MA, 1903) who wrote a history of her alma mater, she also was a poet and playwright who authored several novels such as the mystery Sphinx (1931).

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Riverside Murder (1935).

In The Riverside Murder, an inspector and an ambitious female journalist investigate when a financier is killed. The film is adapted from André Steeman's Les Six Hommes Morts by Selwyn Jepson (son of mystery author Edgar Jepson and uncle of writer Fay Weldon). The cast include Basil Sydney, Judy Gunn, and Alistair Sim.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Black pulp exhibition in Philadelphia.

Illustration from "Three Detective
Pards, or, Nobby Nick's Big Game
by T. C. Harbaugh (1896)

"Black Pulp!" is a new exhibition on view until April 29 at Philadelphia's African American Museum, which features art from a century of works such as dime novels and Blaxploitation posters. The contributors include Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston as well as contemporary artists.

WHYY on the exhibition

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

"The Marble Face" (1959).

In this episode of Markham, the lawyer turned private detective (Ray Milland) looks into the case of an elderly woman victimized by a medium. The story is by later Twilight Zone writers Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Foxwell Mar16 talk and signing,
"DC Women in World War I."

Adelia Chiswell,
member of the Red Cross
Women's Motor Corps
As part of Women's History Month, I'll be speaking on "DC Women in World War I" at the March 16 luncheon of the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of DC (AOI), the oldest civic organization in Washington, DC. I'll also be signing copies of my book In Their Own Words: American Women in World War I.

The luncheon, which is open to nonmembers, will be held at Capitol Skyline Hotel (Metro stop: Navy Yard) from 12–2 pm and is $35 per person. To RSVP, visit the AOI Web site.