Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Criss Cross (1949).

Burt Lancaster and
Yvonne De Carlo in
Criss Cross (1949)
In Criss Cross, Burt Lancaster becomes entangled with his ex-wife (Yvonne De Carlo), her gangster husband (Dan Duryea), and an armored car robbery. Other costars include Stephen McNally, Alan Napier, and Richard Long. The film is directed by Robert Siodmak (The Spiral Staircase).

Monday, September 18, 2017

Interview with Evan Hunter (1994).

1963 ad for 87th Precinct
with Robert Lansing as
Steve Carella
Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain) was the guest on Connecticut Voices in October 1994 to discuss his book There Was a Little Girl (featuring attorney Matthew Hope). He covers his background in art, the reaction to his novel The Blackboard Jungle and to the start of a new series with Hope, the beginning of the McBain pseudonym, the 87th Precinct novels, and the experience of working with Alfred Hitchcock on The Birds. "Paint the picture for the reader to see . . . with words," says Hunter.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Background to Danger (1943).

In Background to Danger, U.S. agent George Raft seeks to thwart a German plot that aims to mobilize Turkey against Russia during World War II. Costars include Brenda Marshall, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre. Based on the novel by Eric Ambler, the film was directed by Raoul Walsh, with a screenplay by W. R. Burnett (Little Caesar, The Asphalt Jungle, etc.) and some screenwriting help by William Faulkner.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Flubs by Robinson and Bogart.

Edward G. Robinson gets physical in
Bullets or Ballots (1936).
These clips from Warner Brothers blooper reels include appearances by Edward G. Robinson in Bullets or Ballots (1936, with Humphrey Bogart), by Bogart in Key Largo (1947), and by Cary Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace (1944).


Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Remembering Richard Anderson:
"The Purple Room" (1960).

Ad for The Long Hot
Summer
(1958)
Most accounts of the Aug 31 death of actor Richard Anderson at age 91 focused on his role as Oscar Goldman in The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, neglecting his numerous appearances on 1950s and 1960s TV. He was Lt. Steve Drumm in Perry Mason (1965-66), Richard Kimball's brother-in-law Leonard Taft in the last episode of The Fugitive (1967), and Fenton Hardy in The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Chinese Junk (1967). He also appeared in "The Purple Room," an October 1960 episode of Thriller dealing with a spooky house.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Alafair Burke on the legal system in fiction.

In Why Fiction? in the New England Law Review, Alafair Burke—a law professor at Hofstra University as well as fiction writer—explains why she writes about the law through fiction. As Burke notes:
the work of a novelist depicting our criminal justice system in fiction is not wholly separate from the work of studying the criminal justice system in actuality. Whether an author realizes it or not, it is impossible to create an interesting, albeit fictional, depiction of the criminal justice system, without having something interesting to say about its real-world counterpart. (2)
(thanks to the Law & Humanities blog)

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Hidden Fear (1957).

In Hidden Fear, U.S. cop John Payne works in Denmark to clear his sister, who has been charged with murder.

Monday, August 28, 2017

"Iniquity is catching": Frank R. Stockton's The Stories of the Three Burglars (1889).

Frank R. Stockton
Writer Frank R. Stockton (1834–1902) is probably best known for "The Lady, or the Tiger?" (1882). In his The Stories of the Three Burglars (1889) that can be read online at University of Florida's Baldwin Library of Historical Children's Literature, a lawyer's trap ensnares burglars who tell tales about their lives of crime in the hope that they will be released before the police arrive. One has a proposition for the homeowner:
I wish you to understand the faults of your fastenings, and any information I can give you which will better enable you to protect your house, I shall be glad to give. . . . I have made window fastenings an especial study, and, if you employ me for the purpose, I'll guarantee that I will put your house into a condition which will be absolutely burglar proof. (59–60)
Another seems to be an earlier incarnation of George Plimpton:
"I am frequently called upon to write accounts of burglars and burglaries, and in order thoroughly to understand these people and their methods of action, I determined, as soon as the opportunity should offer itself, to accompany a burglarious expedition. . . ."
Said Aunt Martha,  . . . "I do not think that there is the slightest necessity for people to  know anything about burglars. If people keep talking and reading about diseases they will get them, and if they keep talking and reading about crimes they will find that iniquity is catching, the same as some other things." (108–09)



There is an interesting twist regarding the fates of the three burglars.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Shoot to Kill (1947).

In Shoot to Kill, the charge of murder against a gangster (Douglas Blackley) involves an assistant district attorney (Edmund MacDonald), his wife/secretary (Susan Walters), and a reporter (Russell Wade).

Monday, August 21, 2017

Dragnet, according to Spike Jones.

Spike Jones and His City Slickers perform their own special version of Dragnet in 1953.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Second Woman (1950).

In The Second Woman, a visiting Betsy Drake begins to suspect that more lies behind the strange accidents happening to architect Robert Young, but others believe he is unbalanced.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Leslie Charteris, Hindenburg passenger.

Mystery authors can show up in remarkable places, and Saint creator Leslie Charteris is no exception. He was a passenger on the Hindenburg for its maiden voyage in 1936. He talks about the trip in this brief clip (and yes, he did wear a monocle in his youth).

Monday, August 07, 2017

Chesterton declines an invitation in verse.

G. K. Chesterton, 1915.
Library of Congress,
Prints and Photos Div.
The Georgetown Library online exhibition "Written Relics: Autographs from the Talbot Collection" provides a March 1921 humorous turn-down in verse handwritten by G. K. Chesterton to what is thought to be students at Saint Louis University: "That I must miss your wheels of fire / Is not my fault at all." Chesterton was on a 3-month U.S. tour at the time (see his book What I Saw in America, 1922).


Tuesday, August 01, 2017

"Security Risk" (1963).

In this episode for the GE True TV series directed by William Conrad, which also has Jack Webb as narrator and executive producer, an American diplomat in Poland (Charles Aickman) becomes embroiled in espionage.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Exhibition "Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs."

Pier after the Black Tom Munitions Depot explosion, 
Jersey City, July 1916
Open through Oct 22 at the Chicago History Museum is the exhibition "Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America" that explores events where Americans felt threatened by U.S.-based individuals. The events include the burning of the White House (1814), the blowing up of a Jersey City munitions depot by German agents (30 July 1916), the Oklahoma City bombing (1995), and 9/11.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Big Steal (1949).

Robert Mitchum, ca. 1948
In The Big Steal, army lieutenant Robert Mitchum pursues Patric Knowles, who has stolen a $300,000 payroll that is Mitchum's responsibility. Jane Greer and William Bendix costar. One of the screenwriters is Daniel Mainwaring (aka Geoffrey Homes, author of Build My Gallows High), who adapted with Gerald Drayson Adams "The Road to Carmichael's" (Saturday Evening Post, Sept. 1942) by western, sci fi, and pulp writer Richard Wormser (1907–77). Wormser offers wry comments about his career (such as the observation that he once wrote 17 novels in 10 months) in How to Become a Complete Nonentity: A Memoir.

Monday, July 24, 2017

"Iconic detectives" exhibition at Ohio State.

On view until September 17 is "Hot on the Trail of Iconic Detectives," an exhibition at Ohio State University's Thompson Library Gallery that features detectives from dime novels, young adult books, comic books, films, and manga. They include Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, Dick Tracy, Coffin Ed Johnson, and Grave Digger Jones.

Detective fiction resources related to the exhibition

"Hot on the Trail of Iconic Detectives." Curated by Jennifer
Schnabel, English Librarian, University Libraries, OSU.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Remembering Martin Landau:
Johnny Staccato (1959).

The long career of Oscar winner Martin Landau, who died July 15 at age 89, included extensive TV work such as "Murder for Credit," a Sept 1959 episode of Johnny Staccato in which jazz pianist and private detective John Cassavetes (who also directs) looks into the murder of a recording artist (Charles McGraw) who believed he was being poisoned. Landau plays a music arranger who is one of the suspects. Music is provided by noted composer Elmer Bernstein (The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, True Grit, etc.).

Monday, July 17, 2017

Harry Stephen Keeler's "Magic Coin" (1917).

Illustration from Keeler's "Magic Coin"
The Villanova Digital Library has posted the 1917 Grit publication of Harry Stephen Keeler's "Quilligan and the Magic Coin." Keeler is immortal in mysterydom for creating the flying strangler baby.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The President's Mystery (1936).

Betty Furness, ca. 1936
FDR, an honorary member of the Baker Street Irregulars, proposed an idea for a mystery novel in a conversation with editor Fulton Oursler: "How can a man disappear with $5 million of his own money in negotiable form and not be traced?" As B. V. Lawson discusses, authors teamed up to write the tale for Liberty magazine: S. S. Van Dine, John Erskine, Rupert Hughes, Samuel Hopkins Adams, Rita Weiman, and Anthony Abbot (the mystery alter ego of Oursler). It was subsequently turned into a book and this 1936 film, with proceeds going to the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation. Henry Wilcoxen and Betty Furness costar.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Scene of the Crime (1949).

In Scene of the Crime, police detective Van Johnson looks into the killing of a colleague, encountering an informer (Norman Lloyd) and an entertainer (Gloria DeHaven) along the way.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Remembering James Yaffe:
"Dragon in the Den" (1963).

James Yaffe, right, with
Frederic Dannay, 1943.
Library of Congress, Prints
and Photographs Div.
James Yaffe, who sold his first story to EQMM at age 15 and was a longtime English professor at Colorado College, died on June 4 at age 90. One of his characters was Mom, who solves cases for her policeman son over dinner (she appears in A Nice Murder for Mom, Mom Meets Her Maker, and Mom Doth Murder Sleep, as well as in the Crippen and Landru collection My Mother, the Detective). Yaffe's other works include plays ("The Deadly Game"; "Cliffhanger"; "Dear Me, the Sky Is Falling") and screenplays for such TV series as Studio One, the U.S. Steel Hour, and the Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Another of his episodes was "Dragon in the Den" (1963) for the TV series Channing, which features William Shatner as a candidate for state attorney general who discovers there's no such thing as a clean campaign. Costarring are Henry Jones as Channing dean Fred Baker, Jason Evers as a Channing professor, and Denver Pyle as Shatner's campaign manager.



Monday, June 26, 2017

Pulp cover art exhibition in Florida.

Cover of 15 May 1937 Argosy included
in the "In the Shadows" exhibition. Note
contributors include Cornell Woolrich,
Lawrence G. Blochman, and Judson
Philips (aka Hugh Pentecost)
At Florida International University's Wolfsonian until July 9 is the student-curated exhibition "In the Shadows; American Pulp Cover Art." Included are covers from Argosy, Detective Fiction, Detective Novels Magazine, G-Men Detective, and Popular Detective. Wolfsonian chief librarian Frank Luca discusses the exhibition and the students' research aims here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Remembering Adam West: The Detectives.

Adam West, ca. 1961
Although Adam West, who died June 9 at age 88, is best known for his portrayal of the Caped Crusader, he had a long series of other television appearances. One was his role as Detective Sergeant Steve Nelson in The Detectives, the series starring Robert Taylor as head of a squad of city detectives and featuring writers such as Anthony Boucher and Gene Roddenberry. In "Strangers in the House" (1962), Nelson and his colleagues look into the case of a night watchman run down by a gang of young car thieves. Sharp-eyed viewers will spot Tige Andrews (The Mod Squad), John Karlen (Cagney & Lacey), and Chris Robinson (General Hospital) in the cast.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The first hundred years of detective fiction.

Illustration from Lawrence L.
Lynch, Dangerous Ground (1885)
A valuable resource is the Lilly Library of Indiana University's online version of its 1973 exhibition "The First Hundred Years of Detective Fiction, 1841–1941," which provides a useful history of the genre through the works selected. Besides the expected items by Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins, and Arthur Conan Doyle, there are works by lesser known authors such as William Russell (the rare Recollections of a Detective Police Officer, 1856–59) and Lawrence L. Lynch (pseudonym of Emma Murdock Van Deventer, 1885). Other goodies include G. K. Chesterton's sketch of Holmes and Moriarty for a never published version of Conan Doyle's "The Final Problem," a manuscript page from S. S. Van Dine's The Scarab Murder Case (1930), and Georges Simenon's first two novels. Note that the statement "It was not until eleven years later, in 1878, that the first native detective novel appeared in America, Anna Katherine [sic] Green's The Leavenworth Case" is not true, as Metta Fuller Victor is now given this distinction for her novel The Dead Letter (1866).

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Out of the Fog (1941).

Ida Lupino and John Garfield in
Out of the Fog
When racketeer John Garfield leans on fishing boat owner Thomas Mitchell and his friend for protection money and romances Mitchell's daughter (Ida Lupino), the men begin to think of murder. The film is based on the play "The Gentle People" by Irwin Shaw (The Young Lions; Rich Man, Poor Man).

Monday, June 12, 2017

Joan Hess on The Painted Queen and
Elizabeth Peters.

I talk to Joan Hess in Publishers Weekly about The Painted Queen, the last novel of Elizabeth Peters (aka Barbara Mertz, 1927–2013) completed by Hess after the death of Peters.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Woman in the Window (1944).

Ad for Woman in the Window (1944)
In Woman in the Window, a married professor (Edward G. Robinson) finds himself entangled with a woman (Joan Bennett), blackmail, and murder. Raymond Massey and Dan Duryea costar. Directed by Fritz Lang, the film is adapted by noted journalist-screenwriter Nunnally Johnson from the novel Once Off Guard by J. H. Wallis.