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.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Elmore Leonard on Selected Shorts.

On Selected Shorts this week is Elmore Leonard's football-inspired "Spirituality, with or without a Prayer" (New York Times, 2000).

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.

Monday, June 05, 2017

P. D. James companion published.

Just published is P. D. James: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction by Laurel A. Young, vol. 8 in the McFarland Companions to Mystery Fiction series that I edit. Young, who wrote part of her dissertation for Vanderbilt University on P. D. James (1920–2014), teaches English at a high school in Raleigh. The book provides a comprehensive treatment of Baroness James's Adam Dalgleish and Cordelia Gray works, her essays and book reviews, and other aspects of her life such as her admiration for author Anthony Trollope.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A mystery fragment from Mark Twain.

Part of Twain's "A Skeleton Novelette" ms.
Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley
Among the items of the "Mark Twain at Play" exhibition of UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library is "A Skeleton Novelette," a tantalizing 1893 outline in which (according to the Complete Letters of Mark Twain) Twain and editor William Dean Howells proposed that 12 authors write a mystery with the same plot and characters but without knowledge of the other participants' approaches. "There ought to be a murder," Twain wrote. "It ought to be a mysterious murder and the criminal be found out through circumstantial evidence." I am uncertain who wrote the faint inscription "Same old idea" on the paper, but Twain biographer and letter commentator Albert Bigelow Paine seemed equally unimpressed with the idea, writing, "perhaps it was just as well for literature that it was never carried out."

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Witness to Murder (1954).

L to R: Gary Merrill, Barbara Stanwyck, George Sanders,
and Harry Shannon in Witness to Murder
In Witness to Murder, Barbara Stanwyck has difficulty convincing police lieutenant Gary Merrill and others that she saw the murder of a neighbor. The screenwriter is Chester Erskine (All My Sons; Angel Face).

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

99 River Street (1953).

From an ad for 99 River Street.
In 99 River Street, a former boxer (John Payne) is the chief suspect when his unfaithful wife (Peggie Castle) is murdered and must take steps to prove his innocence. Evelyn Keyes and future director Gene Reynolds (M*A*S*H) costar. The screenwriters are Robert Smith (I Walk Alone; Sea Hunt) and George Zuckerman (Under the Gun; Written on the Wind).


Monday, May 22, 2017

Upcoming book on historical murder cases.

McFarland's imprint Exposit Books provides a sneak peek at its upcoming book The Trunk That Dripped Blood: Five Sensational Murder Cases of the Early 20th Century by Mark Grossman. Some of the cases involve Emma LeDoux (1906), priest Hans Schmidt (1913), and dentist Arthur Warren Waite (1916).

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

George V. Higgins speaks (1985).

In this 1985 event from the British Institute of Contemporary Arts, George V. Higgins (1939–99) discusses with Alexander Patrick Greysteil Ruthven, 2nd Earl of Gowrie, his background as a journalist, prosecutor, and defense attorney; his novel Penance for Jerry Kennedy; his view of the Watergate hearings (in light of his book, The Friends of Richard Nixon [1975]); and his few reservations about the film of his most well-known novel, The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1971). Says Higgins, "In the newspaper business I learned fairly soon that the quotes made the story."

Monday, May 15, 2017

Raskin on the polygraph, 1975.

Mackenzie-Lewis polygraph,
1919–26.
Wellcome Images, London.
In March 1975, psychologist and professor David C. Raskin delivered the Vancouver Institute lecture "Lie Detection and the Judicial System." Raskin, key in the development of the computerized polygraph test, discusses the theories behind lie detection, tracing its historical development (including the 1920s Frye case) and describing the procedure then in use for polygraph tests.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

House by the River (dir. Fritz Lang, 1950).

Jane Wyatt and Louis
Hayward in The Luckiest
Girl in the World
(1936)
An unbalanced writer (Louis Hayward) enlists his brother (Lee Bowman) to help him cover up the murder of a maid, but the brother finds himself accused of the crime, and the writer uses the murder to promote his book. Jane Wyatt costars. The film is directed by Fritz Lang and adapted from the novel of the same name (1921) by author and Member of Parliament A. P. Herbert.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Westlake film series, New York, May 12-14.

As the University of Chicago Press blog notes, the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, NY, will host the program "Crime Scenes" on May 12-14 featuring films adapted from the works of Donald Westlake (aka Richard Stark). These are the following:

Point Blank, May 12 (also includes commentary by Abby Westlake, Luc Sante, and Levi Stahl)

• The Grifters, May 13
The Stepfather, May 13
Cops and Robbers, May 14
Made in USA, May 14
• The Hot Rock, May 14
• The Outfit, May 14 (read George Pelecanos's take on the film)

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Shield for Murder (1954).

Based on the novel by William McGivern, Shield for Murder features Edmond O'Brien (who also co-directs) as a cop seeking to cover up his shooting of a bookie and theft of $25,000, but a deaf-mute has witnessed his crime. The 3 Dec. 1954 Motion Picture Daily reported that the Memphis and Shelby County Board of Censors banned the film because it "appears to be a burlesque on the city police department" (4).

Monday, May 01, 2017

The art of courtroom illustration.

Lloyd M. Bucher, captain of the USS Pueblo, testifies at the
court of naval inquiry regarding the capture of the Pueblo.
Illustration by Arnold Mesches. 1969.
A new exhibition "Drawing Justice: The Art of Courtroom Illustration" has opened at the Library of Congress, showcasing illustrations from court cases spanning 1964 to the present. Individuals portrayed include Sydney Biddle Barrows, Lloyd M. Bucher, Daniel Ellsberg, John Gotti, John Hinckley, Mick Jagger, Bernie Madoff, Charles Manson, Manuel Noriega, James Earl Ray, Eliot Richardson, Jack Ruby, and Sirhan Sirhan. (thanks to the Law & Humanities blog)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Foxwell on mystery reviewing, EQMM blog.

Today on the EQMM blog "Something Is About to Happen," I discuss "The Not-So-Simple Art of Mystery Reviewing," including a look back at some eminent reviewers (such as Walter R. Brooks, Dorothy L. Sayers, Dorothy B. Hughes, Howard Haycraft, and Anthony Boucher).

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Elmore Leonard speaks, 1984.

This interview with Elmore Leonard was part of the First Edition TV series on PBS station WNET cohosted by noted critic John Leonard (no relation) and Nancy Evans. In it, Elmore Leonard cites such diverse influences as Erich Maria Remarque, Ernest Hemingway, James M. Cain, and Mark Harris (Bang the Drum Slowly) and addresses his cross-genre works, his approach to dialogue, and the National Lampoon parody of his style.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Clues 35.1: Conan Doyle, French, Mitchell, Oates, Orczy et al.

Clues vol. 35, no. 1 (2017) has been published. Contact McFarland to obtain a print copy of the issue or to subscribe to the journal.

Kindle version
Google Play version

The following are the abstracts for the issue:

Introduction: Reevaluating the Past and the Present
JANICE M. ALLAN

After Sherlock: The Age of Fallible Detectives
MAURIZIO ASCARI (University of Bologna)
In the wake of Sherlock Holmes’s success, writers and critics explored the relationship of the fallible detective to the ideological and aesthetic characteristics of the Golden Age. The author examines this phenomenon, shedding light on the transition between the infallible detectives of positivism and the vulnerable detectives of post–World War II psycho-thrillers.

Old Holmes: Sherlock, Testosterone, and "The Creeping Man" SYLVIA PAMBOUKIAN (Robert Morris University)
Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Creeping Man” captures the early–twentieth century’s interest in male menopause and hormone replacement. The now-retired Sherlock Holmes and the aged Professor Presbury embody the conflict between aging as diminishment and aging as healthy and vigorous, a conflict still affecting readers who hesitate to accept Holmes as elderly. 

"Look at This Map": Arthur Conan Doyle's Use of Diegetic Illustrations in The Return of Sherlock Holmes 
THOMAS VRANKEN (University of Melbourne)
Four stories from The Return of Sherlock Holmes in the Strand Magazine and Collier's Weekly featured hand-drawn maps and other visual material supposedly created by Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters. These peculiar diegetic phenomena serve an ambivalent, even contradictory, function, both drawing in and repulsing the reader.

Arthur Conan Doyle's Lens KATHERINE VOYLES
The author argues that relations of scale are central to the late-nineteenth-century detective fiction of Arthur Conan Doyle, in which the movement between large and small, far and near, and the distant and the intimate is condensed by making Sherlock Holmes’s own vision the locus of that movement.

True Cock-and-Bull Stories: Negotiating Narrative Authority in Emmuska Orczy’s “Man in the Corner” Tales RACHEL SMILLIE
Critical studies of Baroness Emmuska Orczy’s “Man in the Corner” narratives have been dominated by the collected edition The Old Man in the Corner; however, this edition fundamentally alters the dynamic of the original stories. Revisiting the original tales, this article interrogates the relationship among detective, narrator, and reader.