Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Murder by Contract (1958).

Proficient hit-man Claude (Vince Edwards) experiences difficulties when he learns about his next assignment: killing a female witness about to testify in a trial.

Monday, December 11, 2017

McFarland's holiday sale.

In a holiday sale, McFarland is offering a 30 percent discount on two or more books ordered from its new true crime and mystery catalog. These include the McFarland Companions to Mystery Fiction series that I edit.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

The 39 Steps (1959).

Taina Elg and Kenneth More in The 39 Steps (1959)

In the second film version of The 39 Steps, Kenneth More takes on the role of John Buchan's game-hunter hero who becomes embroiled in espionage.

Monday, December 04, 2017

"As Far as They Had Got"
(round-robin mystery, 1911).


"There, in the middle of the upper panel, was the print of a human hand—in blood!"
Arthur Morrison, "As Far as They Had Got" 1911
Long before the Detection Club's round-robin mystery The Floating Admiral (1931), there was "As Far as They Had Got," which appeared in the September 1911 issue of The Strand magazine and included Richard Marsh (The Beetle), Arthur Morrison (Martin Hewitt, Investigator), and spy novel pioneer E. Phillips Oppenheim among its authors. The Strand dubbed it a "Follow-My-Leader Story." Most of the authors provided a footnote that outlined an ending to the story, but they did not have access to these proposed endings as they wrote their particular section.

The story centers on two men out for sail on a river who become ensnared in the aftermath of the Moorgate Street robbery. The story takes a number of twists and turns.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Jennifer (1953).

In Jennifer, estate caretaker Ida Lupino begins to suspect that something nefarious has happened to the previous resident and that local grocer Howard Duff may be involved.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Marie Belloc Lowndes, diarist.

A plot mind, is curiously rare, and does secure for its owner a kind of immortality. By that I mean that long after the writer is dead, the books go on being reprinted.
—Marie Belloc Lowndes
Marie Belloc Lowndes,
ca. 1935
The Diary Review looks at some diary entries of author Marie Belloc Lowndes (1868–1947), including her explanation of the genesis of and reaction to The Lodger (serialized in 1911, published in book form in 1913). Said Lowndes, "When The Lodger was published, I did not receive a single favourable review."


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I Wake Up Screaming (1941).

Victor Mature and Betty Grable in I Wake Up Screaming
In I Wake Up Screaming, is Victor Mature guilty of the murder of Carole Landis? Costars include Betty Grable, Laird Cregar, William Gargan, and Alan Mowbray. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Steve Fisher.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Mata Hari exhibition.

Mata Hari. NYPL
The Fries Museum in the Netherlands features its notorious native daughter Margaretha Zelle (aka Mata Hari, 1876–1917) in the exhibition "Mata Hari: The Myth and the Maiden," on view until April 2, 2018.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sky Murder (1940).

Murders on an airline flight involve fifth-column conspiracies for passenger and detective Nick Carter (Walter Pidgeon). The supporting cast includes Donald Meek, Tom Conway, and Chill Wills.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Exhibition:
"Rogues Gallery—Faces of Crime 1870–1917."

The exhibition "Rogues Gallery: Faces of Crime 1870–1917" is on view until December 1 at Edinburgh's General Register House. It provides a look at early Scottish mugshots and related crime documentation, including items pertaining to the real-life counterpart of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

An Act of Murder (1948).

Frederic Marsh and Florence Eldridge in An Act of Murder
When the wife (Florence Eldridge) of a judge (Eldridge's real-life husband Frederic Marsh) is diagnosed with an incurable illness, the judge makes a difficult decision. Costars include Edmond O'Brien and Geraldine Brooks. The film is based on Ernst Lothar's The Mills of God (1935).

Monday, November 06, 2017

Edgar Allan Poe, book reviewer.

In Humanities Magazine, journalist Mark Athitakis examines Edgar Allan Poe's role as harsh book reviewer, although Poe managed to nab a gig reviewing his own works (which, perhaps unsurprisingly, he rated as those of "high genius").

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Greene's Across the Bridge (1957).

Based on the short story (1938) by Graham Greene, Across the Bridge features Rod Steiger as an embezzling businessman who seeks to cover his tracks by assuming another man's identity. But as the other man is wanted himself, the businessman's situation becomes much more complicated.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Haycraft on Chesterton.

Howard Haycraft.
From the 1927
Univ of Minnesota
Gopher
In April 1945, H. W. Wilson executive and mystery scholar Howard Haycraft reviewed The Father Brown Omnibus, a new collection of G. K. Chesterton's stories with the mild-mannered clerical sleuth. The review, which appeared in the 31 Aug. 1945 Palestine Post as "Chesterton Tales," discussed the genesis of Father Brown and addressed the question of whether these stories could be classified as detective stories because Father Brown's deductions are often intuitive rather than based on hard evidence. Haycraft's opinion was unequivocal: ". . .[A]t his best Chesterton is indisputably one of that small company of writers most responsible for the curious vitality and appeal of the detective story to modern readers, and Father Brown has been called the best loved of fictional sleuths after the immortal Holmes" (7).

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Tread Softly, Stranger (1958).

Diana Dors, ca. 1957
In Tread Softly, Stranger, two brothers (George Baker, Terence Morgan) vie for the affections of a gold digger (Diana Dors) and become involved in robbery and murder. The film is based on the play "Blind Alley" by British playwright Jack Popplewell.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Carolyn Wells's "A Reader's Lament" (1899).

Carolyn Wells,
ca. 1923
Carolyn Wells's The Clue (1909) appears on the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone list of essential mysteries, and she's also known for her Sherlock Holmes pastiches. In addition, she wrote poetry, such as the following "Reader's Lament" (The Bookman, Mar. 1899, p. 22):

I cannot read the old books
I read long years ago;
Eliot, Dickens, Thackeray,
Bulwer and Scott and Poe.
Marryat's yarns of sailor life,
And Hugo's tales of crime; —
I cannot read the old books,
Because I haven't time.

I love the dear old stories,
My thoughts to them will stray;
But still one must keep posted on
The writers of to-day.
My desk is piled with latest books
I'm striving to despatch;
But ere I've finished all of them,
There'll be another batch.

Hope's new one isn't opened yet,
I've not read James's last;
And Howells is so prolific now,
And Crawford writes so fast.
Evelyn Innes I must skim,
O'er Helbeck I must pore;
The Day's Work I'll enjoy, although
I've read the tales before.

And then there is The King's Jackal,
The Gadfly, Caleb West,
Silence, The Forest Lovers, and—
I can't name all the rest.
I'll try to keep up with the times,
But, oh, I hope that I
May read my David Copperfield
Once more before I die.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Jack Benny spoofs The Killers.

Jack Benny and guest star Dan Duryea poked fun at Ernest Hemingway's "The Killers" in "Death across the Lunch Counter," part of the 4 December 1960 episode of The Jack Benny Program.

    Monday, October 16, 2017

    Mabel Seeley's "What's in a Mystery?" (1940).

    Mabel [Hodnefield]
    Seeley. From the 1926
    Univ of Minnesota
    Gopher
    Minnesota-born author Mabel Seeley (1903–91; The Listening House, The Chuckling Fingers, The Beckoning Door, The Whistling Shadow, etc.) gave the talk "What's in a Mystery?" at the Minnesota Library Association annual conference in October 1940. A transcript of the meeting's proceedings, including Seeley's often wry presentation that featured excerpts from The Whispering Cup, is in the Minnesota Reflections digital archive (another speaker was Jan Struther, the author of Mrs. Miniver). Seeley noted:
    The other night I met a very nice man who had just finished [The] Listening House. He looked me over rather cautiously, first from a distance and then a little closer and finally said, "Well, I wish I had seen you before I read that book—I wouldn't have been half so scared" (5).
    She summed up the theme of her talk as "a Mystery Story—what is in it, what you demand of it, and what you may get thrown in on the side as a type of appetizer" (5). She placed mysteries firmly in the category of "escape fiction":

    Tuesday, October 10, 2017

    To Tell the Truth: John Creasey.

    Only one of the three guests on this 16 Sept. 1963 episode of To Tell the Truth is the real John Creasey, prolific British mystery author.

    Monday, October 09, 2017

    Clues 35.2 published: Bentley, Charteris, Christie, Hammett, Melville, et al.

    Clues 35.2 (2017) has been published; abstracts follow below. In addition to the print version (which can be ordered from McFarland), the issue is available on Kindle and Google Play.

    Introduction: In Conversation
    Janice M. Allan (University of Salford)
    The executive editor of Clues discusses the contents of the issue, including analyses of works by E. C. Bentley, Benjamin Black, Andrea Camilleri, Leslie Charteris, Agatha Christie, Tana French, Dashiell Hammett, and Herman Melville, and the TV series True Detective.

    “The Impotence of Human Reason”:
    E. C. Bentley’s Trent's Last Case and the Antidetective Text 

    Nathan Ashman (University of Surrey)
    This article considers the subversion of the analytical detective format in E. C. Bentley’s Trent's Last Case (1913). Exploring the text’s problematization of concepts such as logic and reason as well as its disruption of the detective’s ocularcentric interpretative framework, the author highlights the ways in which Trent’s Last Case unsettles delineations between the classic analytic detective story and the metaphysical or antidetective text.

    Watchful Eyes and Smiling Masks in The Maltese Falcon 
    Nils Clausson
    This article calls attention to the more than 250 references to eyes and their pervasive role in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, arguing that the novel portrays a world in which trying to see past duplicity, dissimulation, and role playing of others, while seeking to hide one’s own, is pervasive.

    Labyrinths of Uncertainty:
    True Detective
    and the Metaphysics of Investigation

    Paul Sheehan and Lauren Alice (Macquarie University)
    This article outlines some of the salient features and ad hoc history of metaphysical detective fiction (MPDF). Using True Detective season 1 as a case study, it explores how the series takes advantage of new programming freedoms to dramatize MPDF for a “broadcast literature” audience.

    “A wholly other world of things, hidden”:
    Benjamin Black’s and Tana French’s Criminal Worlds 

    Kersti Tarien Powell (Saint Joseph's University)
    This essay examines the recent success of Irish crime fiction through the works of Tana French and John Banville/Benjamin Black. Whereas the classic detective novel seeks to narrow multiple possibilities down to one determinate solution, French and Black resist this narrative pattern. In so doing, their novels both reclaim and reinvent the Irish literary tradition.

    Crime Stories and Urban Fantasy
    Stefan Ekman (University of Gothenburg)
    Among the many unexplored areas of urban fantasy is its relation to crime fiction. This article explores how features of the crime story are used to emphasize, reinforce, or introduce urban fantasy’s social commentary. It looks at the genres’ relationship, analyzing three urban fantasies and their respective crime fiction elements.

    Camilleri’s Montalbano: Aging, Nostalgia, and the Midlife Crisis
    Stephen Derek Kolsky (University of Melbourne)
    Salvo Montalbano, the protagonist of Andrea Camilleri’s detective series, goes through a midlife crisis that creates a biographical and ideological line of separation between the earlier and later novels, resulting in a new emphasis on the personal in the form of fleeting passionate engagements and less on social commitment.

    Tuesday, October 03, 2017

    The Suspect (1944).

    In The Suspect (1944), the life of a staid tobacconist (Charles Laughton) is upended when he befriends a young, unemployed woman (Ella Raines), resulting in murder and blackmail. Robert Siodmak (The Spiral Staircase, etc.) directs the film, which was adapted from the novel This Way Out by James Ronald.

    Monday, October 02, 2017

    Priestley on "An Inspector Calls."

    Image of J. B. Priestley. NYPL.
    The British Library offers some resources on J. B. Priestley's play "An Inspector Calls," which writer Chris Power calls "a morality play disguised as a detective thriller" in an article on the BL Web site. In 1912, the mysterious Inspector Goole arrives at the home of a wealthy manufacturer, telling the complacent family members that he has questions for them about the suicide of one Eva Smith. The ensuing events alter their lives forever.

    • The BL has a "Programme Note" written by Priestley in 1972–74. He explains that he wrote the play in 1944–45; comments on its numerous productions around the world; and mentions the odd fact that no matter the location of the particular production, the audience reaction "was almost always exactly the same." He also notes that the selection of the year of the play's action is significant.

    Power's article discussing the play includes photos and reviews from the 1946 debut production with Ralph Richardson as Inspector Goole and Margaret Leighton as Sheila Birling.

    Tuesday, September 26, 2017

    The Case of the Curious Bride (1935).

    Erle Stanley Gardner,
    ca. 1935
    In The Case of the Curious Bride, Margaret Lindsay turns to lawyer Perry Mason (Warren William) after she has committed bigamy, and her first husband (Errol Flynn) ends up dead. The film, adapted from the novel by Erle Stanley Gardner, is directed by Michael Curtiz (spoiler alert for second clip).


    Monday, September 25, 2017

    More on German detective fiction.

    http://www.wm.edu/sites/facultylecture/past/2016-fall/index.php
    Bruce Campbell, German studies program director and associate professor, at the College of William & Mary, follows up his fall 2016 lecture on the heavy historical legacies of German detective fiction with a September 15 appearance on the radio program With Good Reason

     

    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).