Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Moore Was More than Ballsy Bond

“With the heaviest of hearts, we must share the awful news that our father, Sir Roger Moore, passed away today. We are all devastated.” — The Twitter announcement of Moore’s demise, from his children.

My association with notably polished English actor Roger Moore dates back to my boyhood. My father was an enthusiastic watcher of the 1962-1969 ITV-TV mystery/spy series The Saint, which starred Moore as Simon Templar, a Robin Hood-like criminal/adventurer developed in a succession of books by Leslie Charteris. In fact, my dad’s purchase in the mid-’60s of a Volvo P1800 was almost certainly inspired on the fact that Templar wheeled about on the small screen in that very same model of sports car (though his was bone white, while my father’s was fire-engine red). Moore appeared as well in another program my father favored: the 1957-1962 ABC Western series Maverick, in which he portrayed Beau Maverick, the cross-Atlantic cousin to a pair of gambling brothers played by James Garner and Jack Kelly. (I eventually caught up with both series in Saturday reruns.)

So when I heard this morning that the London-born, four-times-married Moore had died in Switzerland at age 89, “after a short battle with cancer,” I found myself glancing over at the photograph of my father and brother that sits atop my writing desk. My father succumbed to cancer himself 14 years ago, but if he were still around, I’m sure he would have been as saddened as I was by today’s news.

(Left) Jane Seymour and Roger Moore in the movie Live and Let Die.

Of course, there are many people who don’t associate Roger Moore with Maverick or The Saint, or even with his 1971-1972 UK series, The Persuaders!, in which he and Tony Curtis played globe-trotting, crime-solving millionaire playboys. (You can see the opening from that last series here.) For them, Moore will instead, and always, be the face of randy British superspy James Bond, the role he held onto for 12 years, through seven highly publicized feature films based on Ian Fleming’s espionage fiction. As The Spy Command recalls,
[Moore] was the third film Bond, following Sean Connery and George Lazenby.

During his tenure, from 1973 to 1985, the Bond films took a more lighthearted tone. But his films established, once and for all, the series could survive—and more—without Connery, the original film 007.

Moore’s first Bond film, 1973’s
Live and Let Die [opening title sequence shown here], was an international hit. Its worldwide box office totaled $161.8 million, the first Bond movie to exceed Thunderball’s $141.2 million. The U.S. box office was more modest, $35.4 million. That didn’t match the U.S. take for Connery’s Eon finale, Diamonds Are Forever ($43.8 million).

Regardless, both Eon Productions and its feuding producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman along with studio United Artists were satisfied. Moore would continue.
Moore would go on to serve as Agent 007 through The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), and A View to a Kill (1985). He’d be accompanied in those cinematic outings by a variety of stunning “Bond Girls,” ranging from Jane Seymour and Britt Eklund to Barbara Bach and Carole Bouquet. “His Bond was more of a charmer than a fighter,” explains The Hollywood Reporter, “more of a stirrer than was the shaker embodied by the first Bond, Scotsman Sean Connery. Moore took on the role with a grain of salt, not to mention cigars—as part of his contract, he reportedly was given unlimited Montecristos during production.” Moore was the oldest person to play Fleming’s protagonist on screen, retiring from the part at age 58. “Many [James Bond] fans felt Moore … [had] stayed for one 007 adventure too many …,” remarks The Spy Command. “Fans who never warmed to Moore—and there are some who’ve spent decades decrying the actor—felt vindicated. For those who enjoyed Moore’s performances, it felt like the end of an era.” (The part of Bond went next to Timothy Dalton, who starred in only two films before being replaced by Pierce Brosnan, in 1995’s GoldenEye.)

Let us not forget, though, that this performer’s big-screen credits extended well beyond the Bond pictures. He co-starred with Lee Marvin in the 1976 East Africa-set war adventure film, Shout at the Devil, was featured alongside Gregory Peck and David Niven in 1980’s The Sea Wolves, and worked on the 1990 British comedy Bullseye! together with Michael Caine and Sally Kirkland. In addition, Moore was cast as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s renowned “consulting detective” in the 1976 TV movie Sherlock Holmes in New York (with Patrick Macnee playing Dr. John H. Watson), and won the part of a novelist turned “hack reporter” in the 1995 mystery teleflick The Man Who Wouldn’t Die.

Moore published two memoirs during his long life—My Word Is My Bond (2009) and Last Man Standing (2014)—and as The Bookseller mentioned earlier today, he had “sent in the manuscript for his last, as-yet-untitled book just two weeks before his death.” There’s no news yet on a release date for that last work.

As The Guardian notes, in his later years Moore took on the duties of goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, the international humanitarian organization. It adds: “In 1999, Moore was awarded a CBE which then became a knighthood in 2003, given to him for his charity work.”

All of that represented quite a climb from his days on the black-and-white TV series The Saint and Maverick. But Moore seemed to take things in stride. “During my early acting years I was told that to succeed you needed personality, talent, and luck in equal measure,” Moore said to The Guardian back in 2014. “I contest that. For me it’s been 99 percent luck. It’s no good being talented and not being in the right place at the right time.”

We should be grateful to have been around when that right time arrived for Roger George Moore.

READ MORE:Sir Roger Moore, James Bond Actor, Dies of Cancer Aged 89,” by Leon Watson and Charlotte Krol (The Telegraph); “Obituary: Roger Moore” (BBC News); “Remembering Roger Moore, the Man Who Saved James Bond,” by Isaac Chotiner (Slate); “Sir Roger Moore—An Appreciation,” by Edward Biddulph (James Bond Memes); “Remembering Roger Moore,” by Matthew Bradford (Double O Section); “Roger Moore, 1927-2017,” by Steve Powell (The Venetian Vase); Roger Moore Dies at 89: Here Are All His James Bond Roles in Pictures Between 1973 and 1985” (Vintage Everyday).

Monday, May 22, 2017

This Blog Has Now Entered Puberty

Last May 22, I made a big deal of The Rap Sheet’s birthday. But then, that date marked 10 years since this blog was officially launched. Today is, well, The Rap Sheet’s 11th birthday, and as such anniversaries go, anything between 10 and 15 tends to be overlooked. I have nothing profound to say on this occasion.

However, let me share just a few interesting statistics.

We’ve now put up more than 6,800 posts on this page, and have registered almost 4.9 million page views. Something happened over the last year—I don’t know what, maybe just word-of-mouth publicity—which has resulted in The Rap Sheet clocking in far more visitors than it had previously: in excess of 3,500 each day, up from 1,500 to 2,500 visitors a day back in early 2016. Such stats are probably chicken feed when compared with what prominent news sites such as The New York Times or The Washington Post register, or what a publisher-backed, daily updated crime-fiction site such as Criminal Element boasts. But for The Rap Sheet—which is really more a labor of love than a paying proposition—I think they’re pretty outstanding.

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog on a regular, or even irregular, basis. Your interest in the genre and your warm reception of our efforts to cover it keep us going.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Such a Card!

Remember back three weeks ago, when I wrote on this page about my favorite niece and I driving all over the Seattle area on Independent Bookstore Day, trying to visit at least 19 of 23 participating booksellers during a single (very long) Saturday? Well, all of the people who won that “Champion Challenge” were invited this afternoon to stop by Island Books, on Mercer Island (east of downtown Seattle), and pick up their 25-percent discount cards, valid at every one of the 23 stores. Needless to say, my niece and I didn’t pass up this opportunity.

While we were at Island Books, I asked how many people had completed the 2017 challenge. Turns out, there were 340 winners—up from 120 last year, the first time I’d undertaken the race. Now, it's true that there seemed to be more publicity about Independent Bookstore Day this time around than there had been in 2016, the second year of the IBD “Champion Challenge.” But still, 340 winners seems like a huge jump, and may result in the organizers thinking about ways to limit the number of 25-percent discount cards they hand out in 2018.

By the way, I noticed one change in the cards awarded this year. On the back of my 2016 discount card, it said my 25-percent reduction was “valid through Independent Bookstore Day 2017.” The new card, however, proclaims it is “valid until Independent Bookstore Day 2018.” That’s a significant change, because I’ll bet there were plenty of people bearing 2016 cards who employed them on race day last month, deriving one final benefit from their work of the year before. (I know I did.) In 2018, we’ll all have to pay full price for what we buy over the course of the challenge. That might incline some folks to make fewer purchases on what’s become a huge sales day for participating bookshops.

Peculier Must-Reads

From a longlist of 18 books and authors, organizers of the annual Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival have now pared their choices down to a shortlist of only half a dozen contenders for the 2017 Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award:

Lie With Me, by Sabine Durrant (Mulholland)
Out of Bounds, by Val McDermid (Little, Brown)
Black Widow, by Chris Brookmyre (Little, Brown)
After You Die, by Eva Dolan (Harvill Secker)
Real Tigers, by Mick Herron (John Murray)
Missing, Presumed, by Susie Steiner (Borough Press)

The winner is set to be announced on July 20, during the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England.

(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

Burr’s Dramatic Century

As Robert Lopresti’s Today in Mystery History blog reminds us, actor Raymond Burr—who shifted from villainous movie roles in the 1940s and ’50s to star in the TV series Perry Mason, Ironside, and Kingston: Confidential—was born 100 years ago today in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada. In his post, Lopresti recalls the familiar story about how, “in 1956 … Burr applied for the part of prosecutor Hamilton Burger in the TV version of Perry Mason. Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of the character, supposedly took one look at Burr and shouted ‘That’s Perry Mason!’ The show ran until 1966.”

It seems the town of New Westminster, just southeast of Vancouver, B.C., still trades on its association with Burr, though the actor only lived there for a few years before moving with his family to California. According to the Vancouver Sun, the local Raymond Burr Performing Arts Society, along with the Douglas College Foundation and something called the Burr 100 committee “have established a legacy endowment to provide funding to theatre arts students at [New Westminster’s] Douglas College for generations to come honouring the talent and inspiration of the past with our own local celebrity, Raymond Burr.”

Raymond Burr died from cancer in the fall of 1993 during an extensive NBC-TV movie revival of Perry Mason.

LISTEN UP:Episode 224—Burr in the Saddle: Pat Novak, Johnny Dollar, and Fort Laramie (Down These Mean Streets).

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Accolades Abundant in Bristol

Thanks to Ali Karim, The Rap Sheet’s fortunate man on the ground in Bristol, England, we have the winners of seven different awards presented earlier this evening during a “gala dinner” at CrimeFest. Judging from reports I’ve heard, one of the program’s highlights was a speech by novelist Ann Cleeves—this year’s Crime Writers’ Association Diamond Dagger award winner—who recalled her lengthy struggle toward success and encouraged other aspiring authors to “stay the course” as well. Here, finally, are tonight’s prize winners:

Audible Sounds of Crime Award (for best unabridged crime audiobook): I See You, by Clare Mackintosh; read by
Rachel Atkins (Sphere)

Also nominated: Kill Me Again, by Rachel Abbott; read by Lisa
Coleman (Bolinda /Audible); The Widow, by Fiona Barton; read by Clare Corbett (Bolinda /Audible); Try Not to Breathe, by Holly Seddon; read by Jot Davies, Lucy Middleweek, and Katy Sobey (Bolinda); The Hanging Tree, by Ben Aaronovitch; read by Kobna Holdbrook–Smith (Orion); Night School, by Lee Child; read by Jeff Harding (Transworld Digital); Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz; read by Allan Corduner and Samantha Bond (Orion); and Coffin Road, by Peter May; read by Peter Forbes (Riverrun)

eDunnit Award (for the best crime fiction e-book): Wilde Lake,
by Laura Lippman (Faber and Faber)

Also nominated: The Twenty–Three, by Linwood Barclay (Orion); Deep Down Dead, by Steph Broadribb (Orenda); The Wrong Side of Goodbye, by Michael Connelly (Orion); Blackout, by Ragnar Jonasson (Orenda); Rather Be the Devil, by Ian Rankin (Orion); The Ashes of London, by Andrew Taylor (HarperFiction); and Cat Among the Herrings,
by L.C. Tyler (Allison & Busby)

The Last Laugh Award (for the best humorous crime novel):
Real Tigers, by Mick Herron (John Murray)

Also nominated: PIMP, by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr (Hard Case Crime); I Don’t Like Where This Is Going, by John Dufresne (Serpent’s Tail); A Cast of Vultures, by Judith Flanders (Allison & Busby); Razor Girl, by Carl Hiaasen (Little, Brown); The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown, by Vaseem Khan (Hodder & Stoughton); Cat Among the Herrings, by L.C. Tyler (Allison & Busby); and Tall Oaks, by Chris Whitaker (Twenty7)

The H.R.F. Keating Award (for the best biographical or critical book related to crime fiction): Brit Noir, by Barry Forshaw (No Exit Press)

Also nominated: Agatha Christie on Screen, by Mark Aldridge (Palgrave Macmillan); Queering Agatha Christie, by J.C. Berthnal (Palgrave Macmillan); Crime Uncovered: Private investigator, by Rachel Franks and Alistair Rolls (Intellect); Crime Fiction in German: Der Krimi, by Katharina Hall (University of Wales Press); Gender and Representation in British “Golden Age” Crime Fiction, by Megan Hoffman (Palgrave Macmillan); and The Contemporary Irish Detective Novel, by Elizabeth Mannion (Palgrave Macmillan)

Best Crime Novel for Children (8-12): Murder Most Unladylike: Mistletoe and Murder, by Robin Stevens (Puffin)

Also nominated: Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret, by Lyn Gardner (Nosy Crow); Murder in Midwinter, by Fleur Hitchcock (Nosy Crow); The Thornthwaite Betrayal, by Gareth P. Jones (Piccadilly Press); The Accidental Secret Agent, by Tom McLaughlin (Oxford University Press); Violet and the Smugglers, by Harriet Whitehorn (Simon & Schuster); and The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth, by Katherine Woodfine (Egmont)

Best Crime Novel for Young Adults (12-16): Kid Got Shot, by Simon Mason (David Fickling)

Also nominated: Crooked Kingdom, by Leigh Bardugo (Hachette Children’s Group); Cell 7, by Kerry Drewery (Hot Key Books); Theodore Boone: The Scandal, by John Grisham (Hodder & Stoughton); Rebel, Bully, Geek, Pariah, by Erin Lange (Faber and Faber); Orangeboy, by Patrice Lawrence (Hachette Children’s Group); Blame, by Simon Mayo (Penguin); and In the Dark, In the Woods, by Eliza Wass (Hachette Children’s Group)

Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year: Where Roses Never Die, by Gunnar Staalesen, translated by Don Bartlett (Orenda Books; Norway)

Also nominated: The Exiled, by Kati Hiekkapelto, translated by David Hackston (Orenda Books; Finland); The Dying Detective, by Leif G.W. Persson, translated by Neil Smith (Doubleday; Sweden); The Bird Tribunal, by Agnes Ravatn, translated by Rosie Hedger (Orenda Books; Norway); Why Did You Lie? by Yrsa Sigurđardóttir, translated by Victoria Cribb (Hodder & Stoughton; Iceland); and The Wednesday Club, by Kjell Westö, translated by Neil Smith (MacLehose
Press; Finland)

Congratulations to all of this year’s contenders!

READ MORE:The Petrona Award 2017—Winner,” by Karen Meek
(Euro Crime); “CrimeFest and the CWA Short Story Dagger,” by Martin Edwards (‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’).

Friday, May 19, 2017

Daggers at the Ready

Following many hours of panel presentations on this, the second day of the latest CrimeFest (being held through the weekend in Bristol, England), attendees gathered together to hear the announcement of longlisted nominees for several 2017 Dagger awards. The Daggers are presented annually by the British Crime Writers’ Association. Herewith, the rundown of contenders:

CWA Gold Dagger:
The Beautiful Dead, by Belinda Bauer (Bantam Press)
Dead Man’s Blues, by Ray Celestin (Mantle)
The Girl Before, by J.P. Delaney (Quercus)
Desperation Road, by Michael Farris Smith (No Exit Press)
Little Deaths, by Emma Flint (Picador)
The Dry, by Jane Harper (Little, Brown)
Spook Street, by Mick Herron (John Murray)
Sirens, by Joseph Knox (Doubleday)
Ashes of Berlin, by Luke McCallin (No Exit Press)
The Girl in Green, by Derek B. Miller (Faber and Faber)
The Rising Man, by Abir Muckerjee (Harvil Secker)
Darktown, by Thomas Mullen (Little Brown)

CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger:
You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott (Picador)
Kill the Next One, by Frederico Axat (Text)
The Twenty-Three, by Linwood Barclay (Orion Fiction)
The Killing Game, by J.S. Carol (Bookouture)
The Heat, by Gary Disher (Text)
A Hero in France, by Alan Furst (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
We Go Around in the Night Consumed by Fire, by Jules Grant
(Myriad Editions)
Moskva, by Jack Grimwood (Michael Joseph)
The One Man, by Andrew Gross (Macmillan)
Redemption Road, by John Hart (Hodder & Stoughton)
Spook Street, by Mick Herron (John Murray)
Dark Asset, by Adrian Magson (Severn House)
Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly, by Adrian McKinty (Serpent’s Tail)
The Constant Soldier, by William Ryan (Mantle)
The Rules of Backyard Cricket, by Jack Serong (Text)
Jericho’s War, by Gerald Seymour (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Kept Woman, by Karin Slaughter (Century)
Broken Heart, by Tim Weaver (Penguin)

CWA International Dagger:
A Cold Death, by Antonio Manzini;
translated by Anthony Shugaar (4th Estate)
A Fine Line, by Gianrico Carofiglio;
translated by Howard Curtis (Bitter Lemon Press)
A Voice in the Dark, by Andrea Camilleri;
translated by Stephen Sartarelli (Mantle)
Blackout, by Marc Elsberg;
translated by Marshall Yarborough (Black Swan)
Blood Wedding, by Pierre Lemaitre;
translated by Frank Wynne (MacLehose Press)
Climate of Fear, by Fred Vargas;
translated by Sian Reynolds (Harvill Secker)
Death in the Tuscan Hills, by Marco Vichi;
translated by Stephen Sartarelli (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Bastards of Pizzofalcone, by Maurizio De Giovanni;
translated by Anthony Shugaar (Europa Editions)
The Dying Detective, by Leif G.W. Persson;
translated by Neil Smith (Doubleday)
The Legacy of the Bones, by Dolores Redondo;
translated by Nick Caister and Lorenza Garcia (Harper)
When It Grows Dark, by Jørn Lier Horst;
translated by Anne Bruce (Sandstone Press)

CWA Non-Fiction Dagger:
A Dangerous Place, by Simon Farquhar (History Press)
Close But No Cigar: A True Story of Prison Life in Castro’s Cuba,
by Stephen Purvis (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
The Scholl Case: The Deadly End of a Marriage, by Anja
Reich-Osang (Text)
Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes,
by Michael Sims (Bloomsbury)
The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer,
by Kate Summerscale (Bloomsbury)
A Passing Fury: Searching for Justice at the End of World War II,
by A.T. Williams (Jonathan Cape)
The Ice Age: A Journey into Crystal-Meth Addiction, by Luke
Williams (Scribe)
Another Day in the Death of America, by Gary Younge
(Guardian Faber)

CWA Short Story Dagger:
“The Assassination,” by Leye Adenle (from Sunshine Noir, edited by Anna Maria Alfieri and Michael Stanley; White Sun)
• “Murder and Its Motives,” by Martin Edwards (from Motives for Murder, edited by Martin Edwards; Sphere)
• “Alive or Dead,” by Michael Jecks (from Motives for Murder)
• “The Super Recogniser of Vik,” by Michael Ridpath (from Motives
for Murder)
• “What You Were Fighting For,” by James Sallis (from The Highway Kind, edited by Patrick Millikin; Mulholland)
• “The Trials of Margaret,” by L.C. Tyler (from Motives for Murder)
• “Snakeskin,” by Ovidia Yu (from Sunshine Noir)

CWA Debut Dagger (for unpublished writers):
Camera Obscura, by Richard McDowell
Strange Fire, by Sherry Larkin
The Reincarnation of Himmat Gupte, by Neeraj Shah
The Swankeeper’s Wife, by Augusta Dwyer
Lost Boys, by Spike Dawkins
Victorianoir, by Kat Clay
Hardways, by Catherine Hendricks
Red Haven, by Mette McLeod
In the Shadow of the Tower, by Clive Edwards
Broken, by Victoria Slotover

CWA Endeavour Historical Dagger:
The Devil’s Feast, by M.J. Carter
(Fig Tree)
The Coroner’s Daughter, by Andrew Hughes (Doubleday Ireland)
The Black Friar, by S.G. MacLean (Quercus)
The Ashes of Berlin, by Luke McCallin (No Exit Press)
The Long Drop, by Denise Mina (Harvil Secker)
The Rising Man, by Abir Muckerjee (Harvil Secker)
Darktown, by Thomas Mullen (Little, Brown)
By Gaslight, by Steven Price (Point Blank)
The City in Darkness, by Michael Russell (Constable)
Dark Asylum, by E.S. Thomson (Constable)

CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger:
The Watcher, by Ross Armstrong (Mira)
The Pictures, by Guy Bolton (Point Blank)
What You Don’t Know, by JoAnn Chaney (Mantle)
Ragdoll, by Daniel Cole (Trapeze)
Sunset City, by Melissa Ginsburg (Faber and Faber)
Epiphany Jones, by Michael Grothaus (Orenda)
Distress Signals, by Catherine Ryan Howard (Corvus)
Himself, by Jess Kidd (Canongate)
Sirens, by Joseph Knox (Doubleday)
Good Me, Bad Me, by Ali Land (Michael Joseph)
The Possession, by Sara Flannery Murphy (Scribe)
Tall Oaks, by Chris Whitaker (Twenty 7)

CWA Dagger in the Library (previously declared shortlist):
Andrew Taylor
C.J. Sansom
James Oswald
Kate Ellis
Mari Hannah
Tana French

The Daggers are expertly juried awards, so the books and authors making this cut are predictably top-drawer. I don’t customarily inject my opinions into write-ups about such competitions. However, I’m particularly impressed by the lineup of rivals for this year’s Endeavour Historical Dagger. I have read and enjoyed most of the novels longlisted for that honor, but am hoping that the prize ultimately goes to Steven Price’s By Gaslight, which I described in a Rap Sheet post late last year as “an all-consuming adventure with romantic undertones, establishing a new and very high bar against which other historical whodunits will be judged.”

Congratulations to all of the nominees!

We should expect an announcement of the shortlist contenders for all of these commendations, well, shortly. And if past experience is any guide, the winners ought to be broadcast this coming fall.

FOLLOW-UP: There was another prize presented during last night’s CrimeFest merriment. It was announced that Sam Hepburn has won the 2017 CWA Margery Allingham Short Story Competition with her not-yet-published tale, “Box Clever.” Also shortlisted for this honor were Bruce Gaston (“The Case of the Unrepentant Killer”), Ryan Bruce (“Division”), Sam Cunningham (“The Silenced Witness”), and Chris Curran (“The Thought of You”).

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Narrowing the Anthonys Field

Organizers of this year’s Bouchercon convention (to be held in Toronto, Ontario, from October 12 to 15) have announced the rundown of nominees for the 2017 Anthony Awards in eight categories:

Best Novel:
You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott (Little, Brown)
Where It Hurts, by Reed Farrel Coleman (Putnam)
Red Right Hand, by Chris Holm (Mulholland)
Wilde Lake, by Laura Lippman (Morrow)
A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny (Minotaur)

Best First Novel:
Dodgers, by Bill Beverly (Crown)
IQ, by Joe Ide (Mulholland)
Decanting a Murder, by Nadine Nettmann (Midnight Ink)
Design for Dying, by Renee Patrick (Forge)
The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

Best Paperback Original:
Shot in Detroit, by Patricia Abbott (Polis)
Leadfoot, by Eric Beetner (280 Steps)
Salem’s Cipher, by Jess Lourey (Midnight Ink)
Rain Dogs, by Adrian McKinty (Seventh Street)
How to Kill Friends and Implicate People, by Jay Stringer
(Thomas & Mercer)
Heart of Stone, by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street)

Best Short Story:
“Oxford Girl,” by Megan Abbott (from Mississippi Noir, edited by Tom Franklin; Akashic)
“Autumn at the Automat,” by Lawrence Block (from In Sunlight or in Shadow, edited by Lawrence Block; Pegasus)
“Gary’s Got a Boner,” by Johnny Shaw (from Waiting to Be Forgotten: Stories of Crime and Heartbreak, Inspired by The Replacements, edited by Jay Stringer; Gutter)
“Parallel Play,” by Art Taylor (from Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning, edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley; Wildside Press)
“Queen of the Dogs,” by Holly West (from 44 Caliber Funk: Tales of Crime, Soul, and Payback, edited by Gary Phillips and Robert J. Randisi; Moonstone)

Best Critical Non-fiction Work:
Alfred Hitchcock: A Brief Life, by Peter Ackroyd (Nan A. Talese)
Letters from a Serial Killer, by Kristi Belcamino and Stephanie Kahalekulu (CreateSpace)
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, by Ruth Franklin (Liveright)
Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, by David J. Skal (Liveright)
The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer,
by Kate Summerscale (Bloomsbury/Penguin)

Best Children’s/Young Adult Novel:
Snowed, by Maria Alexander (Raw Dog Screaming)
The Girl I Used to Be, by April Henry (Henry Holt)
Tag, You’re Dead, by J.C. Lane (Poisoned Pen Press)
My Sister Rosa, by Justine Larbalestier (Soho Teen)
The Fixes, by Owen Matthews (HarperTeen)

Best Anthology:
Unloaded: Crime Writers Writing Without Guns, edited by Eric Beetner (Down & Out)
In Sunlight or in Shadow, edited by Lawrence Block (Pegasus)
Cannibals: Stories from the Edge of the Pine Barrens, edited by
Jen Conley (Down & Out)
Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology 2016, edited by
Greg Herren (Down & Out)
Waiting to Be Forgotten: Stories of Crime and Heartbreak, Inspired by The Replacements, edited by Jay Stringer (Gutter)

Best Novella (8,000-40,000 words):
Cleaning Up Finn, by Sarah M. Chen (CreateSpace)
No Happy Endings, by Angel Luis Colón (Down & Out)
Crosswise, by S.W. Lauden (Down & Out)
Beware the Shill, by John Shepphird (Down & Out)
The Last Blue Glass, by B.K. Stevens (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, April 2016)

Nominations for the annual Anthony Awards are made by Bouchercon attendees, who also choose the winners. This is a fan competition, rather than a juried one calling on the expertise of book critics and others. Congratulations are due all of the finalists listed above!

The victors in each category will be announced at the end of a brunch scheduled to be held on October 15, during Bouchercon 2017. A news release says: “While the Sunday Brunch is a ticketed event (buy your tickets through the Registration process), all Bouchercon attendees may attend the short awards ceremony that immediately follows.”

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

How British Thrillers Changed the World

By Michael Gregorio
Mike Ripley has a serious mission in life.

In his monthly column for Shots, “Getting Away with Murder,” he reports on the latest crime-fiction releases. But Ripley invariably reminds readers as well of at least one or two—sometimes half a dozen—thriller novels that once took the world by storm.

Now, in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang: The Boom in British Thrillers from “Casino Royale” to “The Eagle Has Landed” (HarperCollins UK), this author-critic’s lifelong love of the genre is laid out on the table ready for devouring. An entertaining history of popular literature, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang charts the early flowering of the British adventure story in the 1950s, its evolution into the spy-fantasy novel (which culminated in Ian Fleming’s best-selling James Bond series), and its transition into the more measured espionage fiction which arrived with the Cold War. The book’s title comes from a letter that Fleming wrote to Raymond Chandler in 1956: “You write novels of suspense—if not sociological studies,” remarked Fleming, “whereas my books are straight pillow fantasies of the bang-bang, kiss-kiss variety.”

Fantasy versus sociology?

Things are not quite so simple, as Mr. Ripley indicates, laying out in these pages the grim history of post-war Britain, a time when the fighting had been won but the Empire was shrinking, and food rationing was a fact of life. He suggests that the evolution of thriller fiction followed the shifts of British social history more closely than any other popular literary genre. As anyone familiar with his Shots column (or with his Fitzroy Maclean Angel novels) would expect, wry humor is never in short supply here, as “The Ripster” recounts a host of fascinating tales behind the blockbuster novels and the best-selling authors who wrote them, noting in one instance: “When it came to villains, you couldn’t beat a good Nazi.”

This is an authoritative survey for readers who would like to learn more about the growth and development of thriller fiction, but might not know just where to start their research. I was amazed by how many titles Ripley references, and more surprised still to realize that I had already read quite a number of the books. Growing up in England during the 1950s and ’60s, it was inevitable, I suppose. The paperback was new, and the writers were many.

It’s inevitable, too, that a wide variety of these fine works have been all but forgotten over the years.

Thanks to Ripley’s efforts, however, history is being set straight and works long neglected—many of them out of print—will likely find new fans in the 21st century. Count me among them: I am currently reading and enjoying a host of classic thrillers mentioned in Ripley’s book. In addition, I asked the author to answer a few questions about his interest in the genre.

Michael Gregorio: Do you remember the first thriller you ever read?

Mike Ripley: I couldn’t swear to it, but the first adult thriller was possibly Hammond Innes’ The White South [1949], set in the (now) politically incorrect world of whale haunting in the Antarctic, followed quickly by Alistair MacLean’s HMS Ulysses [1955]. I was living in a small mining village in Yorkshire, would have been 10, and [was] about to leave primary school.

I do remember, at public school aged 12, reading [Fleming’s] Thunderball and Dr. No in quick succession, followed by [Len Deighton’s] The IPCRESS File, probably when the film came out. I was 13 when I read [John le Carré’s] The Spy Who Came in from the Cold—I still have the 1965 Pan paperback, priced five shillings (25p)!

MG: What makes a thriller memorable, in your opinion?

MR: What makes a thriller memorable? Any (or all) of the basic ingredients: jeopardy—both personal to the hero/heroine or to a larger entity such as a city, a military installation, an economy or a state; suspense—the idea of a deadline, or a ticking-clock; an exotic location, or somewhere where man is up against the natural elements; conflict—violent action scenes; a hero/heroine who is human and could get hurt, although at times displays almost superhuman qualities and could be just as cunning and ruthless as the villains.

MG: Who is the greatest thriller writer of all time?

MR: Impossible to say, so I’ll chicken out of picking one. But any decent short-list would include John Buchan (“old school”), Geoffrey Household (“the romantic and noble rogue male hero”), Eric Ambler (spies and shady goings-on with a left-wing slant), Ian Fleming (spy fantasy), Len Deighton (a stylistic mold-breaker), John le Carré (spies, betrayal and the English class system), and Alistair MacLean and Hammond Innes (of the “adventure thriller” school). I have stayed very much in my comfort zone here, ignoring other types of thriller and many excellent non-British writers.

MG: Who is the most accomplished writer of thrillers today?

MR: The most accomplished? Difficult question. In totally different fields and styles, I’d go for Alan Furst, Ben Pastor, and Philip Kerr, who all root their thrillers in the history of World War II; Martin Cruz Smith, who can range over history and different locations; and when it comes to the strong, silent hero who rides to the rescue, one has to include Lee Child, who writes “classical modern” thrillers (if that makes sense). And this brutally ignores the writers of some brilliant crime thrillers, police thrillers, psychological thrillers, etc.

MG: Would you describe your “Angel” novels as thrillers?

MR: Angel? Well, comedy-thrillers maybe. They are not “whodunits” so much as “how does he get out of this” stories, often “how the hell did he get into this.” I hope they have some suspense and believable action and heroics, and therefore provide a few thrills, but their main purpose is to tell jokes. I guess I am not so much a writer as a frustrated stand-up comedian.

(Editor’s note: Ripley’s Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang will go on sale in the United States this coming September.)

A Rebus Revival

Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin already had cause to celebrate this year. Not only does 2017 mark the 30th anniversary of his introducing fictional Edinburgh Detective Inspector John Rebus, in Knots and Crosses (1987), but this summer will bring the inaugural “RebusFest” (June 30-July 2) to venues all over Scotland’s historic capital.

Now comes yet another reason for the author to crack one of his broad smiles. As reported recently by Deadline Hollywood, Rankin’s irritable, rules-breaking protagonist is heading back to our TV screens:
UK-based indie Eleventh Hour Films has acquired rights to Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series of detective novels, and attached '71 writer Gregory Burke to pen a contemporary TV drama adaptation. …

BAFTA-nominated Burke’s credits also include next year’s José Padilha hijacking thriller
Entebbe. Of Rebus, he says, “As someone who has grown up and lives in South East Scotland, Ian Rankin’s best-selling books provide the perfect material to make a thrilling series about crime in the modern world.”

Executive Producer Jill Green promises “a fresh and revisionist take in every way introducing both Rebus and Edinburgh to a new generation.”
Most imagined sleuths never get one crack at boob-tube stardom. But Rebus has already enjoyed a healthy run on British television, in ITV’s Rebus (2000-2007), played by two different actors: John Hannah, who never seemed right for the role (even he acknowledged that) and left after one season; and Ken Stott, who carried on through three successive seasons, establishing himself quite successfully in the part.

There’s no word yet on who will portray DI Rebus this time around. Author Rankin is apparently hoping Stott will return to the role. But that might not satisfy Jill Green’s promise of “a fresh … take” on Rebus, so we’ll have to wait and see how this all shakes out.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Revue of Reviewers, 5-15-17

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more.

Accomplished Boothe Quietly Departs

Obituaries for Texas-born actor Powers Boothe, who died in his sleep on Sunday morning, aged 68, headline a variety of film and TV projects he participated in over the decades—everything from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Sin City to Tombstone, Hatfields & McCoys, and 24. Strangely, less is made of his Emmy Award-winning role as charismatic cult leader Jim Jones in the 1980 CBS-TV miniseries Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones, and it’s the rare tribute that mentions he played Raymond Chandler’s best-known protagonist in the 1983-1986 HBO-TV series Philip Marlowe, Private Eye.

Boothe started his career on the stage, joining the repertory company of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and moving from there to Broadway. In 1977 he appeared as part of an ill-used Richard III cast in the Herbert Ross/Neil Simon movie The Goodbye Girl. Lifted further into the limelight by his portrayal of the suicidal/homicidal Jones, he went on to roles in films such as Red Dawn (1984), Tombstone (1993, playing outlaw Curly Bill Brocius), and Nixon (1995, in which he portrayed White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig), as well as in small-screen dramas ranging from Joan of Arc (1999) to Deadwood (2004-2006), in the latter of which he stood out as corrupt but otherwise complex brothel proprietor Cy Tolliver.

However, it was as the hard-edged, wisecracking Marlowe that Boothe first came to my attention. The character had appeared previously on television—in a 1954 episode of Climax!, played by Dick Powell, and later in the 1959-1960 ABC-TV series Philip Marlowe, starring Philip Carey. But Boothe brought an authority and muted toughness (if maybe a bit too much world-weariness) to the role that Carey had lacked. There were 11 hour-long episodes of Philip Marlowe, Private Eye, all adapted from Chandler short stories, though Marlowe hadn’t originally been the lead player in every tale. Among my favorites was “The Pencil,” adapted from Chandler’s last actual Marlowe short story (which was originally published in 1959 as “Marlowe Takes on the Syndicate”). At least for now, you can watch “The Pencil” as well as other installments from the series on YouTube. Another standout episode was “Finger Man,” which guest-starred not only Gayle Hunnicutt (who had appeared with James Garner in 1969’s Marlowe) but also Ed Bishop (former star of the 1970-1971 science-fiction TV series UFO). Sergio Angelini offers synopses of the Season 1 episodes of Boothe’s series, plus video clips, in his blog, Tipping My Fedora.

Variety reports that “there will be a private service held in Texas” for Boothe, In addition, “a memorial celebration in his honor is being considered for a future date.”

READ MORE:Powers Boothe: The Guardian Obituary,” by Michael Carlson (Irresistible Targets).

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bullet Points: Finally, a Mother’s Day Edition

• Author Harper Lee passed away more than a year ago, but the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction lives on. As Mystery Fanfare notes, this commendation—“established in 2011 by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird”—“is given annually to a book-length work of fiction that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.” Chosen from among 25 entries, the three finalists are:

Gone Again, by James Grippando (Harper)
The Last Days of Night, by Graham Moore (Random House)
Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult (Ballantine)

A panel of four judges has been tasked with choosing the ultimate winner, though the results of an online public poll are also to be weighed in the final decision. You can vote for your favorite among the three books above by clicking here; voting will remain open until Friday, June 30, at 11:59 p.m. CT. (At last check, Grippando’s Gone Again was leading this reader survey.) I don’t see a specific date on which the award is to be presented, but a press release says it will be handed out at the University of Alabama School of Law “for the first time. The winner will be announced prior to the ceremony and will receive a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird signed by Harper Lee.”

• Although I don’t know how she keeps up the energy to do this, B.V. Lawson produces an excellent and consistent weekly wrap-up of crime-fiction-related news in her blog, In Reference to Murder. On occasion, I feel the need to poach interesting things from those columns, such as these two successive items:
Dr. Mary Brown, writing for The Scotsman, made the case for neglected author John Buchan, only known today because of his First World War adventure story, The Thirty-Nine Steps, and his great character, Major-General Sir Richard Hannay. However, Edinburgh-based publisher ­Polygon recently announced plans for a new installment, with Dundee-born author Robert J. ­Harris
penning the continuation novel
The Thirty-One Kings, [due for release this coming October], the first new Hannay book for more than 80 years. If successful, a series featuring Major-General Hannay could follow.

While we’re on the subject of continuation novels, New Zealand author Stella Duffy talked about the tricky art of completing an abandoned Ngaio Marsh mystery novel [the 1940s Roderick Alleyn tale
Money in the Morgue].
• Mike Ripley’s May edition of his Shots column, “Getting Away with Murder,” includes remarks about a wide variety of intriguing subjects: Lee Child’s collection of Jack Reacher short stories, No Middle Name (set to go on sale this week); the TV series based on Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor tales; new works by James Runcie, Tony Park, Dennis Lehane, and Steve Cavanagh; a posthumous James Bond-inspired novel by Donald E. Westlake, and much more. Read all about it here.

• With a sixth Mission: Impossible film currently in production (and due for wide release in July 2018), The Spy Command’s Bill Koenig posts a short retrospective on the man “without whom none of it would be impossible, M:I creator Bruce Geller.” He writes: “Geller died almost four decades ago in a crash of a twin-engine aircraft. It was a sudden end for someone who had brought two popular series to the air (M:I and Mannix) that ran a combined 15 years on CBS. [Geller] was a renaissance man capable of writing, producing, directing and song writing.” Click here to learn more about Geller.

• The Verge reports that California writer Andy Weir, who made it big with his debut science-fiction novel, The Martian (adapted as a 2015 movie of the same name), is coming out in November of this year with a second book—a crime thriller set on Earth’s moon, titled Artemis (Crown). That lunar environment has backdropped previous works of mystery and mayhem (think Anthony O’Neill’s The Dark Side, for instance, or Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s The Retrieval Artist). However, The Verge’s Andrew Liptak says Weir is “hoping for blockbuster success” with Artemis, which he says focuses on “a young woman named Jasmine Bashara (known as Jazz), who lives in the Moon’s only city, Artemis. If you’re not wealthy, living there isn’t easy, and she gets by as a smuggler. When she comes across the chance to commit the perfect crime, she steps into a bigger struggle for control of the city.” Film rights to Artemis have already been purchased.

• Also from The Verge comes this: BBC-TV is planning “a three-part series based on H.G. Wells’ [1898] novel, The War of the Worlds:
The show is scheduled to go into production next spring, and it appears that, unlike most modern adaptations, it will be set in the Victorian era. The series will be written by screenwriter Peter Hartness, who adapted Susanna Clarke’s Victorian-era fantasy novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell for the network, as well as a handful of Doctor Who episodes. The North-West Evening Mail has some additional details, quoting Mammoth Studios Managing Director of Productions Damien Timmer as saying that while the film has been adapted many times, “no one has ever attempted to follow Wells and locate the story in Dorking at the turn of the last century.” The project was first announced in 2015, and today’s confirmation of production comes only months after the book entered the public domain.
• Even 43,000 years ago, humans were murdering each other.

• Congratulations to blogger Les Blatt, who observes that his Classic Mysteries podcast “has reached a milestone of sorts. This week’s audio review of John Rhode’s Body Unidentified is podcast 520 in the series. I have been doing a weekly podcast review every week, and this one is number 520—the number of weeks in ten years.” Wow! The last couple of years’ worth of excellent episodes can be enjoyed here.

• I was saddened to hear earlier this month that 78-year-old American sportswriter and novelist Frank Deford has decided to retire from his gig as a commentator for National Public Radio’s Morning Edition program after 37 years on the job. The Associated Press reported on May 3 that “Deford gave his 1,656th and final commentary on NPR’s Morning Edition Wednesday, ending a run of what he calls ‘little homilies’ that began in 1980. He thanked NPR for allowing him to choose his topics and allowing him ‘to treat sports seriously, as another branch on the tree of culture.’” Although I am no sports fan, I have enjoyed listening to Deford’s gravelly voiced reflections for many years. If my memory can be relied upon, I started noticing them around the time he became the editor-in-chief of a short-lived (but fondly remembered) tabloid paper called The National. Their topics were always sports-related, though they tended often to incorporate larger themes about life and modern society. You can catch up with Deford’s closing report and many of his previous ones here.

• I don’t think anything will make me attractive again (if I ever was), but according to eHarmony UK, being a reader should do the trick—“especially if you’re a man. The popular online dating site notes that men who listed reading as one of their interests received 19% more messages, while women readers received a 3% bump in communication,” explains the BookBub blog, adding: “Regardless of what you read, eHarmony reports that bibliophiles are considered to be more intellectually curious than non-readers and have an easier time building open and trusting relationships.”

Why do we love the smell of old books?

• In a piece for The Guardian, Mark Lawson follows up this page’s recent post about former President Bill Clinton throwing in with James Patterson to compose a political thriller novel called The President Is Missing, noting that “special relationships between politicians and political novelists” have been quite common on both sides of the Atlantic. “So,” he explains, “Clinton, in co-authoring fiction, is making official a long informal arrangement. Politicians co-operate partly because they tend to be keen thriller-readers—perhaps an adrenaline-raising genre suits the temperament of those who seek power—but also because they can reveal details and incidents in the knowledge that they will be untraceably disguised, and which could not be confided to journalists or the ghost-writers of their memoirs. In this respect, Clinton might run the risk that every scene in The President Is Missing will be assumed to have happened to him.”

• Ben Terrall, the youngest child of crime novelist Robert Terrall, aka Robert Kyle (1914-2009), has penned a review for January Magazine of three recent books that show the darker, more diabolical side of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

• I’m always wary of pointing readers toward videos that suddenly show up on YouTube, because that Web site has the annoying habit of removing content whenever a film or TV company complains about copyright infringement—even when what has been posted is small and insignificant. But I would be doing Rap Sheet readers a serious disservice if I didn’t mention that the 1998 HBO-TV film Poodle Springs—based on the 1989 novel of that name, begun by Raymond Chandler and finished by Robert B. Parker—is now waiting for your attention on YouTube. I’ve heard mixed reviews of this production starring James Caan as Los Angeles gumshoe Philip Marlowe, but since I have never had a chance to see it before, it’s a sure bet I’ll be watching soon!

• Speaking of YouTube, I’ve recently made a few additions to The Rap Sheet’s page on that popular video site. Look for the main title sequences to the Scottish crime drama Shetland, William Conrad’s classic Cannon, the short-lived Burt Reynolds series Hawk, and Stephen J. Cannell’s oddball Broken Badges from 1990-1991. There are many more here.

• Nancie Clare’s latest guest on Speaking of Mysteries is Avery Duff, whose first novel, Beach Lawyer, “explores the dark side of sunny Santa Monica,” California. Get an earful of their conversation here.

• The program for the Deadly Ink conference, set to take place in Rockaway, New Jersey, during the weekend of June 16-18, has been announced. Those festivities will include a presentation of the 2017 David Award to one of five nominees.

• If you’ve hesitated to start watching Season 3 of the Amazon TV series Bosch, based on Michael Connelly’s best-selling police procedurals and starring Titus Welliver, then perhaps you need some incentive from this piece in Criminal Intent, which contends that “Bosch has transformed television mystery.” English professor Andy Adams goes on to argue: “For the first time, viewers can experience the closest approximation to a mystery novel as is possible on screen. The pacing, development of the characters, complexity of the plot, simultaneous themes, and detailed touches make Bosch the template for 21st-century mystery television.” Season 3 debuted in April and comprises 10 episodes. The show has already been renewed.

• Standards of U.S. presidential behavior have seriously slumped under Trump. The New York Times offers this “handy reference list” of new standards for Republicans to consult “should they ever feel tempted to insist on different standards for another president.”

• Melissa McCarthy does do a fabulous Sean Spicer!

• With the cult series Twin Peaks set to return to television next weekend, following a quarter-century absence, the timing of Michael Parks’ demise at age 77 could hardly have been more unfortunately timed. Parks—who starred in the 1969-1970 NBC-TV adventure drama Then Came Bronson before taking guest roles on series from Get Christie Love! and Ellery Queen to Fantasy Island and The Colbys—enjoyed a career revival when he was cast in the original Twin Peaks, playing a murderous French-Canadian drug-runner by the name of Jean Renault. In the decades since, recalls Deadline Hollywood, Parks “would appear in [director Quentin] Tarantino’s From Dusk Till Dawn and Kill Bill films, Django Unchained, the Tarantino/[Robert] Rodriguez [picture] Grindhouse, Kevin Smith’s Red State and Tusk, and Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, among others.” Blogger Toby O’Brien’s offers video clips of Parks’ work in Inner Toob.

• Capitalizing on Twin Peaks’ return, Seattle Met magazine has assembled this daytrip plan for fans who want to get a first-hand look at the area around tiny North Bend, Washington, which served as a setting for David Lynch’s original series.

• And I can’t argue with this assessment, from the Classic Film and TV Café, of the 1969 private-eye film Marlowe: “At first blush, James Garner may not seem like the ideal Philip Marlowe. But in screenwriter Stirling Silliphant’s update of [Raymond] Chandler’s The Little Sister (1949), Garner channels his dry wit into an enjoyable, effective performance. It’s just a shame that the producers selected one of the lesser Marlowe novels for their movie.”

Mum’s the Word

My mother passed away long ago, and my wife and I have no children together, so Mother’s Day receives little notice at our house. But today’s holiday is of much greater importance to many other Americans. That’s made clear, if for no other reason, by the fact that there are so many crime and mystery novels associated with this annual occasion. Check out blogger Janet Rudolph’s list of them here.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dead, White, and Blue: A Brit’s
Coast-to-Coast Survey of U.S. Crime Lit

Assembling a guide to modern American crime fiction sounds like a task guaranteed to frustrate even the most astute observer and critic of the field—especially such an authority, in fact, because he or she would be unlikely to ever earn enough payment or be granted sufficient pages to do the subject justice. My office contains several shelves of reference books on this very topic, and yet every month I hear about a freshly published author or a sub-sub-subgenre of U.S. crime, mystery, or thriller fiction that I had not previously thought to investigate. American crime fiction is as sprawling and varied as the nation itself, and just as ambitious.

Nonetheless, British reviewer and raconteur Barry Forshaw has stepped up to deliver American Noir (Oldcastle/Pocket Essentials), which he calls “a snapshot” of the authors, books, films, and TV shows defining U.S. crime fiction in the early 21st century. At 192 pages long, this paperback overview—which is currently for sale in Great Britain (the American release isn’t expected until September)—can obviously not be comprehensive. It leaves out a number of rising writers and recognizable Hollywood productions that other specialists in this school of storytelling might have featured. However, for all its supposed concentration on “noir” narratives (that term is applied here only in the loosest sense), the book’s focus is broad enough that readers who think themselves well-versed in this genre might still discover new works and wordsmiths to sample next.

American Noir is the fourth entry in Forshaw’s series of brief directories to criminous yarns from around the world. It follows Nordic Noir (2013), Euro Noir (2014), and Brit Noir (2016). The author, a former vice chair of the British Crime Writers’ Association who for many years edited Crime Time magazine, also counts among his credits volumes as diverse as British Crime Writing: An Encyclopedia, The Man Who Left Too Soon: The Biography of Stieg Larsson, Death in a Cold Climate: A Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction, and Italian Cinema: Arthouse to Exploitation. Oh, and let’s not forget The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction, to which Forshaw directs readers wishing to learn more about U.S. writers of “the hard-boiled and pulp era.”

He devotes most of American Noir to alphabetically organized mini-profiles of novelists. Familiar names abound, from David Baldacci, Sara Paretsky, and James Ellroy to David Morrell, Laura Lippman, Walter Mosley, Carl Hiaasen, Karin Slaughter, George Pelecanos, Tess Gerritsen, Linwood Barclay, Megan Abbott, and Jeffery Deaver. Yet Forshaw finds room as well to remark upon the first-rate efforts of fictionists who less often draw the spotlight, folks such as Max Allan Collins, Dan Fesperman, Chris Holm, S.J. Rozan, Loren D. Estleman, Steve Hamilton, Linda Barnes, Robert Ferrigno, Philip Margolin, Chelsea Cain, Wiley Cash, and Wallace Stroby. (A requirement for admittance to these ranks was that the person still be living, which explains why such names as Donald E. Westlake, Stuart M. Kaminsky, and Elmore Leonard are missing from the book.) Included, too, are a few writers not usually associated with crime novels—Stephen King, Richard Price, Steven Bochco, etc. In most cases, Forshaw commends one or more books by the author, so you’ll have a starting point from which to explore his or her oeuvre.

By way of full disclosure, let me note—in all modesty—that I was among the “experts” Forshaw solicited for advice in compiling his list of authors to represent the current state of U.S. crime fiction. I had no say, though, over his final selections. If I had, I would probably have made a few minor alterations. For instance, I don’t see why Karen Kijewski (creator of the private eye Kat Colorado series, which hasn’t seen a fresh installment since 1998’s Stray Kat Waltz) should have merited attention here, while Stephen Greenleaf (whose John Marshall Tanner books are, I think, far superior) did out. Nor do I understand devoting a write-up to Viet Thanh Nguyen (who has published only one crime novel, be it the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Sympathizer), but referencing the more prolific Ingrid Thoft (Duplicity) and Dick Lochte (Sleeping Dogs) only in a back-pages tally of “other authors.” And why did Lawrence Block—still breathing and entertaining Bouchercon crowds at age 78—merit no mention at all? Perhaps Forshaw was satisfied with having included him in The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction. Less mysterious are the omissions of such historical mystery writers as Kris Nelscott (aka Kristine Kathryn Rusch), Louis Bayard, Kelli Stanley, D.E. Johnson, and Caleb Carr: Apparently, Forshaw is planning a separate study of their literary field.

Of course, these are mere quibbles, right up there with my lament that this paperback does not boast the sort of useful index found in the previous three Noir guides; and that Forshaw several times cites Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, even though the title of that publication became the non-possessive Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine back in the early 1990s. Thankfully, such flaws are more than made up for in other respects—by the fact, for instance, that the section of “Selected Crime Films and TV of the New Millennium” embraces worthy but forgotten productions on the order of the small-screen dramas Big Apple and Karen Sisco, plus the 2001 movie adaptation of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Pledge starring Jack Nicholson. Forshaw’s picks of “The Thirty Best Contemporary U.S. Crime Novels” are also excellent.

Nitpicking aside, American Noir offers a lively little tour of crime fiction sprouted from the Land of the Free and the Home of the Deranged, conducted by someone skilled at distinguishing gems from junk. As I said before, it’s not complete in addressing its subject; you’ll need complementary works, such as Steven Powell’s 100 American Crime Writers, to fill in the gaps. But Forshaw’s confident, often playful writing style and this book’s information-capsule format make American Noir a work that’s easy to dip into now and then, put aside, and come back to later. Consider yourself warned, though: The longer you spend with this guide and the more you learn about the current state of U.S. crime and thriller fiction, the taller your to-be-read pile is likely to grow.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Premature Evaluation

Yes, it seems awfully early to be putting together lists of the year’s best works of crime and mystery fiction. But that’s exactly what Booklist has done, continuing a longstanding tradition of being the first out of the gates with its annual reading favorites. Its picks were all reviewed in Booklist from May 1, 2016, through April 15, 2017.

Included among the magazine’s “Top 10 Crime Novels” are: Celine, by Peter Heller; Darktown, by Thomas Mullen; Let the Devil Out, by Bill Loehfelm; and Since We Fell, by Dennis Lehane. A companion list of “Best Crime Fiction Debuts” features, among others: The Dry, by Jane Harper; IQ, by Joe Ide; Little Deaths, by Emma Flint; and She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper. You will find the complete list here.

Booklist also presents lists of what it says are the year’s “Best Crime Fiction Audiobooks” and the “Best Crime Fiction for Youth.”

(Hat tip to Randal S. Brandt.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

A New Edge for “Old Knives”

From B.V. Lawson’s In Reference to Murder:
Chris Pine and Michelle Williams are in negotiations to star in All the Old Knives, a spy thriller that would be directed by James Marsh (The Theory of Everything). The movie is based on the 2015 novel The Tourist by author Olen Steinhauer, who will also adapt the screenplay. The story revolves around a pair of CIA spies once romantically involved who reconnect in Carmel-by-the-Sea six years after a failed mission and both have moved on—or so it seems.
Double O Section has more to say about this project.