Friday, January 30, 2015

The Book You Have to Read:
“Epitaph for a Dead Beat,” by David Markson

(Editor’s note: This is the 133rd installment in our series about great but forgotten books. Today’s tribute comes from Steve Nester, host of Poets of the Tabloid Murder, a weekly Internet radio show heard on the Public Radio Exchange [PRX]. Nester is also a freelance writer, who has become a frequent contributor to this series; his last entry looked back at 1940’s They Don’t Dance Much, by James Ross.)

Why novelist David Markson put a bullet in the head of his excellent but truncated (just two books) Harry Fannin detective series in order to write experimental fiction is a mystery and, as a hipper-than-thou character might say in one of these novels--which you really need to read--a real drag. May Markson (1927-2010) rest in peace, and may his vaunted later literary work be appreciated and remain available forever; however, he had a talent for the detective genre which he laid to rest way before its time, leaving an appreciative audience hanging. His skill at observing and endowing the dull with sparkle is equal to Raymond Chandler’s. His plots are intriguing enough to hold interest, but not so convoluted as to send the reader off chasing his or her tail--something the great Chandler admitted to doing, though he seemed helpless to stop himself. Epitaph for a Dead Beat (1961) is a well-plotted private-eye novel, a sharp parody of the Beat Generation, and the last in Markson’s series. Somewhere I just know there is a coffeehouse where detective-story aficionados are snapping their fingers in pleasure that both of these novels (Epitaph for a Dead Beat and 1959 predecessor, Epitaph for a Tramp) are still in print.

Wry and brainy and much-wounded, the underemployed narrator, Harry Fannin, is a regular guy. He drives a Chevy and lives on the outskirts of the hippest neighborhood around, New York City’s Greenwich Village. Fannin sticks out like a sore thumb, making him the nonconformist, but no one is able to put down their copy of Howl long enough to see it. The beatniks are insecure, insular, and insolent, as one confronts Fannin hissing, “I might have known you’d be a square. The complacent, scoffing masses--dear God, a religious revelation could appear on their television screens and they’d phone for the repairman.” Although the neighborhood teems with artists and posers, literary types real and affected, Fannin is the most literate character in this novel. He tosses off allusions, wordplay, and insight--making it new, as Ezra Pound admonished, in a manner in which few of this book’s actors do, so stiff is the adherence of those humorless hipsters to the draconian code of serious art which, in their minds at least, separates the doers from the schmoozers, and which saps the joy from the act of creating.

As this murder mystery and missing-person tale begins, Fannin wanders into a Village bar, “a bleak, untinseled cavern as long as a throw from first to second base.” There, flailing poet Ephraim Turk confronts and slaps femme fatale Fern Hoerner, after accusing her of corrupting his girlfriend, Josie Welch. With a “laugh like cashmere,” Fern knows how to turn on the femininity and is the obvious Miss Wonderly to Fannin’s Sam Spade. No pushover, she can hang with the men and turn the louche into lady as easily as changing her earrings.
She was drinking beer from a bottle, lifting her head and tilting her chair against the wall like a man might do. The way she did it would’ve made it acceptable at a DAR meeting.
Fern is cool and possessed in the face of Turk’s aggressive haranguing, but Fannin sees the flint beneath her skin.
I looked back at the girl. Whatever it was, she wasn’t buying. She wasn’t even in the shop. She lifted the bottle deliberately, gazing at him the way she might gaze at a rain she knew she did not have to go out into.
When Fannin acts chivalrously, escorting Fern home--only to find roommate Josie dead--the classic cat-and-mouse game of a P.I. trying to solve a case on the word of self-motivated corroborators, with the police on the other side trying to crack it, begins. As he wades into the affair, Fannin finds no real surprises, just confirmation that beatniks are not as beatific as they claim and that the dollar is still the holiest thing in town.

In time Fannin pieces together a solution to the crime. But there are plenty of pieces and players involved, including a dead novelist and a calculating ex-wife who’s taken possession of his groundbreaking manuscript to claim it as her own; two sisters who try blackmailing that ex-wife, only to have their efforts backfire with their deaths; and the sisters’ wealthy father, who dies merely because he unwittingly got in the way. The noirish sideshow of Fannin’s old college football teammate, who’s now a high-class pimp, makes for a diverting red herring, but above all else there is Fannin’s humanity and realism, revealed quietly and sometimes puckishly, as when he finds the second extorting sister dead. With no clues and a mounting body count, curiosity prompts him to consider opening the locket around her neck, but he stops, thinking “There would be a picture of Philo Vance inside, sticking his tongue at me. I looked at the knife instead.”

Markson has the types down pat, from the cop with “a face which had already seen everything twice, and had been bored the first time,” to the dippy beatniks who come off sounding like a couple of Borscht Belt veterans playing to a younger crowd in the Poconos.
Behind me two others were raving. “--Hitchhiked all the way? Well, man, I hope you read On the Road.--“

“Now how could I read when I’m on the road? I mean, I’ve got my duffle in one hand and I’m using the other to thumb with, so how could I read a book?”
Beneath the catch-the-crook hustle, P.I. novels can be either intense looks into human character or mirrors of their times. Epitaph for a Dead Beat is both. It’s a slap in the face of an artistic movement perverted into a pretentious social phenomenon. The hubris needed to take one step further into the shadows to see how much truth is hidden there is what makes gumshoes tick, and Harry Fannin possesses that with none of the heavy-handed moralizing of so many fictional P.I.s. That makes him all the more real, and all the more missed.

READ MORE:An Interview with David Markson,” by Joey Rubin (Bookslut); “David Markson, R.I.P.,” by Sarah Weinman (Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind).

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bullet Points: Pre-Super Bowl Edition

I’m not usually a football follower, but living in Seattle, it’s hard not to get caught up in all of the excitement surrounding this Sunday’s Super Bowl game, pitting the Seattle Seahawks against the New England Patriots. My wife and I were actually invited to a Super Bowl party, and we’ve accepted--even though most of the folks who will be attending aren’t football enthusiasts either, just bandwagon fans, so we’ll all be equally confused by the twists and turns of play. It should make for a funny scene. Anyway, fingers crossed for the ’Hawks.

• Amid all the publicity surrounding Paula Hawkins’ debut crime thriller, The Girl on the Train (Riverhead), Crime Fiction Lover surveys the broader field of “railways in crime fiction.” Works by Edward Marston, John Buchan, and (no surprise here) Agatha Christie all figure prominently in the mix.

I had a good deal to say about the beautiful book The Art of Robert E. McGinnis when it was first published last fall. But blogger Andrew Nette piles on with this recent appreciation in Pulp Curry.

• There’s been lots of news recently from Hard Case Crime. Not only does it have two long-out-of-print Ed McBain works slated for publication (one this coming July, the other--with a McGinnis-painted front--planned for release come January 2016), but it’s readying a brand-new Lawrence Block novel, The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes, for distribution in September 2015. According to a news release, Block’s book “tells the story of a former New York police officer, now working as a private eye in Florida, who gets drawn into the web of a local wife who’s looking for a hit man to help her become a widow. Block has described the book as ‘a down-and-dirty noir thriller, characterized by my Hollywood agent as “James M. Cain on Viagra.”’”

• “The 50 Sexiest Literary Villains,” according to Flavorwire, include Helen Grayle from Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Irene Adler, Veda Pierce from James M. Cain’s Mildred Pierce, and Francisco Scaramanga, played by Christopher Lee in the 1974 film version of Ian Fleming’s The Man with the Golden Gun.

• I have never before seen this 1976 British telefilm adaptation of Geoffrey Household’s best-known thriller, Rogue Male. Watch it yourself … before YouTube takes it down.

• For January Magazine, Brooklyn critic Anthony Rainone reviews The Burning Room, the latest entry in Michael Connelly’s popular Harry Bosch detective series.

• Unfortunately, I have two deaths to report: Best-selling Australian novelist Colleen McCullough has passed away at age 77. Although she was known most widely as the author of The Thorn Birds (1977), which was made into a 1983 TV miniseries starring Richard Chamberlin and Rachel Ward, McCullough also penned five novels featuring a small-town detective named Carmine Delmonico (beginning with 2006’s On, Off). Meanwhile, Elizabeth Foxwell notes in The Bunburyist that “Helen Eustis, Edgar winner for The Horizontal Man (1946) and the last living author on the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone list of essential mysteries, died on January 11 at age 98. She was also known for The Fool Killer (1954, adapted for a 1965 film with Anthony Perkins).”

• Friend of The Rap Sheet Tony Black (Artefacts of the Dead) has a stage play, The Ringer, opening for a two-day run at the Gaity Theater in Ayr, Scotland, on Wednesday, February 11. “Told in the raw Scots tongue,” it’s based on his short 2014 novel of the same name. As the Gaity’s Web site explains, this “hard-hitting crime drama … is a cautionary tale of revenge, enacted upon the most unsavory of characters.” Here’s a plot synopsis:
For small-time Glasgow drug dealer Stauner, life is sweet when he meets Monique. With free board and an unpaid servant at his beck and call, the daily trip to the bookies is his toughest chore. It could all be too good to be true, but the misogynist Stauner stupidly believes it’s his due. When the wide boy’s deluded state persuades him that Monique should steal from night-club boss Davie Geddes, however, Stauner’s arrogance gets the better of him. Soon his cloak of small-minded bigotry is stripped from him and he’s forced to pay for the grievous misdeeds of his past.
Click here to watch a video preview of The Ringer. UPDATE: There’s more coverage of Black’s stage play to be accessed here.

• Ian Rankin’s Inspector John Rebus is being called out of retirement once more. The Scottish author isn’t giving much information regarding his next Rebus novel, but he did tweet recently, “I’m keeping the title of my next book under wraps, but am beginning to wish I hadn’t named it after a song with such a catchy chorus …”

• As I’ve mentioned, UK screenwriter and author Anthony Horowitz (House of Silk, Moriarty) has completed his writing on the next James Bond novel, “based on an Ian Fleming idea for a never-made James Bond television series and [with] a setting in the world of auto racing.” Like Ian Rankin, Horowitz isn’t revealing the title of his book yet, but The HMSS Weblog has a suggestion for what it could be.

• Let me go on record as agreeing with Kristopher Zgorski’s comment, in BOLO Books, that Grantchester, the British sleuth drama now showing in the United States as part of PBS-TV’s Masterpiece Mystery! series, “is a pure delight to watch.” Based on the fiction of James Runcie, it stars James Norton (who played the creepiest of killers in Season 1 of Happy Valley) as Anglican priest and amateur gumshoe Sidney Chambers, who repeatedly comes to the investigative aid of overworked, ill-tempered Detective Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green). As Zgorski explains, “The first season of Grantchester is based on the debut novel in the series, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death [2012]. Since the book is more of a collection of short stories featuring recurring characters, the television series follows the same format. Each hour-long episode is dedicated to one case that Sidney and Geordie must solve. As one would expect, the mysteries contained within have various levels of complexity, but they are nevertheless entertaining.” Only two of six episodes of Grantchester have been broadcast so far, and Criminal Element’s Leslie Gilbert Elman is keeping close track of them.

• Hmm. I, for one, had never looked at Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire as a mystery. But apparently I should have.

• In the blog Ontos, Mike Gray looks back at three episodes of the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) that featured detective and mystery themes. If my memory serves, however, the first time Star Trek incorporated a criminal investigation into its fictional universe was in “Wolf in the Fold,” a 1967 episode of the original series that found the Enterprise’s chief engineer, Montgomery Scott, being suspected of having slain several women during a shore leave on the planet Argelius II.

• I only vaguely recall this Saturday morning cartoon show.

• And don’t forget that the submission deadline for entries to the 2015 Debut Dagger competition, organized by the British Crime Writers’ Association, is this Saturday, January 31. As the CWA Web site explains, “The Debut Dagger is open to anyone who has not yet had a novel published commercially. All shortlisted entrants will receive a professional assessment of their entries. Winning the Debut Dagger doesn’t guarantee you’ll get published. But it does mean your work will be seen by leading agents and top editors, who have signed up over two dozen winners and shortlisted Debut Dagger competitors.”

Monday, January 26, 2015

Rose City Rivalries

Organizers of Left Coast Crime 2015 (“Crimelandia”), to be held in Portland, Oregon, from March 12 to 15, today announced the nominees for four different awards. Winners will be chosen by convention registrants and announced during a banquet on Saturday, March 14.

The Lefty (for the best humorous mystery novel):
The Good, the Bad, and the Emus, by Donna Andrews (Minotaur)
Herbie’s Game, by Timothy Hallinan (Soho Crime)
January Thaw, by Jess Lourey (Midnight Ink)
Dying for a Dude, by Cindy Sample (Cindy Sample)
Suede to Rest, by Diane Vallere (Berkley Prime Crime)

The Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award (for the best mystery novel covering events before 1960):
Queen of Hearts, by Rhys Bowen (Berkley Prime Crime)
From the Charred Remains, by Susanna Calkins (Minotaur)
A Deadly Measure of Brimstone, by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur)
City of Ghosts, by Kelli Stanley (Minotaur)
Cup of Blood, by Jeri Westerson (Old London Press)

The Rose (for the best mystery novel set in the LCC region, “commemorating our Portland location”):
One Kick, by Chelsea Cain (Simon & Schuster)
Glass Houses, by Terri Nolan (Midnight Ink)
Pirate Vishnu, by Gigi Pandian (Henery Press)
Deadly Bonds, by L.J. Sellers (Thomas & Mercer)
Plaster City, by Johnny Shaw (Thomas & Mercer)

The Rosebud (for the best first mystery novel set anywhere
in the world):

Kilmoon, by Lisa Alber (Muskrat Press)
Ice Shear, by M.P. Cooley (Morrow)
The Life We Bury, by Allen Eskens (Seventh Street)
The Black Hour, by Lori Rader-Day (Seventh Street)
Mistress of Fortune, by Holly West (Carina Press)

If you have still not registered to participate in LCC 2015, and would like to, you may do so here.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Believe It: Ripley Comes Storme-ing Back

How is it that I made it all the way through the 1990s without ever once picking up a Wyatt Storme thriller? The protagonist--a Vietnam War veteran, former wide receiver with the Dallas Cowboys, and occasional troubleshooter--and his more dangerous sidekick, screw-loose ex-CIA operative Chick Easton, are not only engaging and supremely resourceful, but guaranteed to bring a smile to your face now and then. Here, for instance, is a late passage from the new novel Storme Warning (Brash Books), in which Storme is “invited” into the company of a mobster named Gus Giovanni:
“We know a lot about you, Storme,” said Giovanni. “War hero. Silver Star, Bronze Star. Even understand you might’ve been a candidate for the Medal of Honor, but you don’t take orders so good. Is that right?”

“I was also a hall monitor in the third grade.”
If you’re thinking that last line could just as easily have been delivered by a certain fictional Boston private eye … well, you’re not the first person to make the connection between Storme and Robert B. Parker’s Spenser. In its review of the third Storme novel, Electric Country Roulette (1996), Kirkus Reviews opined that “Storme has acquired some of the catlike moves of the early Spenser, before he got to be such a prig.” And in a promotional video for Storme Warning, Brash Books co-founder Lee Goldberg says the novel’s author, W.L. Ripley, “is, in a way, the second coming of Robert Parker.”

That’s a heap of praise to live up to, but Pleasant Hill, Missouri, author Ripley (whose first initials stand for “Warren Lee”) does a pretty good job of it with Storme Warning. As I explain in my column this week for Kirkus, this novel finds Storme and Easton
providing protection to Cameron Fogarty, a charismatic but indomitably irresponsible young Hollywood hotshot who’s portraying 19th-century outlaw Jesse James in a big-budget Western film being shot on Storme’s Missouri acreage (much to the retired NFL star’s displeasure). Fogarty has reportedly received death threats, yet he’s not the only one at risk here. A racist, conscience-deprived former mob enforcer, “Glory Rory” Marchibroda, has recently been freed from prison and wants vengeance on Storme for what he sees as a past injustice. Trying to keep Fogarty safe from would-be killers--not to mention his own poor judgment--while steering clear of confrontations with Marchibroda will be a full-time job for Storme and Easton, one that may bring them down before they get anywhere near this tale’s end zone.
Storme Warning is the fourth entry in Ripley’s series--but the first new one to be published in 19 years. After putting Storme and Easton through their paces in Dreamsicle (1993), Storme Front (1994), and the aforementioned Electric Country Roulette, Ripley began a new series, that one starring an “enigmatic ex-Secret Service agent” named Cole Springer (introduced in Springer’s Gambit, 2001). He feared the market for Storme and Easton had dried up and blown away--at least until Brash Books came calling. While preparing last year’s launch of that ambitious, independent print/e-book venture, Goldberg and his publishing partner, Joel Goldman, asked Ripley whether he’d like to give his original series a second lease on life. Having taken retirement not long before then, after more than three dozen years as an educator in the Show Me State, Ripley suddenly had more of the free time he’d always wanted to write fiction, so was ready for the challenge. The results of their deal will be seen not only in Storme Warning (which is officially due out on February 2), but more entries in both the Storme and Springer series, and maybe even some different sorts of crime novels to follow. Ripley calls his association with Brash “a partnership that works for me. The publishers treat my books as if they authored them. Worth a million bucks and an autographed photo of Julius Caesar.”

I recently e-mailed Ripley (now 62 years old, though he claims to “have the body of a man 59”) more than a few questions about his teaching career, his publishing struggles, his crime-fiction tastes, his oft-stated interest in cigars, Storme’s reclusiveness, and myriad other subjects. Part of our exchange went into this week’s Kirkus column, but the rest--really, the larger portion--can be enjoyed below.

J. Kingston Pierce: Information about your work history seems to be rather thin on the Web. Did you start out as a sportswriter and then become an educator, or was it the other way around? Where did you teach, and what subjects were your specialties?

W.L. Ripley: I was a sportswriter while in college, even while I was playing basketball. I wrote for my college paper and the editor/sponsor liked my writing and helped me get a job with a daily newspaper, the Sedalia Democrat. After graduation I began teaching and coaching basketball at the high-school level. I still did some spot reporting for the Democrat and over the years I have served as an interim reporter/editor for some local newspapers.

I was a physical education teacher, but I also taught and held degrees in Social Studies, Driver Education, and Special Services (behavior disorders/emotionally disturbed). I taught and coached for 10 years, first at the high-school level and then at the NCAA Division II level, where we were fortunate to win over 200 games. I loved basketball, both coaching and playing, but I had bad knees and four young children, so I left the coaching profession. I have an advanced degree in Secondary School Administration and served as a school principal/administrator for 27 years. I also taught at two universities--Southwest Baptist University and Missouri University of Science and Technology--teaching education courses at both places and physical education courses at SBU.

I once wrote a research paper in a post-graduate class [on which] the professor wrote, “You’re either a tremendous writer or you plagiarized this entire paper.” I confronted him and asked him if he was prejudiced because I was a basketball coach. He admitted he was, and then asked why I coached when I could write like that? I told him, “Because right now I’m not through coaching.” I got an “A.”

JKP: And are you still teaching? If not, how long ago did you retire from that noble profession?

WLR: I am in my third year of retirement. I loved it, but I had done the education thing for 37 years and wanted to have more time for my wife, my kids, my grandchildren, and my writing. My knees were ruined from playing basketball many decades ago and required knee replacement. I couldn’t get around as much as I needed and I was unable to climb or go down stairs without pain.

JKP: Your first published novel, Dreamsicle, reached bookstores in 1993. But was that actually the first novel you wrote? Or are there other, unpublished novels of yours secreted in a drawer someplace, never again to see the light of day?

WLR: I started out wanting to be a young-adult author, and when I submitted manuscripts I received critiques from editors such as, “This is the best teen sports novel I’ve ever read” and “This is far too intelligent for the teen audience. The writer is slumming.” Or, “High-school kids don’t talk like this” (they hadn’t met my four kids or they wouldn’t have said that). “This is an excellent young-adult book. But too much testosterone for … (I won’t name the well-known publishing house).” I got that last critique by accident, and the female editor was embarrassed and a little frightened I got it. I asked what she would’ve done if a male editor said that a female authored a book with “too much estrogen.” I put her at ease, because I just want to know what they think. I also heard that “boys don’t buy books,” but I always felt publishing houses didn’t care to give boys anything to read. It was very frustrating, so I wrote Dreamsicle, and wrote in it in one fine long flash. I should’ve been writing mysteries all the while.

I do have one of those YA novels, and will publish it in the near future.

JKP: Are you a longtime reader of crime fiction?

WLR: I’ve always read a lot and still do. I’ve read the entire Sherlock Holmes canon, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and many other mystery/thriller authors. It was John D. McDonald’s Travis McGee books that really lit a fuse under me. I’ve read all of the McGee books more than once. Rex Stout was another favorite, and I was greatly influenced by Robert B. Parker and Elmore Leonard, my two all-time favorites. I was saddened by the passing of these two giants, but fortunately, Ace Atkins has continued the Spenser saga in excellent fashion, so right now I look forward to that [as well as his] Quinn Colson novels. James Lee Burke is a huge favorite and I always look forward to reading his work. Burke is the best stylist in the genre and a Faulknerian. Burke makes the setting a living part of his stories; as much a character as Dave Robicheaux. I’ve read most of Raymond Chandler’s novels and enjoy C.J. Box, Tom Kakonis, and Jack Lynch. Presently I’m working on the Fox and O’Hare trilogy [by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg]. There is so much good stuff out there right now, and I’m enjoying myself.

I have also read many of the classics, including Dumas, Dickens, Shakespeare, Poe, all of Tokien’s Middle Earth saga, and pretty much anything I can get my hands on. I’ve read Norman Mailer and many other writers outside the genre. I’ve read Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye three times and will probably read it again. I’m influenced by Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway and, oddly, Hunter S. Thompson (go figure that one).

Ironically, I’ve read very few Western novels, though I have read Louis L’Amour.

Two others are Dan Jenkins (Semi-Tough) and the late Pete Gent (North Dallas Forty and The Franchise). These were sports novels that influenced me when I was developing Wyatt Storme. Jenkins’ brand of humor is just marvelous and I had phone conversations with Gent, who once worked to set up a meeting [for me] with Hunter S. Thompson for a book blurb through mutual friends--[but it] fell through when Thompson didn’t show and was incoherent when my publicity guy got hold of him via the phone. Would’ve liked to have met him, as he was kind of a hero of mine.

JKP: Storme Warning is your fourth novel starring Wyatt Storme and his rather unpredictable cohort, Chick Easton. How do you think those two characters have evolved since their early days together?

WLR: When they first met, Storme found Easton’s heavy drinking off-putting. He also thought Easton was full of it, until he saw him in action. Easton quickly learned that Storme is slow to involve himself in things that require his involvement. They have come to be fast friends, closer than brothers, and Storme is the only man to whom Chick Easton will confide his fears and his doubts. They have an unspoken bond whereby Storme knows Easton will be there, and Easton intuits when Storme will zig and when he will zag. Storme has become the first person in many years of Easton’s dark life who always does what he says and says what he means. Storme is a throwback; Easton typifies the modern action hero. Storme is thinking more and more about how to resolve his relationship with Sandra Collingsworth [a FOX-TV personality 10 years his junior], and Easton is getting a better handle on his alcoholism. Easton admires Storme’s values and the length to which Storme will go to protect his integrity. Storme admires Easton’s devil-may-care attitude and is touched by Easton’s fierce loyalty.

JKP: What are the most important things about Wyatt Storme that most people in his world don’t understand about him?

WLR: Why would he walk away from all the adulation and money [of professional football]? Why did he not enjoy his celebrity? Additionally, when and where did he acquire his unique skills? What causes a man to move away from civilization?

JKP: So, why does Wyatt Storme choose to be such a recluse?

WLR: Storme was tired of being in the limelight. He liked playing football and the satisfying ballet-like action of plucking a football out of space. He loved the rhythm and atmosphere of the game, but thought it silly that people ascribed importance to it. To Storme, the game was everything and the rest of it, merely the annoyance he had to endure that allowed him to do the thing he loved. I felt the same way playing and coaching basketball. I didn’t care if anyone came to the games, as long as we got to play. Coaches are the last cowboys, the greatest people I know. I was coaching a game once when the lobby caught on fire. Smoke was billowing out into the arena, people were up in their seats, rushing to the lobby, and I was unaware of it until I noticed my assistant coaches were gone. I asked where they went and one of my players said, “Coach, the lobby’s on fire.” I looked across the floor and said, “Well, that’s none of their business.” The official scorer heard me, put his head down on the table and laughed uncontrollably saying, “Coaches are crazy.”

When I coached, as soon as the game was over I wanted to see my kids and get away so I could savor the moments I had just enjoyed with other coaches or in the privacy of my home.

Storme is like that.

JKP: I asked how Storme has evolved since Dreamsicle saw print. Now let me ask how you have evolved as a writer since then. And what do you now know about the novel-writing biz or your characters that you wish you’d understood from the outset?

WLR: I’ve learned how hard it is to compete against oneself. Each new work carries the expectations of the previous novel and the desire to exceed it and improve upon it. [Developing] character arcs in series novels is a more difficult task than I had first imagined, as you must maintain your character for fans of the series while still having the characters go through some changes before the novel’s denouement in order to create a fresh novel for first-time readers. Yet, you still have to keep your character’s basic attributes and outlook intact.

I wish someone had clued me in about how much work is involved. This is where beginning writers fall back. It is damned hard work and you’re in it alone. They think it’s going to be easy and then they quickly learn that it is [all about] knowing literature, research, writing every day, editing, rewriting, studying the writing task, and worst of all, rejection. Too often I talk to beginning writers who quit after their first rejection.

It’s a truism that I could paper the walls of my office with rejection letters. Writers don’t quit, wannabes do.

One of the most frustrating aspects is when people think I don’t do anything because they don’t see me writing. It’s not a spectator sport. I’m in my office every morning banging away at the keyboard, trying to chip away at a book that will sell and that readers will enjoy. I know the next book is in my keyboard somewhere and I just have to figure out the code under my fingers.

I have also learned that there is no bad criticism. I value the critique of my colleagues, critics, and readers. Sometimes the criticism is valid and I correct in the next book. And sometimes the criticism makes me laugh, especially at those times when critics get all ticked off at the “macho” antics of my characters. I note that the greats get nasty reviews of books that I truly enjoyed. Tastes vary.

I was a basketball coach and a high-school principal. I’m immune to slanderous criticism.

I wrote Storme (and my earlier unpublished attempts) in first-person point of view. First-person is fun, but the writer’s movement is restricted, as you can only detail those things that the protagonist (Storme) sees, thinks, feels, or witnesses. For the Cole Springer novels I wanted to have more freedom of movement in my novel, so I went with a third-person point of view.

For Storme Warning, I did something new. I interspersed Storme’s singular point of view with a smattering of the first-person viewpoint of the revenge-minded button man, Rory Marchibroda. In Storme Warning the reader will learn what motivates Rory and also why he hates Storme. It adds a horror flavor to the thriller, as Rory is a nasty piece of work.

JKP: What have you still not mastered as a fiction writer?

WLR: Self-promotion. I’m not comfortable with it. It probably stems from my career as a coach/teacher/principal, where you don’t want to take credit away from your players, students, and teachers. I accomplished nothing without the efforts of those people, but now I’m in this alone and it’s different. I must learn to self-promote and I’m still learning.

I also have an Archie Goodwin/Jiminy Cricket of my own in my son Jared. Jared does the promo on my Amazon and Facebook pages. He is churlish when I make a wrong step. His favorite phrase is “(insert profanity) old people and technology.” He does an amazing job behind the scenes. My wife, Penny, is also sharp about promotion and set up the best signing I have had to date with Barnes & Noble bookstores. So, I have help but remain promotionally challenged.

I’ll never master this craft. I’m constantly learning things about the writing task. My coaching background is a plus, as every coach has to continue to learn, or die. If you think you know everything about writing you’ll never realize how dumb you are, and your books will fizzle.

JKP: I must admit that Storme Warning is the first entry I’ve read in your series, so I am a little confused about the settings of these books. At least the first couple seem to have been set in Colorado, rather than Missouri. Did you decide later on to move Storme and Chick, or will their adventures take them back and forth between the two locales?

WLR: From the beginning I wanted Storme in both places. He is a hunter and loves the scenery of the Missouri Ozarks and the Colorado Rockies. Storme played college football at Colorado State in Fort Collins, Colorado, and he likes the Missouri Ozarks for its fall weather and bird hunting. I likewise love both places as they are still unspoiled and away from the concrete and neon.

JKP: In Storme Warning you have Storme and Chick trying to provide protection for the thoroughly obnoxious young star of a Western picture that’s being shot on Storme’s property. What made you want to write this particular story?

WLR: I love old Westerns. My novels are all set west of the Mississippi and are modern-day Westerns. Storme and Easton ride into town, dispatch the bad guys, and then disappear into the sunset.

JKP: Do you have favorite Western films?

WLR: There is nothing so uniquely Americana as the Western. I love John Wayne and Clint Eastwood films, but there are many other Westerns I’ve watched over the years. Wayne established the classic Western hero and Clint nailed the anti-hero protagonist. [I love] My Darling Clementine and High Noon, along with Randolph Scott and Jimmy Stewart’s ’50s horse operas. I also loved the old Saturday cinema oaters: The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, and Roy Rogers. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a favorite and has a lot to do with who Storme and Easton are in my books. The best Western of the last 20 years, Tombstone, was so good that it has been hard for Hollywood to come close since that time, and I can watch it over and over because it’s like a good song.

videoThe trailer for Tombstone (1993).

JKP: Storme Warning is often serious, but also packs in a lot of humor. Do you set out to be funny, or do your characters just lead you there? And are you as funny in real life as your players are on the page?

WLR: I don’t set out to be humorous. It doesn’t work if I force it. It has to evolve organically under your hands. I usually have to go back and eliminate some of it. My sons will tell you, “Dad’s not funny, but he can write funny stuff.” I allow the situation to dictate the humor. Chick Easton is a humor machine, as he has such a sideways outlook. Cole Springer’s humor is ironic and meant to goad his adversaries into anger. Storme’s humor runs to amusing himself and Easton. Humor also works to take the reader’s mind off subtle clues, breaks tension, and sometimes foreshadows coming events.

Am I ever as funny in real life? Sporadically. A lot of things that Storme, Easton, and Springer say are things I’ve said many times in the past. As an educator I had to deal with many pompous individuals, and my favorite form of retaliation was to say something that they wouldn’t realize was an insult until several hours or days later.

My other personal use of humor and wit was to make teachers, students, and players laugh or get them to relax in pressure situations. Sometimes it backfired on me. I was placed on the Homecoming Committee at Southwest Baptist University, a place that is still dear to me. Everyone else on the committee was a pastor or a Theology professor. When I was asked if I had any ideas for Homecoming activities, I said, “We could have a dance.”

It wasn’t well-received. Nobody laughed.

I had to follow up with, “It’s a joke.” Still, no laughter. Baptists don’t dance, you know.

When I related the incident to my fellow coaches in the athletic department they cracked up. “See, that’s funny isn’t it?” I said. “Well, nobody laughed and it was uncomfortable.” The guys loved the fact that it made me ill at ease.

When I have a good line, I just can’t resist.

JKP: How was it that you hooked up with Joel Goldman and Lee Goldberg from Brash Books and found new life for Storme? Had you already lost hope by then that he would ever appear again?

WLR: I had given up on Storme and was committed to Springer as well as writing a couple of standalone novels with new characters that will be published in the next two years. Ace Atkins was the guy who told Goldberg and Goldman how to locate me.

JKP: I know you’re hard at work on a fifth Storme novel for Brash, to be titled Wind Storme. But are you already thinking ahead to the series’ sixth installment? Do you think the series has legs again?

WLR: I do. If not I’ll write something else. I write novels I would buy and read myself. I cannot conceive of not writing. I have to write. It is the next best thing to playing basketball for me. My audience and best critics are my sons and daughter, all highly educated individuals who are creative and love books and film. I write the books with my kids in mind, and it pays off. They are brutal critics and always dead on.

There will be more Storme and Springer. I long to do an Elmore Leonard thing by breaking away once in a while to write whatever books and characters interest me, rather than just series characters, but until now the time demands of my job kept me from doing that. With that in mind, I’ve written two other novels with two new characters, one of which could become a series character (I already have a sequel in mind for that one).

I like Storme and Springer. They’re friends, guys I’d hang out with. I know them, hear their voices in my head. And I love Chick Easton and have friends very much like him--not that violent, but truly that funny.

JKP: You mentioned a fourth Cole Springer book. Can you tell me more about what that might offer readers?

WLR: Springer is fun to write and I have so many ideas for future Springer novels. Constantly, people tell me they have an idea for a book. My problem is, I have dozens of ideas for books. My problem is picking just one I want to write. My agent, Donald Maass, once told me that “Springer is smarter than everyone.” I told him, “However, I’m not smarter than everyone,” and I now know how Doyle felt about Sherlock. It makes it sometimes problematic to write a character like Springer, but I like him and, besides, I have time and the research tools to “be smarter than anyone” when Springer does something.

Springer is a moveable feast, who I can use to hit the hot spots Storme would be loath to go. Springer lives in Aspen [Colorado] but also hits places like Las Vegas and San Francisco, as well as Hawaii, Cancun, and other exotic spots. Springer would be comfortable in Washington, D.C., or Malibu and still enjoys the outdoor atmosphere the Rocky Mountains and the New American West provide. Like Storme, Springer is an unusual man to set up housekeeping in Aspen. I’ve been to Aspen three times and it is just the place to put deadly characters. It is culture shock for both.

Springer is a bigger wise-ass than Storme and has skills reminiscent of Easton, but is less deadly, even less likely to use those skills and more likely to use his wits to overcome obstacles. Springer is a genial con man much like characters James Garner often played, such as [Bret] Maverick, only far tougher. Springer’s books are more caper novels than the Storme books, but it’s all in good clean fun …

I have developed a fourth novel, wherein Springer comes to the aid of an old girlfriend. [It’s] set in either Hawaii, Playa Del Carmen, or San Diego; I like all three locations. I also have plans to bring back Max Shapiro (a neurotic, complaining mob money-launderer Springer saved from the mob in Springer’s Gambit). So far, the new Springer novels exist in development as novellas/synopses, but they are very much alive and ready to be written. However, right now I’m all in on the fifth Storme novel, Wind Storme, and as my son tells me, “Just focus on one at a time.” How’d he get so smart with me as his dad?

JKP: You’re writing novels primarily for Brash Books now?

WLR: I’m writing Wind Storme for Brash. … The new Springer will also be written with Brash Books in mind. [Goldberg and Goldman] are, right now, the best publishers in the industry for mysteries and thrillers. They understand these books, they love them, and they are successful mystery authors in their own right. They treat writers like they themselves would like to be treated. They have a vision about the electronic revolution in books and are on the cutting edge.

Of my non-Storme/Springer books, Goldberg and I have a difference of opinion in style and execution of the one he’s seen, Home Fires, which we may resolve, or I may go elsewhere. Goldberg is a brilliant editor and I value his opinion and will take another look at Home Fires when I finish Wind Storme. Brash has not seen the other novel, McBride: Double Down (working title), but they might in the near future.

One thing I’ve learned is you must trust your own instincts. My agent, Donald Maass, didn’t like Springer’s Gambit, so I submitted it [to a publisher] myself. It sold right away and when it did, I went back and asked [Maass] to negotiate the contract. Don was surprised I would go back to him, but I like his honesty and he was able to exploit the subsidiary rights, including film options that I would not otherwise have realized.

As an observation, not a criticism, I will posit that if editors and agents always knew what made a good novel, they’d be writing them instead of publishing and selling them.

Home Fires is set in the Midwest and is a you-can’t-go-home-again type of mystery, and more of a police procedural than I have done in the past. It concerns a suspended Texas Ranger returning to his hometown upon the death of his father and best friend under suspicious circumstances. When he returns to the scene of his adolescence, he finds his past and his mistakes rising up to smack him in the face.

McBride: Double Down is about Vegas, dirty dealings, and a small-time convenience-store robbery which nets the hapless robbers a fortune in diamonds and perfect counterfeit plates for a small Central American country’s currency. Unfortunately for the robbers, the plates belong to Red Cavanaugh, the biggest kingpin in Vegas, and Cavanaugh wants the plates back and the robbers dead. He also wants McBride to locate them. McBride, who runs a small, barely profitable Vegas security company, has a gambling debt owed to Cavanaugh and has to find the robbers, but McBride intends to double-cross Cavanaugh and spare the crooks. Cavanaugh also appeared in Pressing the Bet (Cole Springer No. 2). Look for the introduction of Chick Easton’s nephew (honest!), Trey Easton, as well as the return of sexy Vegas Metro Detective Tara St. John (also from Pressing the Bet).

JKP: And when are the original three entries in your Storme series--Hail Storme (the retitled Dreamsicle), Storme Front, and Eye of the Storme (previously Electric Country Roulette)--due out from Brash?

WLR: Hail Storme will be released this May, followed by Storme Front and Eye of the Storme at intervals during 2015. They will all be available before the end of the year. Brash Books has a definite schedule in mind for the Storme series.

JKP: OK, as a fellow cigar smoker, I just have to ask you what cigar(s) you prefer. And how long have you been a cigar fan?

WLR: I’ve been smoking cigars since I was 19 years old. I started out smoking Swisher Sweets (the Boone’s Farm wine of cigars) and Dutch Masters. Since that time I’ve graduated to hand-rolled cigars, and it opened up a new experience for me. I’ve smoked about all of them, including Cuban cigars. Macanudos, Partagas, H. Upmann, Monte Cristo, Acid cigars, Romeo y Juliet, Arturo Fuente, and even smaller cigars like Parodi, Schimmelpenninck (whatever happened to those? Can’t find them anymore), and about anything that is well put together. I used to be able to smoke the powerful sticks, but as I’ve aged I’ve found I have to stay with the milder blends like Macanudo, Don Diego, Griffins, and Excalibur. My usual smoke is the Macanudo Hyde Park, but I like them all. The beauty of the leaf well-rolled is that I can smoke cigars every day for a month and then not smoke one for weeks. That is the difference between cigarettes and cigars.

I am a time-and-place cigar smoker. I want the conditions to be ideal. Right temperature and atmosphere so I can enjoy the cigar. When I’m smoking a cigar I relax and think over what I’m going to write next. At those times it’s hard to get my attention. My wife will not allow me to smoke in the house (she’s a volleyball coach with a mean left), so I’m relegated to our back deck and smoking rooms. I always pack a cigar or two when I golf and it is the reason I play the game so well … well, maybe not so well, yet it takes the edge off my frustration with my short game.

I love getting cigars as gifts or as a surprise. A non-smoker friend once brought me a cigar after a visit to the Swiss Embassy in D.C. The Cuban diplomats were there and they gave him a Cuban Cohiba, which was perhaps the best cigar I’ve ever smoked. My daughter gave me one of the new Macanudo Estate Reserve Jamaican cigars for Christmas and I’m looking forward to enjoying it. It came in this beautiful cedar presentation box and is aging happily in my humidor for the proper moment for me to light it up.

Right now, I’d say that moment is February 2, when Storme Warning is released by Brash Books.

JKP: Finally, if you could lay claim to having penned any book that doesn’t already appear under your byline, what would it be?

WLR: Either Pronto or Freaky Deaky, both by Elmore Leonard. Both have everything you’d want in a novel. There’s danger, death, tension, great characters, plot, pacing, and the humor is intelligent and smile-inducing. Pronto is the novel which introduced Raylan Givens, Leonard’s best and most famous character. Leonard is the master of inner dialogue as well as some of the best spoken dialogue in fiction. Leonard realizes people often think and speak in broken sentences rather than in perfect grammar. It looks breezy and simplistic until you try to figure out how he did it or why it fits so perfectly with what is going on in the novel. He is the standard for all mystery-thriller writers in my opinion.

Pronto possesses my favorite opening chapter of all time. Every writer should read it, study it, and re-read it. It is a gem.

(Photo of author W.L. Ripley by Lon Campbell/LC Images Studio.)

The Many Faces of Sherlock



Click on the image above to find a pretty cool graphic showing how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous fictional sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, has been presented--in print, as well as on stage screen--over the last 128 years. The illustration was prepared for The Doyle Collection of international hotels to celebrate the Museum of London’s Holmes exhibition, on display until April 12, 2015.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

In Line for the Edgars

“I’m prodded to muse whether this may be the best overall shortlist the Best Novel Award has seen in quite some time,” Craig Sisterson wrote in Crime Watch after looking over the newly announced rundown of nominees for the 2015 Edgar Allan Poe Awards. I agree that the Best Novel Award contenders pack a lot of influence and writing excellence, but there are top-notch picks up and down this list.

Best Novel:
This Dark Road to Mercy, by Wiley Cash (Morrow)
Wolf, by Mo Hayder (Atlantic Monthly Press)
Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King (Scribner)
The Final Silence, by Stuart Neville (Soho Press)
Saints of the Shadow Bible, by Ian Rankin (Little, Brown)
Coptown, by Karin Slaughter (Ballantine)

Best First Novel by an American Author:
Dry Bones in the Valley, by Tom Bouman (Norton)
Invisible City, by Julia Dahl (Minotaur)
The Life We Bury, by Allen Eskens (Seventh Street)
Bad Country, by C.B. McKenzie (Minotaur/Thomas Dunne)
Shovel Ready, by Adam Sternbergh (Crown)
Murder at the Brightwell, by Ashley Weaver (Minotaur/Thomas Dunne)

Best Paperback Original:
The Secret History of Las Vegas, by Chris Albani (Penguin)
Stay With Me, by Alison Gaylin (Morrow)
The Barkeep, by William Lashner (Thomas & Mercer)
The Day She Died, by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)
The Gone Dead Train, by Lisa Turner (Morrow)
World of Trouble, by Ben H. Winters (Quirk)

Best Fact Crime:
Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America, by Kevin Cook (Norton)
The Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art, by Carl Hoffman (Morrow)
The Other Side, by Lacy M. Johnson (Tin House)
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood, by William Mann (Harper)
The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, the Model, and the Murder that Shook the Nation, by Harold Schechter (New Harvest)

Best Critical/Biographical:
The Figure of the Detective: A Literary History and Analysis, by Charles Brownson (McFarland & Company)
James Ellroy: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction, by Jim Mancall (McFarland & Company)
Kiss the Blood Off My Hands: Classic Film Noir, by Robert Miklitsch (University of Illinois Press)
Judges & Justice & Lawyers & Law: Exploring the Legal Dimensions of Fiction and Film, by Francis M. Nevins (Perfect Crime)
Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe, by J.W. Ocker (Countryman Press)

Best Short Story:
“The Snow Angel,” by Doug Allyn (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine [EQMM], January 2014)
“200 Feet,” by John Floyd (The Strand Magazine, February-May 2014)
“What Do You Do?,” by Gillian Flynn (from Rogues, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois; Ballantine)
“Red Eye,” by Dennis Lehane vs. Michael Connelly (from FaceOff, edited by David Baldacci; Simon & Schuster)
“Teddy,” by Brian Tobin (EQMM, May 2014)

Best Juvenile:
Absolutely Truly, by Heather Vogel Frederick (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Space Case, by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster Books
for Young Readers)
Greenglass House, by Kate Milford (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)
Nick and Tesla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove, by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith (Quirk)
Saving Kabul Corner, by N.H. Senzai (Paula Wiseman)
Eddie Red, Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile, by Marcia Wells (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)

Best Young Adult:
The Doubt Factory, by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown Books
for Young Readers)
Nearly Gone, by Elle Cosimano (Penguin Young Readers Group/
Kathy Dawson)
Fake ID, by Lamar Giles (HarperCollins Children’s Books/Amistad)
The Art of Secrets, by James Klise (Algonquin Young Readers)
The Prince of Venice Beach, by Blake Nelson (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Best Television Episode Teleplay:
“The Empty Hearse,” Sherlock, teleplay by Mark Gatiss (Hartswood Films/Masterpiece)
“Unfinished Business,” Blue Bloods, teleplay by Siobhan Byrne O’Connor (CBS)
“Episode 1,” Happy Valley, teleplay by Sally Wainwright (Netflix)
“Dream Baby Dream,” The Killing, teleplay by Sean Whitesell (Netflix)
“Episode 6,”  The Game, teleplay by Toby Whithouse (BBC America)

The Simon & Schuster--Mary Higgins Clark Award
(To be presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on April 28):

A Dark and Twisted Tide, by Sharon Bolton (Minotaur)
The Stranger You Know, by Jane Casey (Minotaur)
Invisible City, by Julia Dahl (Minotaur)
Summer of the Dead, by Julia Keller (Minotaur)
The Black Hour, by Lori Rader-Day (Seventh Street)

Robert L. Fish Memorial Award:
“Getaway Girl,” by Zoë Z. Dean (EQMM)

Grand Master: Lois Duncan and James Ellroy

Raven Awards:
Ruth and Jon Jordan, Crimespree Magazine
Kathryn Kennison, Magna Cum Murder

Ellery Queen Award:
Charles Ardai, editor/founder, Hard Case Crime

Winners will be announced and prizes handed ’round during the Mystery Writers of America’s 69th “gala banquet,” scheduled to take place on Wednesday, April 29, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.

(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Bullet Points: Terrific Tuesday Edition

• You may or may not remember reading about this in The Rap Sheet, but in 2007 Irish actor Jason O’Mara was hired to star as Raymond Chandler’s famous private eye, Philip Marlowe, in the pilot for an ABC-TV series updating that character. The project was ultimately shelved, and O’Mara went on to star in the American version of Life on Mars. But as far as I know, the Marlowe pilot never received a public viewing. Until now. Christopher Eaton, who is identified in the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) as having acted in the pilot, posted the whole 43-minute flick on YouTube. Watch it while you can!

• By the way, whatever happened to plans by Castle creator-showrunner Andrew Marlowe for a different updated Philip Marlowe small-screen drama? Much was written in 2013 about how ABC Studios had picked up that project, but I haven’t read anything about it since. (A Google search of the Web turns up no recent word on the subject.) In the meantime, Andrew Marlowe signed on to develop a weekly drama “based on the Derrick Storm series of mystery novels written by Richard Castle, the fictional author played by Nathan Fillion on the ABC drama Castle.” Hollywood being the unpredictable environment it is, we’ll see if either program ever reaches the TV schedule.

• Editor Jacques Filippi has announced the winners of House of Crime and Mystery’s Third Annual Readers’ Choice Awards. Laura Lippman, David Baldacci, Eva Dolan, Anonymous-9 (Elaine Ash), and others should be smiling at the results.

• Publisher Minotaur Books has opened its 2015 novel competitions. There’s a First Crime Novel contest sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America, a Best First Traditional Mystery Novel competition sponsored by Malice Domestic, a Best First Private Eye competition sponsored by the Private Eye Writers of America (PWA), and the Hillerman Mystery Contest sponsored by the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference. Deadlines vary, and there are no entry fees.

• The PWA has also begun accepting submissions to its 2015 Shamus Awards competition. There are five categories open. Entries must be postmarked by March 31. “No extensions can be given.

• The Gumshoe Site brings the sad news that Rose Dannay, the third wife of Frederic Dannay (1905-1982)--who with his cousin, Manfred B. Lee, wrote the renowned Ellery Queen novels--died in New York on December 6 of last year. Blogger Jiro Kimura adds that Ms. Dannay “wrote and self-published her autobiography-memoir, My Life with a Man of Mystery: The Love Story of Ellery Queen and Me, in 2010.” She was 100 years old (yes, you read that correctly).

• The annual mystery-fiction convention Love Is Murder will be held in Chicago, February 6-8. In advance of that, Mystery Fanfare has posted the nominees for the Lovey Award, in nine categories. There are a few well-known authors among the bunch (Raymond Benson, Tasha Alexander, etc.), plus less familiar ones. If you haven’t registered for this conference, you can still do so here.

• Speaking of conventions, if you’re interested in attending this year’s Left Coast Crime event (“Crimelandia”) in Portland, Oregon (March 12-15), but haven’t yet signed up, go ahead and register here. Gar Anthony Haywood is scheduled to appear as toastmaster, with Chelsea Cain, Timothy Hallinan, and Phillip Margolin on tap as guests of honor. Janet Rudolph highlights a few distinctive elements of Crimelandia here, while writer Mike Belefer has some things to say about its Meet the New Authors Breakfast here.

• Left Coast Crime is one of five “major” 2015 mystery-fiction conventions examined in Criminal Element by Deborah Lacy.

• Bill Crider writes in his blog today about the sometimes-overlooked 1968 film Madigan, directed by Don Siegel and starring Richard Widmark (“If you like gritty cop movies and haven’t seen Madigan, you’ve missed a good one.”). He offers a short trailer here. I am particularly pleased to see this post, since I wrote about the novel on which Madigan was based (Richard Dougherty’s The Commissioner) in Kirkus Reviews a couple of years back, and later composed a lengthy piece about the 1972-1973 NBC-TV series Madigan, in which Widmark reprised his role as a veteran New York City cop.

• The funniest part of Phoef Sutton’s new interview with fellow author (and screenwriter) Lee Goldberg might be the latter’s final answer:
Do you have a writing routine? What is it?

Put my ass in the chair and write. That’s about it. I work all day but I do my best work between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. I get up about 10, and I start the day by rewriting what I wrote the day before. Then I get distracted by self-doubt, Facebook, phone calls, self-doubt, e-mail, twitter, lunch, self-doubt, YouTube, conference calls, business meetings, and self-doubt.
• Congratulations to Les Blatt, from Classic Mysteries, on the posting of his 400th entry in a weekly series of podcast reviews of old books “worth your reading time.”

• Here’s an interesting tidbit from In Reference to Murder: “Stephen King’s novel Mr. Mercedes, which King describes as his first hard-boiled detective tale about a psychopathic killer, is set to become a limited series for television. David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, Boston Legal and The Practice) will pen the script, and Jack Bender (Lost and Under the Dome) will direct.”

• Ned Beauman, author of the brand-new thriller Glow (Knopf), is Nancie Clare’s latest guest on the audio podcast Speaking of Mysteries. Click here to listen.

• While over in Crime Watch, Craig Sisterson talks with Michael J. Malone, the author most recently of The Guillotine Choice, “a searing dramatization of the life of an Algerian Berber who spent 18 years in Devil’s Island for a crime he didn’t commit (and the French authorities knew he didn’t commit).”

• National Public Radio’s Martin Scholz talks briefly with Henning Mankell, the 66-year-old Swedish author of the Kurt Wallander detective novels, who last year was diagnosed with cancer. Scholz notes that Mankell’s “outlook is sunnier than it once was: Only one small tumor in his left lung remains, and the doctors say they can contain it.” That’s good news.

• I’ve never read Russell Thorndike’s Doctor Syn: A Tale of Romney Marsh (1915), but in our childhood, my brother and I must have watched the 1963 Walt Disney miniseries adaptation a dozen times.

• Really, parachuting beavers?

• Ready to investigate a fun new blog? Check out Today in Mystery History, written by “prize-winning mystery writer, librarian, and songwriter” Robert Lopresti.

• My book-design blog, Killer Covers, is now into a second day of celebrating its sixth anniversary. Click here to keep up with the week’s worth of paperback fronts-focused posts.

• I recently mentioned that Hugh O’Brian, the now 89-year-old former star of The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (1955-1961) and Search (1972-1973), would make a guest appearance on Ed Robertson’s TV Confidential radio program. That show has finally been archived for your listening pleasure here.

• Author Max Allan Collins has posted his lists of “favorite and least favorite films of 2014.” Benedict Cumberbatch’s The Imitation Game is among his top 10, while Gone Girl (“Spoiler alert: the victim is the audience and the culprit is the book author’s interminable screenplay.”) joins nine other pictures at the bottom.

• Yes, I’m one of those people who hasn’t been watching The Americans, the Keri Russell-Matthew Rhys spy drama on FX-TV. But with that show returning next Wednesday, January 28, Regina Thorne makes the case in Criminal Element for why we should all tune in.

• In case you missed the announcement, Bosch, the Amazon Prime series based on Michael Connelly’s crime series and starring Titus Welliver as Los Angeles police detective Harry Bosch, will debut on February 13. Multichannel News reports that “The 10-episode series follows Bosch as he chases down a killer who has confessed to a boy’s murder, escapes custody, and begins a murderous rampage across Los Angeles. The series also stars Jamie Hector (The Wire), Amy Aquino (Being Human), Lance Reddick (Fringe) and Annie Wershing (24, Extant).” Crime Watch offers a trailer here.

• Writer Christopher Mills reports that Gravedigger, the hard-boiled crime comic series that ended its online run in November, will soon return in two different formats. “[Artist Rick Burchett] and I have just signed with Action Lab Entertainment's ‘Danger Zone’ mature-readers imprint, to bring the two existing Gravedigger sagas--‘The Scavengers’ and ‘The Predators’--to both print and digital formats in 2015,” says Mills. “The stories will be presented in a three-issue comic book miniseries format and as a digital edition on Comixology.”

• And were you aware that this coming Saturday, January 24, has been declared National Readathon Day? Hah! As if any of us needs another reason to pick up a good book …

Monday, January 12, 2015

Turning the Last Page on Clemens

At the risk of turning The Rap Sheet into The Death Sheet (didn’t I just write about Rod Taylor passing away and then recap noteworthy decedents of 2014?), let me ask for a moment of silence to remember Brian Clemens. The British screenwriter-producer (and Mark Twain descendent) best known for his work on The Avengers (1961-1969) and The Professionals (1977-1983), died this last Saturday at age 83.

As Ayo Onatade notes in Shotsmag Confidential:
[Clemens’] scripts have enlivened almost every action-drama series seen on television over the last 50 years. …

Brian Clemens wrote the original pilot episode for The Avengers back in 1961 and went on to be the script editor, associate producer and main scriptwriter for the series. He was also involved in writing episodes for the U.S. TV series Darkroom which was hosted by James Coburn, Remington Steele (which featured Pierce Brosnan) and Max Monroe: Loose Cannon. Brian Clemens was also involved in Bergerac [and] ITV’s Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense. He also adapted Gavin Lyall’s espionage thriller The Secret Servant into a three-part drama for the BBC in 1984. He was also involved in C15: The New Professionals. He also wrote three episodes for Quiller, the TV series, and a number of episodes for The Persuaders! along with The Champions TV series.

In the U.S. he was again involved in and worked on a number of notable TV crime dramas, including The Father Dowling Mysteries, Raymond Burr’s Perry Mason (the feature-length series) and Diagnosis: Murder, featuring Dick Van Dyke, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

He was also involved in films, and either wrote [or] produced a number of films for Hammer Films. He also wrote the screenplays for the films Operation Murder (1957), Station Six-Sahara (1963) and Highlander II: The Quickening (1991).

Clemens was also the author of a number of novels including The Devil at Midnight (2001) and Murder Weapon (2012), both [of] which were adapted into plays.
A catalogue of Clemens’ many entertainment credits is here.

In a piece for A Shroud of Thoughts, Terence Towles Canote recalls Clemens’ work specifically on The Avengers:
He also wrote the teleplay for the first episode The Avengers, “Hot Snow,” based on a story by Patrick Brawn. At this point the show centred on Dr. David Keel (Ian Hendry), a police surgeon swept into a world of intrigue by the mysterious John Steed (Patrick Macnee). Ian Hendry left The Avengers after its first series and was replaced by Honor Blackman as Mrs. Cathy Gale and Venus Smith (Julie Stevens). The latter only lasted for one series. While Mr. Clemens wrote only one more episode during The Avengers’ first two series, he became a regular contributor to the show with its third series (the last to feature Cathy Gale). It was during the third series of The Avengers that Brian Clemens and the other writers further refined the show as it would come to be known--a blend of tongue-in-cheek humour with witty dialogue and often fantastic plots.

It was with the fourth series of The Avengers (the first to feature Dame Diana Rigg as Emma Peel) that Brian Clemens became an associate producer on the show. As the show’s associate producer Brian Clemens further refined the show until it was the perfect blend of British upper-class wit, sex appeal, diabolical masterminds, and fantastic plots. It was with the show’s fifth series (the last with Emma Peel) that Mr. Clemens became a full-fledged producer on the show, a position he maintained except for a brief period between the fifth and sixth series when he and fellow producer Albert Fennel were replaced by John Bryce. In his time with The Avengers Brian Clemens wrote some of the show’s most iconic episodes, including “Build a Better Mousetrap,” “A Touch of Brimstone,” “How to Succeed … at Murder,” and “Epic.”
At the time of his demise, Clemens’ son George told BBC News, his father “had been working with him and his brother Samuel on a horror film.” Samuel Clemens added that the last thing his octogenarian father did before passing away was watch an episode of The Avengers. “His last words were: I did quite a good job,” Samuel said.

Talk about understatements!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Never Can Say Good-bye


James Garner reading in The Rockford Files.

There have been several recent posts on this page wrapping things up for 2014. We’ve looked back at our favorite new crime novels from last year as well as the best book covers. Now comes the necessary but not so cheery record of deaths over the last 12 months. We lost a great number of folks who were important in crime-fiction circles during 2014 (though not nearly so many as went to their graves in 2013). We know this list isn’t exhaustive, but please let us know in the Comments section at the end of this post if we forgot anyone of prominence.

Harold Adams, 91, the author of 17 novels featuring Carl Wilcox, an itinerant sign painter and “happenstance private eye” who operated in the small South Dakota town of Corden during the Great Depression. That Shamus Award-winning series began with Murder (1981) and concluded with Lead, So I Can Follow (1999). Adams also penned two novels (1987’s When Rich Men Die and 2003’s The Fourth of July Wake) about a wise-ass contemporary TV news anchor, Kyle Champion, who winds up taking on P.I. work himself. The “kind, intelligent, and very nice” Adams breathed his last on April 4.

Bill Adler, 84, who--according to Jiro Kimura of The Gumshoe Site--“‘conceptualized’ contest mystery novels including Who Killed the Robins Family? (Morrow, 1983) and its sequel, The Revenge of the Robins Family (Morrow, 1984; both written by Thomas Chastain); The Agent (Doubleday, 1986; written by David R. Slavitt); and Murder on the Internet (Morrow, 1999; written by Bruce Cassiday). He also conceptualized two mystery anthologies: Murder in Manhattan (Morrow, 1986) with stories by NY writer[s], and Murder in Los Angeles (Morrow, 1987) with stories by L.A. writers.” Adler passed away on February 28 as a consequence of abdominal cancer.

Lou Allin, 69, a Canadian mystery writer (Twilight Is Not Good for Maidens) died on July 10, following a lengthy bout with pancreatic cancer. More about her life and career can be found here and here.

Lauren Bacall, 89, “the actress whose provocative glamour elevated her to stardom in Hollywood’s golden age and whose lasting mystique put her on a plateau in American culture that few stars reach,” according to this obituary in The New York Times. Born Betty Joan Perske in The Bronx, New York, back in 1924, Bacall was just a sultry 19-year-old when she first encountered 44-year-old Humphrey Bogart on the set of the motion-picture To Have and Have Not (1944). The two married the next year and went on to make four famous crime movies together, the last being 1948’s Key Largo. Her film career waned after Bogart’s death in 1957, but she appeared sporadically on the big and small screens into the early 21st century. Her later movie credits included roles in Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Shootist (1976), The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), and The Forger (2012). She also appeared in a classic two-part episode of The Rockford Files (“Lions, Tigers, Monkeys, and Dogs,” 1979) and a 2006 episode of The Sopranos (“Luxury Lounge”). A self-described liberal Democrat (“[B]eing a liberal is the best thing on earth you can be,” she once told TV interviewer Larry King. “You are welcoming to everyone when you’re a liberal. You do not have a small mind.”), Lauren Bacall died of a “massive stroke” on August 12 at her home in New York City’s famous Dakota Apartments.

(Right) Bacall and Bogart, 1944

Juanita Bartlett, 86, an American TV screenwriter-producer who worked with James Garner on Nichols, The Rockford Files, and the 1978 TV pilot The New Maverick. Her credits also included contributions to The Greatest American Hero, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, Alias Smith and Jones, and The Magician. Bartlett was brought in to “fix” Spenser: For Hire during its second season (sadly, its least appealing one). She died on February 25, just three days short of her 87th birthday.

Alexandra Bastedo, 67, a British screen star and activist who was probably best known for playing sexy secret agent Sharron Macready in the 1968-1969 espionage/science-fiction adventure series The Champions. “Of course, Alexandra Bastedo was more than an actress,” Terence Towles Canote wrote in A Shroud of Thoughts. “Through the [Alexandra Bastedo Champions (ABC) Animal Sanctuary] and other activities over the years she saved hundreds of abandoned animals. She was also active in several other animal-rights organizations. The first thing anyone might have noticed about Alexandra Bastedo may have been her beauty, but she was so much more than that.” Cancer took her Bastedo’s life on January 12.

Eric Bercovici, 80, a writer and producer for U.S. television. Over the years he wrote for small-screen crime dramas such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, Hawaii Five-O, Assignment: Vienna, Police Story, and McClain’s Law (the last of which he also created). In addition, Bercovici penned the screenplays for the 1977 ABC miniseries Washington: Behind Closed Doors and the 1988 NBC miniseries adaptation of James Clavell’s novel Noble House. With Clavell he shared a 1980 Emmy Award for scripting the miniseries Shōgun. He died on February 9 at his home in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Thomas Berger, 89, an Ohio-born novelist perhaps best remembered for publishing the 1964 Western picaresque Little Big Man and its 1999 sequel, The Return of Little Big Man. However, Berger also gave readers 1977’s pot-boilerish detective novel, Who Is Teddy Villanova?, which one Goodreads reviewer described as “at once a farce, a parody, and [a] loving exercise in genre fiction.” There’s more on Teddy Villanova here. Berger died on July 13.

Marshall Browne, 78, an ex-banker and the Ned Kelly Award-winning Australian author of such crime novels as The Wooden Leg of Inspector Anders (1999), Inspector Anders and the Ship of Fools (2001), and Rendezvous at Kamakura Inn (2006). He died of cancer on February 14. You’ll find The Rap Sheet’s obituary of Browne here.

Warren Clarke, 67, an English actor best known for his portrayal of the blunt, politically incorrect, and ever-grumpy Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel in the 1996-2007 BBC One series Dalziel and Pascoe. An obituary on the BBC News site says Clarke died on November 12 “after a short illness.”

(Left) Warren Clarke

Judy Crider, 71, who for 49 years was married to Bill Crider, Texas author of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes novels, the Professor Sally Good and Carl Burns mysteries, and an assortment of other works in the crime fiction, horror, and Western genres. Her obituary in Texas’ Alvin Sun-Advertiser explains that “Judy was a full partner in Bill’s writing career. She was the first reader and editor of every book and story he wrote and was the business manager for the entire enterprise. She was his co-author on several stories, and one of them won the Anthony Award for Best Short Story in 2002.” Not long after Judy’s demise (from cancer) on November 27, Bill Crider wrote in his blog: “From the day we married, I more or less ceased to exist as an individual. There was no more Bill Crider. There was BillandJudy. It’s been that way ever since. My sister said today that she was worried about me because Judy and I had never been separated for more than a couple of days in all our years together. I’ll be okay, though, I think. It’s still BillandJudy as far as I’m concerned. She may have left the world, but she’ll never leave me.”

Dorothy Salisbury Davis, 98, an author who, explained the Los Angeles Times, produced “tautly spun novels and short stories that portrayed women as strong, complex characters instead of the more usual helpless damsels and femmes fatale …” The paper added that “Davis wrote 20 novels and dozens of stories during a five-decade career that brought six Edgar Award nominations from the Mystery Writers of America. She was an early member of the group, which included Ellery Queen and Georges Simenon, and served as president in 1956. She was named a grand master of the society in 1985 for lifetime achievement.” The New York Times recalled that Davis “wrote mainly standalone novels [such as 1951’s successful A Gentle Murderer] and stories, but developed a few stock characters. One, Julie Hayes, was a wacky young lady who set up a fortunetelling shop in Times Square as a way to reinvent her life. In reviewing the first of the four “Julie’ books, A Death in the Life (1976), in The Times, Anatole Broyard wrote, ‘Mrs. Davis is one of that disappearing breed of novelists who still believes in likable women.’” The author had spent several years in failing health before passing away at a New York senior residence facility on August 3.

James Garner (born James Scott Bumgarner), 86, an actor whose friendly, whimsical style attracted millions of followers to his TV series, including Maverick (1957-1962) and The Rockford Files (1974-1980), and his many films over the years, among them The Great Escape (1963), The Americanization of Emily (1964), Grand Prix (1966), Hour of the Gun (1967), Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969), Marlowe (1969), Support Your Local Gunfighter! (1971), Skin Game (1971), Victor Victoria (1982), Murphy’s Romance (1985), Sunset (1988), Twilight (1998), and … well, this list could go on and on. Garner was nominated for upwards of a dozen Emmy Awards during his more than 60-year career, and in 1977 he won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series as a result of his work on The Rockford Files. For his contributions to the entertainment industry, the Oklahoma-born Garner was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (at 6927 Hollywood Boulevard), and in 2005 he received the Screen Actors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award. A lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party, Garner was approached by party leaders in California in 2010 to run for that state’s governorship, but declined the opportunity. Of all the celebrity deaths last year, Garner’s certainly hit me the hardest, as I’d been a fan of his acting ever since I was boy. I’d even had the privilege of interviewing him, via e-mail, back in 2011, following the publication of his memoir, The Garner Files. He perished on July 19, reportedly as a result of acute myocardial infarction. My thoughts on his passing, as well as numerous links to Garner tributes online, can be found here. Additional links are here.

Curt Gentry, 83, a Colorado-born writer best remembered for having worked with Vincent Bugliosi on the 1974 non-fiction book Helter Skelter, about the Charles Manson murders. Gentry’s 1967 book, Frame-up: The Incredible Case of Tom Mooney and Warren Billings, was nominated for an Edgar Award, but it’s actually for another of his works, 1964’s The Madams of San Francisco, that I remember him best. A paperback copy of Madams sits prominently on my office shelves even now--one of the first books that made me curious about the seedier side of history around California’s Golden Gate. Lung cancer took Gentry’s life on July 10, in (of course) San Francisco.

Jeremiah Healy, 66, author of the Boston-based John Francis Cuddy private-eye series. Born in New Jersey, he was a graduate of Rutgers College and Harvard Law School, and had been a military police lieutenant, a trial attorney, and later a professor at the New England School of Law. He’d served as the chair for the Shamus Awards, president of the Private Eye Writers of America, and president of the International Association of Crime Writers. In addition to his acclaimed Cuddy books, Healy produced--under the pseudonym “Terry Devane”--novels about Boston lawyer Mairead O’Clare. He had evidently suffered for many years from depression, and he took his own life on August 14 in Pompano Beach, Florida. My only interview with him appeared in January Magazine back in 2000. The Boston Globe’s obituary of Healy can be found here, while more information about his passing is available in this Rap Sheet post.

Edward Herrmann, 71, a versatile but very recognizable (by either face or voice) character actor, born in Wshington, D.C. Although he may now be most familiar for his role as patriarch Richard Gilmore on Gilmore Girls, Herrmann’s résumé also includes appearances on St. Elsewhere, Homicide: Life on the Street, Crossing Jordan, The Practice, Law & Order, and The Good Wife. Additionally, he portrayed Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the late-1970s made-for-TV-movie Eleanor and Franklin and its sequel, Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years, and put in a superior performance as newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst in The Cat’s Meow (2001). Herrmann succumbed to brain cancer on New Year’s Eve.

Geoffrey Holder, 84, a Trinidadian-American actor, singer, dancer, and choreographer whose portrayal of Baron Samedi--a particularly sinister villain in the 1973 James Bond flick, Live and Let Die--and his appearances in a series of 7-Up commercials (watch here) brought him worldwide recognition. The BBC News site has more on his career.

P.D. James (aka Lady James of Holland Park), 91, “the [English] grande dame of mystery, and a link with the golden age of detective writing that flourished between the wars,” according to The Guardian’s obituary. Phyllis Dorothy James didn’t begin penning fiction until she was in her 40s, but she went on from there to produce the Adam Dalgliesh mysteries (beginning with 1962’s Cover Her Face), a couple of novels starring private detective Cordelia Gray (including An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, 1972), and standalones such as her 2011 Jane Austen tribute, Death Comes to Pemberley. The British Crime Writers’ Association gave her three Macallan Silver Daggers for Fiction as well as its 1987 Cartier Diamond Dagger award for lifetime achievement. James was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1983. She died at her home in Oxford, England, on November 27. Read more here.

Richard Kiel, 74, a 7-foot-1 Detroit-born actor who featured in such theatrical releases as The Longest Yard (1974), Force 10 from Navarone (1978), and Happy Gilmore (1996). Kiel was also a regular on the 1975-1976 ABC-TV Western/crime series Barbary Coast, but may have made his most lasting impression playing Jaws, an imposing criminal henchman with steel-capped teeth, in two James Bond films, 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me and 1979’s Moonraker. (The blog James Bond Memes offers more commentary on Jaws here.) Kiel died on September 10, just short of his 75th birthday.

(Left) Richard Kiel as Jaws

Glen A. Larson, 77, was an Emmy Award-nominated American producer and screenwriter who brought to television a number of memorable hits during the 1970s and ’80s, among them Magnum, P.I., Quincy, M.E., The Fugitive, Alias Smith and Jones, McCloud, The Six Million Dollar Man, Switch, Knight Rider, Night Man, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and The Fall Guy. He also served as executive producer of the 1968-1970 Robert Wagner spy series It Takes a Thief. A lengthy accounting of Larson’s TV credits is here. He died on November 14.

Audrey Long, 92, an actress who appeared in such motion pictures as Tall in the Saddle (1944) and Born to Kill (1947). No matter her other accomplishments, however, this Orlando, Florida, native may always be remembered best for having wed UK novelist Leslie Charteris--creator of the Saint series starring Simon Templer--on April 26, 1952. The couple remained married until his demise in 1993. Long reportedly died on September 19 in Surrey, England, “after a long illness.”

Roy Peter Martin, 83, who--as “James Melville”--composed more than a dozen novels featuring Japanese police Superintendent Otani (beginning with 1979’s The Wages of Zen). As well, in the late 1980s this native Londoner stepped in to continue a cozy crime series starring retired art teacher Emily D. Seeton, after that series’ creator, Heron Carvic, went to her grave in 1980; Martin ultimately contributed three Miss Seeton novels under the nom de plume “Hampton Charles.” Martin “was intelligent, amusing and genial company, and he also wrote very well,” fellow author Martin Edwards recalled in this post. “The Otani books were crisp and entertaining and made excellent use of his knowledge of Japan and the Japanese way of life. He was also a reviewer, and I was one of many younger writers who benefited from his generosity and his willingness to cover books that were not necessarily destined to be best-sellers. I shall remember him fondly.” Martin passed away on March 23. Click here to read his obituary in The Guardian, composed by his sons.

Martin Meyers, 79, who with his wife, Annette, wrote the historical “Dutchman” mysteries under the joint pseudonym “Maan Meyers.” Meyers died in New York City on May 14.

James Shigeta, 85, a Hawaii-born actor-singer of Japanese descent who, according to Wikipedia, “first came on screen in the U.S., in 1959, as Detective Joe Kojaku in The Crimson Kimono, a detective story that featured an interracial romantic triangle between Kojaku, his partner Sgt. Charlie Bancroft (played by Glenn Corbett), and Christine Downes (portrayed by Victoria Shaw). Shigeta’s character was somewhat groundbreaking for the 1950s, an Asian detective played by an Asian actor with regular speech patterns, rather than a non-Asian made up to pass as Asian who speaks in broken English.” Shigata went on to star on the big screen in Flower Drum Song (1961) and Lost Horizon (1973), but was more frequently spotted doing guest spots on TV series such as Perry Mason, It Takes a Thief, Matt Helm, Magnum, P.I., and Murder, She Wrote. He died in his sleep on July 28.

Seymour Shubin, 93, the Philadelphia-born author of such novels as Anyone’s My Name (1953), The Captain (a finalist for the Edgar Allan Poe Award, published in 1982), and Witness to Myself (released in 2006 by Hard Case Crime). He perished on November 2 “of complications from an earlier fall.”

Mary Stewart, 97, an English writer credited with bringing renown to the field of romantic mystery fiction. “Mary Stewart was arguably one of the most influential suspense novelists of the mid-20th century …,” opines author Julia Buckley. “All of the staples of romantic suspense can be found in Stewart’s suspense novels: beautiful settings, adventurous heroines, and a brooding mystery. Stewart, however, takes those basic elements and embellishes them enough to create a new genre: the literary romantic suspense novel. By marrying history and setting, she allows her reader to feel both intelligent and invested in place.” An obit at Tor.com, by science fiction/fantasy writer Jo Walton, emphasizes the importance of Stewart’s four Arthurian novels, beginning with The Crystal Cave (1970). Stewart died on May 9.

Leslie Thomas, 83, a Wales-born author who first enjoyed fame after the publication of his 1966 comic novel, The Virgin Soldiers. My own experience with Thomas’ fiction began courtesy of the 1976 Dell paperback release of Dangerous Davies: The Last Detective. As The Gumshoe Site recalled, that novel “was turned into the 1981 TV movie of the same name starring Bernard Cribbins as the CID officer in the London borough of Willesden, with Thomas and director Val Guest co-writing the script. Also, The Last Detective became [a] TV series starring Peter Davison, with 17 episodes broadcast from 2003 [to] 2007.” The New York Times explains that Thomas “died on May 6 at his home near Salisbury, England.”

James Thompson, 49, the author of four novels starring Finnish homicide inspector Kari Vaara (including 2012’s Helsinki Blood). Although he was born in eastern Kentucky in 1964, Thompson moved to Finland in 1998, where he earned his Master's degree in English philology and became a full-time writer. Prior to that, he’d worked as a “bartender, bouncer, construction worker, photographer, rare coin dealer, soldier, and wrestling announcer.” His U.S. publisher, Putnam, noted after his passing that Thompson’s debut novel, Snow Angels (2010), was nominated for the Edgar, the Anthony, and the Strand Magazine Critics award and was selected as a Booklist Best Crime Novel Debut of the Year.” He wrote about his fiction-writing endeavors in this piece for the blog Book Reviews by Elizabeth A. White. Thompson died on August 2.

Aimée Thurlo, 62, who penned novels in the mystery, romance, and young adult categories, often with her husband, David. The FantasticFiction Web site explains that the Thurlos had “three ongoing mystery series: the Sister Agatha series, starring a cloistered nun, the Lee Nez series, featuring a Navajo vampire who teams up with a female FBI agent to fight crimes that have elements of the supernatural, and their flagship series, the critically acclaimed Ella Clah novels. Several Ella Clah novels, including Tracking Bear, Red Mesa, and Shooting Chant, have received starred reviews from Booklist.” This obituary says Thurlo succumbed on February 28 “after a brief struggle with cancer and related complications.”

Stanford Whitmore, 88, a Chicago-reared screenwriter who, wrote Stephen Bowie in The Classic TV Blog, “was best known as the author of ‘Fear in a Desert City,’ the pilot for The Fugitive, which was based on a premise written by the unavailable Roy Huggins. Whitmore contributed three other excellent first-season scripts to The Fugitive, including the crucial flashback episode ‘The Girl from Little Egypt,’ which filled in the back story of the murder and the trial that sent Richard Kimble to the death house. Other significant Whitmore credits include the teleplay for The Hanged Man (based on the 1947 film Ride the Pink Horse), the first made-for-television movie, and a shared credit (with William Link and Richard Levinson) on the pilot telefilm for the long-running McCloud.” Whitmore’s contributions ran also to episodes of Johnny Staccato, The Wild Wild West, Ironside, Sarge, and Night Gallery. He died on May 8.

Efrem Zimbalist Jr., 95, the Golden Globe-winning American actor who played L.A. private eye Stuart Bailey on the 1958-1964 ABC-TV series 77 Sunset Strip and straight-laced Inspector Lewis Erskine on the 1965-1974 crime drama The F.B.I. Zimbalist (the father of Remington Steele star Stephanie Zimbalist) also did what I thought was a fine turn as Sergeant Harry Hansen in the 1975 teleflick Who Is the Black Dahlia? He died May 2 from “natural causes” at his ranch in Solvang, California. The Rap Sheet’s obit of Zimbalist is here.

READ MORE:In Memoriam,” by Maltese Condor (Read Me Deadly).