Sunday, July 05, 2015

Five Prime Picks for the Marsh Prize

It’s Monday morning in New Zealand, time to announce the shortlist of nominees for the 2015 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. Arranged alphabetically by their authors’ names, the contenders are:

Five Minutes Alone, by Paul Cleave (Penguin NZ)
The Petticoat Men, by Barbara Ewing (Head of Zeus)
Swimming in the Dark, by Paddy Richardson (Upstart Press)
The Children’s Pond, by Tina Shaw (Pointer Press)
Fallout, by Paul Thomas (Upstart Press)

To quote from a press release sent out by judging convenor Craig Sisterson: “The shortlist contains a diverse range of styles and stories, but each book melds page-turning entertainment with an undercurrent of deeper issues that go the very heart of our communities and society.” As one of this year’s Ngaio Marsh Award judges (a post I’ve also held for the last couple of years), I naturally have one favorite among the five finalists, though I won’t express my bias as yet. It is a strong list, pared down from an original list of nine books.

The winner is scheduled to be declared during a special WORD Christchurch event in late September.

A hearty congratulations to all of the nominees!

Friday, July 03, 2015

Free and Easy with Paul Levine

It’s been a whole two months since our last book-giveaway competition, and we’re feeling a tad bad about that, so let’s cut right to the chase here: publisher Thomas & Mercer has agreed to send three free copies of Paul Levine’s brand-new comic legal thriller, Bum Rap, to deserving Rap Sheet readers. At the bottom of this post, we’ll explain the rules for entering our drawing.

First, though, here’s how Publishers Weekly describes Bum Rap’s basic plot:
Levine successfully combines series heroes Jake Lassiter (State vs. Lassiter) and Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord (Solomon vs. Lord) in a single convoluted case that showcases the three Miami, Fla., attorneys’ very different styles and strengths. Often a loose cannon in the courtroom, Steve is found alone with the body of bar owner Nicolai Gorev in Gorev’s office at Club Anastasia. Worse, he’s holding the gun used to kill Gorev. The self-described “bar girl” he accompanied there, Nadia Delova, is long gone. Steve thinks Victoria is nuts to hire former NFL linebacker Jake (“a slab of meat”) to defend him, and he and Lassiter are at odds from the start. But while Steve languishes in jail, Victoria and Jake have competition from assistant U.S. attorney Deborah Scolino and a mysterious character called Benny the Jeweler.
Men Reading Books fleshes out this tale’s romantic nuances:
Solomon was hired by Nadia, a Russian bar girl working at a night club, to retrieve her passport from the club’s owner, Nicolai Gorev. Gorev had helped Nadia immigrate to the United States in return for her work scamming customers at the club, and was holding her passport as collateral. Nadia had fallen in love with a customer and wanted her passport back so she could move on. But at the meeting in Gorev’s office, the club owner ends up dead of a gunshot wound from Nadia’s gun. Nadia steals a sack of diamonds from the wall safe and slips out the back door, and Solomon is caught holding the gun when the police arrive. Solomon tells the police that Nadia pulled the trigger, but she has disappeared. Now it’s up to Lassiter to convince a jury of Solomon’s innocence or find Nadia and deal with her unpredictable testimony.

Meanwhile, we learn that the Gorev and his associate, Benjamin Coben (aka Benny the Jeweler), are being investigated by the Feds for diamond smuggling. Solomon’s trial has already begun when they find Nadia living with her newfound love in Pennsylvania. She cuts a deal with the Feds to testify against Benny the Jeweler in exchange for a free pass for her involvement in Gorev’s death. To complicate matters further, Lassiter develops feelings for Lord. So here he is, defending a client he’s not sure is innocent, while daydreaming about the guy’s girlfriend. He finds himself questioning his ethics in both his personal and professional lives.
Finally, an Amazon reader-reviewer notes that
The author has written some 19 novels, a few of them involving Lassiter, so he knows how to pace an exciting crime novel. Snappy dialog, great local color of steamy Florida in the summer, with the usual rapacious, unethical Federal and local prosecutors, a bit of flirty sex, and a good fight in a sleazy bar. Hey, what more could a reader want? Oh, it ain’t Bleak House, but it is fun.
And a free copy of Bum Rap could soon be yours! All you have to do is e-mail your name and postal address to Just be sure to put “Bum Rap Contest” in the subject line. Entries will be accepted between now and midnight next Friday, July 10. Three winners will be chosen completely at random, and their names listed on this page the following day.

Sorry, but at the publisher’s request, this giveaway contest is open only residents of the United States.

If you’re interested in the offer, it’s probably best to hop on it right away. This being the start of a holiday weekend, you can bet that many other Rap Sheet readers will use some of their free time to send in contest entries. Missing out on what could be your completely free/no strings attached copy of Bum Rap would be, well, a bummer.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Bullet Points: Pre-Festive Fourth Edition

With Seattle’s 10-day weather forecast promising temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s (holy cow!), and with my best friend from college due to drop in on me within days for an extended vacation, I have decided to take next week off. I won’t be completely absent from the blogging world; I have a new “Pierce’s Picks” post scheduled to go up on Tuesday, and a few fresh things will appear in my book-design blog, Killer Covers. Plus, I will not be out of computer touch, so I shall try to keep an eye open for any earthshaking developments in the crime-fiction sphere. But for the most part, next week should be pretty quiet here. Let me catch up, then, with a few short news bits.

• Bill Farley, who founded the excellent Seattle Mystery Bookshop, passed away on June 28 at age 83. He was always a kind and helpful presence in that little store on Cherry Street in Seattle’s Pioneer Square district, and I--along with so many others who posted their condolences on Facebook--will miss his reading suggestions. A photo-heavy post in the Seattle Mystery Bookshop’s blog explains:
Bill and [his wife] B Jo Farley moved to Seattle [from Philadelphia] at the end of 1989 with the aim of opening their own specialty mystery bookshop. In the summer of 1990, they opened the Seattle Mystery Bookshop with the intention that it be a place where readers could meet authors, authors could be exposed to readers, questions could be asked and information given, where the casual reader and the serious collector could all find something of interest. As Bill put it, “For mystery lovers who know what they want and for those who haven’t a clue!”

Bill was a serious bookman but was armed with a lively sense of humor and a raucous laugh.
Farley ostensibly retired way back in 1999, selling the store to manager J.B. Dickey, but he continued to make frequent visits to those book-lined digs. Click here to read a fun joint interview with Farley and Dickey from 2006.

• Sadly, Bill was not around on July 1 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Seattle Mystery Bookshop’s opening.

• Another demise worth noting: Blogger Jerry House reports that crime and mystery novelist Charles Runyon kicked the bucket on June 8 at age 87. In addition to penning such books as Color Him Dead (1963), The Prettiest Girl I Ever Killed (1965), and To Kill a Dead Man (1976), Runyon also published a trio of works under the “Ellery Queen” house name and produced “sex romps” as “Mark West.” Several years ago, Mystery*File published an Ed Gorman interview with Runyon, together with bibliographical information. In 2007, Stark House Press released a “three-fer” collection of Gold Medal novels that included The Prettiest Girl I Ever Killed; it remains in print. ADDENDUM: The Gumshoe Site has more information to share, explaining that Runyon “was once rumored to die in 1987, but it turned to be just a rumor. … His first fiction sales was ‘First Man in a Satellite,’ printed in the December 1958 of Super-Science Fiction. … He contributed mystery short stories for Manhunt, Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. His first mystery novel was The Anatomy of Violence (Ace, 1960; not 1963) and he published 13 [more] mystery novels … Power Kill (Gold Medal, 1972) was nominated for an Edgar in the paperback category.”

• Oh, and Jack Carter died on June 24. Yes, the Brooklyn-born 89-year-old was primarily a comedian of long and distinguished standing. But he also guest-starred on a number of TV crime dramas, including The Name of the Game, Mannix, McCloud, McMillan & Wife, Hawaii Five-O, Police Story, Ellery Queen, The Rockford Files, Kingston: Confidential, Switch, and … well, I could go on with this list for some while. Better that you should refer to Carter’s Internet Movie Database (IMDb) credits page here.

• Mike Ripley returns with the July edition of his Shots column, the justly popular “Getting Away with Murder.” His topics this time include: London’s Crime in the Court party, hosted last month by Goldsboro Books; a possible new TV series pairing Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini; the re-release of two “classic” works by Ianthe Jerrold; and new fiction by the likes of Brian Panowich, Peter Lovesey, Nicci French, and Bonnie MacBird.

• Tom Nolan, Los Angeles editor of the new Library of America omnibus, Ross Macdonald: Four Novels of the 1950s, continues his excellent series about Macdonald for that publisher’s blog, writing here about the often-troubled literary and personal relationship between Macdonald and his author wife, Margaret Millar.

The Sydney Morning Herald offers a nice piece about Blockbuster! Fergus Hume & The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, by Lucy Sussex. That book looks back at author Hume’s 1886 thriller, The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, set in then-booming Melbourne, Australia, with hopes of “understanding of how a low-key provincial novel written by a frustrated playwright as a way of promoting himself to theatre producers could be so commercially successful.”

• Coincidentally, I noticed the other day that a 2012 TV adaptation of Hume’s yarn is available on YouTube. Watch it while you can!

• I also found on YouTube a quartet of TV mystery movies scripted by Columbo co-creators Richard Levinson and William Link (the latter of whom I was fortunate enough to interview in 2010). Again, there’s no telling how long these videos will remain on the site, but at least for the time being you can watch Murder by Natural Causes (1979, starring Hal Holbrook and Katharine Ross), Rehearsal for Murder (1982, starring Robert Preston, Lynne Redgrave, and Patrick Macnee), The Guardian (1984, with Martin Sheen and Louis Gossett Jr.), and Guilty Conscience (1985, starring Anthony Hopkins and Blythe Danner).

• Gravetapping blogger Ben Boulden is on the prowl for facts about author Ron Faust (Nowhere to Run, Split Image, The Long Count, etc.), which he hopes to use in establishing a “permanent page” in his blog dedicated to the memory of that “best writer you have never heard of,” who died in 2011. Boulden says, “I’m looking for information about Mr. Faust and his work: first-hand stories, interviews, articles, etc. The information will be used to develop a better understanding of both the man and his work. If you have memories, knowledge of his biography, bibliography, or know of any magazine and newspaper articles featuring Mr. Faust I would love to hear them. Please send an e-mail to”

• The quarterly, indie-publishing-focused mag, Foreword Reviews, has announced the recipients of its 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards, including winners in the Thriller & Suspense category.

• Seriously? Director Michael Bay wants to remake The Birds, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 thriller film based on a Daphne du Maurier short story? Why bother, when the original picture is so incredible? I swear, somebody with new ideas is desperately needed in Hollywood!

• Steven Nester’s review of Delicious Foods, by James Hannaham, was posted earlier today in the newly redesigned January Magazine. “This finely crafted book,” Nester writes, “updates the often lugubrious [crime fiction] genre with satire, social commentary, and such personal and cultural detail that it gives the antiquated gloom-and-doom clichés a real run for their money.”

• Here’s a present for fans of James Garner’s 1974-1980 private-eye series, The Rockford Files: 74 of the usually funny messages left on Rockford’s answering machine. Download them all!

• Now that Hal Holbrook’s often-powerful 1970-1971 series, The Senator--which showed on NBC-TV as one of the rotating elements of The Bold Ones--has been released in a DVD set by Shout! Factory, get ready to see an equally short-run Bold Ones series, The Protectors, brought to market in mid-September. Explains the TV Shows on DVD site: “The Protectors stars Leslie Nielsen as Sam Danforth, the deputy chief of police in a volatile California city. He is a conservative law-and-order type who is brought in from Cleveland to try to keep the lid on, but often is at odds with the city’s idealistic, liberal black D.A., William Washburn played by Hari Rhodes.” Might all this mean that we can expect to welcome the last remaining Bold Ones components--The New Doctors (with E.G. Marshall, David Hartman, and John Saxon) and The Lawyers (with Burl Ives, Joseph Campanella, and James Farentino)--to store racks sometime soon?

• Here’s a nicely matched set of posts: Irish author Ken Bruen, creator of the Jack Taylor crime series (Green Hell), offers Publishers Weekly readers his “highly personal” list of the “10 Best Noir Novels,” while Eric Beetner (Rumrunners) chooses “10 of the Best Noir Novels of the 21st Century” for Criminal Element. There are several books in each rundown that I have not yet read.

• A very belated congratulations to Martin Edwards, who has been chosen to follow author Simon Brett as the next president of The Detection Club, a prominent organization for mystery writers founded in 1930. Brett has been president since 2000, but is expected to retire in November, after which Edwards will take over. Most ably, I am sure.

• Works by Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Leigh Brackett, and Patricia Highsmith all find places on Mashable’s idiosyncratic tally of “10 Influential Pulp Novels That Are Criminally Good.”

• Mental Floss has gathered together15 Fateful Facts About Gilligan’s Island” including this one: “THE MILLIONAIRE’S WIFE REALLY WAS A MILLIONAIRE. Natalie Schafer, who played Mrs. Lovey Howell--and allegedly only accepted the invitation to play Mrs. Howell because it meant a free trip to Hawaii to film the pilot--was a real-life millionaire. During her marriage to actor Louis Calhern, the couple had invested heavily in Beverly Hills real estate at a time when a house on Rodeo Drive could be purchased for $50,000.”

• The island nation of Malta, located in the Mediterranean Sea just south of Italy, has already enjoyed some fame in crime-fiction circles as the setting for Mark Mills’ “triumphantly old-fashioned,” 2010 novel The Information Officer. But apparently that’s not good enough for Maltese travel promoters, who recently wooed “three hugely popular thriller writers, in what must rank as one of the most unusual and canny tourist initiatives ever.” According to The Guardian, Chris Kuzneski, Boyd Morrison, and Graham Brown “came to Malta at the invitation of the Malta Tourism Authority, which is now hoping that they will return home and help promote the Maltese islands in the as-yet-untapped U.S. market by using the archipelago as a backdrop in their new thrillers.” There’s more on this story here.

• And because Saturday is the Fourth of July, check out Janet Rudolph’s list of Independence Day-related mysteries? She has everything on there from Meg Chittenden’s Dead on the Fourth of July to Carolyn Hart’s Yankee Doodle Dead and Bill Crider’s Red, White, and Blue Murder. Who knows, you might want to have something new to read between fireworks explosions.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pierce’s Picks

A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

In Bitter Chill, by Sarah Ward (Faber and Faber UK), involves the apparent suicide, in England’s Peak District, of elderly Yvonne Jenkins, whose only daughter, Sophie, perished during a still-unsolved kidnapping back in 1978. As a pair of police detectives investigate, they connect Jenkins’ demise to that snatching as well as to the more recent strangling of a retired teacher who’d once known both Sophie and Rachel Jones, the latter of whom was also abducted but managed to escape. Might Rachel, now a genealogist, provide the clues needed to solve these crimes--even if she has no memory of the long-ago kidnappings to which they appear so firmly linked? Little Pretty Things, by Lori Rader-Day (Seventh Street), introduces Juliet Townsend, who in high school dreamed of becoming a track star, but 10 years on is cleaning rooms in a shabby Indiana motel. Imagine her surprise when Maddy Bell, her onetime athletic rival, checks in to that same lodging, looking prosperous and wanting to share a drink with Juliet. Something is quite wrong here, but Juliet doesn’t inquire until it is too late: Maddy is found dead and the cops figure Juliet was involved. To save herself, Juliet sifts through her past and memories of Maddy, hoping to identify a killer in the present.

Click here to see more of this season’s most-wanted books.

Dining with Daggers

During a dinner ceremony this evening at the Hotel Russell in London, the British Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) presented seven of its coveted annual Dagger Awards. Recipients were as follows:

The International Dagger: Camille, by Pierre Lemaitre, translated by Frank Wynne (Quercus)

Also nominated: Falling Freely, As If in a Dream, by Leif G.W. Persson, translated by Paul Norlen (Transworld); Cobra, by Deon Meyer, translated by (Hodder & Stoughton); Arab Jazz, by Karim Miské, translated by Sam Gordon (MacLehose); The Invisible Guardian, by Dolores Redondo, translated by Isabelle Kaufeler (HarperCollins); and Into a Raging Blaze, by Andreas Norman, translated by Ian Giles (Quercus)

The Short Story Dagger: “Apocrypha,” by Richard Lange (from Sweet Nothing: Stories, by Richard Lange; Mulholland Press)

Also nominated: “Red Eye,” by Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane (from Face Off, edited by David Baldacci; Sphere); “The Hunter,” by Dashiell Hammett (from The Hunter and Other Stories; No Exit Press); “Sweet Nothing,” by Richard Lange (from Sweet Nothing); “Juror 8,” by Stuart Neville (from OxCrimes; Profile); and “The Dead Their Eyes Implore Us,” by George Pelecanos (from OxCrimes)

The Non-fiction Dagger: In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile, by Dan Davies (Quercus)

Also nominated: A Kim Jong-Il Production, by Paul Fischer (Penguin); Ghettoside: Investigating a Homicide Epidemic, by Jill Leovy (Bodley Head); Gun Baby Gun: A Bloody Journey into the World of the Gun, by Iain Overton (Canongate); One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway, by Ǻsne Seierstad (Virago); and Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson (Scribe)

The Endeavour Historical Dagger: The Seeker, by
S.G. MacLean (Quercus)

Also nominated: Havana Sleeping, by Martin Davies (Hodder & Stoughton); Lamentation, by C. J. Sansom (Mantle); The Man from Berlin, by Luke McCallin (No Exit Press); The Silent Boy, by Andrew Taylor (HarperCollins); and The Taxidermist’s Daughter, by Kate Mosse (Orion)

The Debut Dagger: Last of the Soho Legends, by Greg Keen

Also nominated: Dark Chapter, by Winnie M. Li; The Ice Coffin, by Jill Sawyer; The Pure Drop, by Nigel Robbins; Lock Me In, by Kate Simants

Dagger in the Library: Christopher Fowler (Transworld)

Also nominated: Mark Billingham (Little, Brown); Ann Cleeves (Macmillan); Elly Griffiths (Quercus); Peter James (Macmillan); and Peter May (Quercus)

Diamond Dagger: Catherine Aird

The winners of another three Daggers--the Gold Dagger, the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, and the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger--will be announced this coming fall.

(Hat tip to our UK correspondent, Ali Karim.)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Scandal, Sex, Sin ... Suburbs!

Well, I’ve done it again, folks. So pleased was I with last week’s expansion of Killer Covers' summertime book-fronts gallery, that I decided to update another post from around that same time.

In May 2009, I cobbled together an assortment of “suburban sin fiction” covers from the mid-20th century, including works such as Adultery in Suburbia, Sexurbia County, Split-Level Love, and Shopping Center Sex. In the years since, however, I’ve found many more examples of that genre, and have now added to my gallery--boosting the number of paperbacks on display from 16 to a whopping 76.

Click here to enjoy the whole set.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Au Revoir, Oh Trusty Steed

Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee in The Avengers.

There’s nothing like a good obituary, and this one in The New York Times honoring British-born actor Patrick Macnee begins thusly:
Patrick Macnee, who wielded a lethal umbrella and sharp repartee as the dapper secret agent John Steed on the 1960s television series “The Avengers,” died on Thursday at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 93.

His son, Rupert, confirmed his death.

Mr. Macnee faced off against an assortment of evildoers, armed with understated wit and a traditionalist British fashion sense that made him look less like a spy in the Bond mold than “a junior cabinet minister,” as he once put it, although his tightly rolled umbrella concealed a sword and other crime-fighting gadgets, and his bowler hat, lined with a steel plate, could stop bullets and, when thrown, fell an opponent.

He was paired with a comely female sidekick, initially Honor Blackman (who left the series to play Pussy Galore in the James Bond film “Goldfinger”) but most famously Diana Rigg, stylish in a leather cat suit and every bit his equal in the wit and hand-to-hand-combat departments.

In many scenes he was content to observe, an eyebrow cocked, as Emma--whom he always referred to as Mrs. Peel--unleashed her martial arts expertise on a hapless foe. He would often summon her to action with the words “Mrs. Peel, we’re needed.” Steed carried no gun. Aplomb and sang-froid were his weapons. In one episode, his back to the wall and facing a firing squad, he was asked if he had a last request. “Would you cancel my milk?” he said.
This Associated Press obit observes that John Steed “appeared in all but two episodes [of The Avengers], accompanied by a string of beautiful women who were his sidekicks.” It goes on:
“We were in our own mad, crazy world,” Macnee told the Wichita Eagle in 2003 when “The New Avengers” [1976-1977] was being issued on DVD. “We were the TV Beatles. We even filmed in the same studio.”

But while he made his name internationally playing a smart, debonair British secret agent, Macnee was never a fan of the James Bond movies.

“I think their stories aren’t that realistic,” he told Salt Lake City’s Deseret News in 1999. “I think the sadism in them is horrifying. ... On the other hand, the books--the James Bond books--were fascinating.”
Macnee eventually appeared in one of the Bond films himself: 1985’s A View to a Kill, starring Roger Moore, in which he portrayed a Bond ally, Sir Godfrey Tibbett, who was ultimately murdered by the evil “superwoman,” May Day (Grace Jones). Macnee had also featured opposite Moore seven years before that, playing Doctor John H. Watson in the under-rated 1976 teleflick Sherlock Holmes in New York. Wikipedia notes that Macnee filled the role of Watson “twice [more] with Christopher Lee, first in Incident at Victoria Falls (1991) and then in Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1992). He played Holmes in another TV film, The Hound of London (1993). He is thus one of only a very small number of actors to have portrayed both Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on screen.”

The fact is, while many people remember Macnee best as the quintessential English gentleman spy and leading man in The Avengers, he was more often included in films and on television in standalone appearances or as a secondary character. “Macnee was the kind of actor you looked for as a guest star in other series,” writes It’s About TV’s Mitchell Hadley, “and when you ran across the name you made sure to watch the episode, even if you weren’t a fan of the show itself. He was a ship’s captain in Columbo and a man who thought he was Sherlock Holmes in Magnum, P.I., and lent his voice to the Cylon leader in the original Battlestar Galactica (as well as doing the voice-over to the opening credits). Whether playing the hero or the villain, he was a wonderful presence on screen, one that forced you to watch him.”

Macnee’s résumé included roles on Alias Smith and Jones, Diagnosis: Murder, Family Law, Hart to Hart, Murder, She Wrote, and Frasier. He did a turn as an unusually versatile travel agent in Robert Urich’s 1982-1983 TV series, Gavilin, and featured in Dennis Weaver’s 1989 one-off McCloud sequel, The Return of Sam McCloud. In addition, Macnee--who’d begun training as a stage performer before joining the Royal Navy during World War II--can be seen in motion pictures such as Scrooge (1951), The Sea Wolves (1980), and This Is Spinal Tap (1984).

For all of the wonderful words being said about Patrick Macnee in the wake of his demise, two of the most interesting things I learned about him are these: he was “expelled from Eton College for running a sports book and selling pornography,” to again quote The New York Times; and as The Telegraph explains, “he became an active member of a nudist colony in the mid-1970s.” As his one-time New Avengers co-star, Joanna Lumley, quipped: “He was the best-dressed man on television and a nudist in real life.”

It’s such ironic gems that make reading obituaries worthwhile.

READ MORE: Mr. Steed, You’re Needed: Remembering Patrick Macnee and The Avengers,” by Terence Towles Canote (A Shroud of Thoughts); “Good-bye, John Steed,” by Dick Lochte (Burning Daylight); “Diana Rigg on The Avengers, Mrs. Peel, Game of Thrones, and Matchmaking for Vincent Price,” by Stephen Bowie (A.V. Club); “Patrick Macnee: The Essence of a Gentleman,” by Robert Lloyd (Los Angeles Times).

Can’t You Just Feel the Heat?

To honor this week’s official start of the season, I have updated and more than tripled the size of a gallery in my Killer Covers blog showcasing vintage summer-related paperback book fronts. Among the artists represented are Robert McGinnis, Ernest Chiriacka, Paul Rader, Harry Bennett, and Charles Copeland. Click here to learn more.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Making a Run for It, Hollywood Style

(Editor’s note: This is the fourth recent piece by Rap Sheet contributor Anthony Rainone, who has been reflecting on real crimes and how they relate to fictional characters facing similar circumstances. You can enjoy all of Anthony’s previous posts here.)

On June 6, 2015, prisoners Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 35, broke out of the Clinton Correctional Facility, a maximum-security state prison located in Dannemora, New York. At the same time as that getaway set off a massive manhunt that continues today, it caused various news media to compare the incident, if only fleetingly, to the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption, which starred Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne and Morgan Freedman as Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding.

There are some similarities, to be sure. Matt and Sweat placed dummies in their beds, dug through brick, made their way along interior corridors, cut through pipes with power tools, and emerged outside the prison walls through a manhole cover. Andy Dufresne did not use power tools to escape from Maine’s (fictional) Shawshank State Penitentiary, though he did employ a small ball-peen hammer to break through his wall and dig down to the sewer pipes which also served as his means of escape through the bowels of the prison. Of course, Red Redding walked out of prison a free man, but broke his parole to meet up with Dufresne in Mexico--a locale to which some people thought Matt and Sweat would also head.

Yet the manhole cover escape immediately brought to mind another favorite film, the 1998 caper tale, Out of Sight, starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. Based on the 1996 Elmore Leonard novel of the same name, that picture at one point finds convicted bank robber Jack Foley (played by Clooney) emerging from beneath a manhole cover only to find himself staring down the barrel of a gun held by U.S. Marshall Karen Sisco (Lopez). The similarity extends further in that Matt and Sweat expected to see a woman when they exited their own manhole: accomplice and 51-year-old civilian prison tailor employee Joyce Mitchell.

Parallels end there, though one could technically extend them a bit further, since prisoner Matt seemed to have a sexual relationship with Mitchell, while Clooney’s Foley enjoyed a romantic attraction to Sisco. Clearly, Foley’s was the more admirable liaison, since Mitchell seemed to be merely a pawn in the Dannemora escape plans.

The recent New York fleeing also brings to mind another of my favorite prison-breakout movies: Escape from Alcatraz. Based on true events, that 1979 film starred Clint Eastwood as convicted armed robber Frank Morris and Patrick McGoohan as the sinister Warden. In 1962, the multiple-offending Morris used a sort-of power tool to undo bolts on a shaft vent; he’d rigged the thing from a fan motor and a drill bit. And let’s not forget the dummy head that Morris left on his prison bed.

Ruining the continuity thread, Morris did not go underground or utilize pipes in his daring flight. Instead, he crossed the roof of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary together with his accomplices, climbed down a wall, climbed over a fence, and used a makeshift raft assembled from raincoats to cross surrounding San Francisco Bay. Morris and his cohorts, the brothers Clarence and John Anglin, were never found and--though they’d be very old men by now--might still be at large. Most presumed they died crossing the frigid waters fraught with strong currents. But many believe Frank Morris eventually made his way to Mexico--the desired flee-to location for Matt and Sweat as well.

Maybe Morris, Dufresne, and Redding all enjoyed drinks with umbrellas on the beach. I could live with that.

Life imitates art/imitates life doesn’t fully apply to the case of Richard Matt and David Sweat, of course. There’s a serious departure. Shawshank’s Dufresne was wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. Out of Sight’s Jack Foley was a gentleman bank robber with charm and morals--he was not a violent man. Frank Morris was a convicted armed robber, certainly a serious matter, but Eastwood managed to make his character sympathetic and gruffly likable, if not entirely innocent.

Matt and Sweat, on the other hand, are cold-blooded killers. There is nothing romantic or likable about these men, one of whom murdered a deputy, while the other killed and dismembered his victim. Unlike Dufresne or Morris, the recent escapees in New York state deserve to be apprehended and serve out their life sentences. Their story does not merit a happy cinematic ending.

FOLLOW-UP:Sprawling Hunt Ends as David Sweat, 2nd Prison Escapee, Is Shot and Captured,” by Rick Rojas, J. David Goodman, and William K. Rashbaum (The New York Times).

Pierce’s Picks

A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

Stealing People, by Robert Wilson (Orion UK), brings the return of London kidnap consultant Charles Boxer (Capital Punishment, You Will Never Find Me), this time challenged by a case involving the children of six billionaires, all abducted within a span of just 32 hours. The well-organized group responsible for these acts demands no ransom, but does want £25 million per hostage to cover “expenses.” As Boxer and his ex, London police detective Mercy Danquah, go at the investigation from different angles, they’re competing with intelligence agencies concerned about the kidnappings because the parents that have been targeted have connections to some very powerful characters. The Cartel, by Don Winslow (Knopf)--a sequel to The Power of the Dog (2005)--transports us back into the company of Art Keller, a now-retired Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent, who re-enters the deadly hubbub of Mexico’s drug-peddling conflicts following news that his old antagonist, Adán Barrera, leader of the Sinaloan cartel El Federación, has broken out of prison and is intent on re-establishing himself as a criminal kingpin. Keith Rawson writes in Lit Reactor that “if this was a just world, The Cartel would be Winslow’s true breakout novel and it would place all of Winslow’s future novels at the top of [the] New York Times bestseller list.”

Click here to see more of this season’s most-wanted books.

Who Says P.I.s Are Passé?

There was a time, from the late 1950s through the ’70s, when private-eye dramas were all the rage on television. Now it’s hard to find any such programs. We’ve been told for a long while that gumshoes are a dying breed in published fiction as well, that--as I write in my new Kirkus Reviews column--“In our era of smartphones and Google searches, mass shootings and invasive electronic surveillance, the resolute P.I. plodding through a case, dissecting myriad motives and doubting the truthfulness of everyone he or she encounters, simply does not excite readers any longer.”

Yet there are still plenty of hard-working and intriguing freelance investigators stalking the streets of our most crime-besieged cities. (Just ask the Private Eye Writers of America, presenter of the annual Shamus Awards.) On the Kirkus Web site today, I highlight five recently published novels that do a commendable job of keeping private detectives relevant--whether they operate in modern times or historical ones. You’ll find that piece here.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

“Jaws”: The Painter Behind the Predator

Astounding as this is to believe, it was 40 years ago today that Steven Spielberg’s summer blockbuster, Jaws, premiered on U.S. movie screens. The film’s script, about a giant man-eating shark that menaces a seaside vacation town in New England, was based on Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel of the same name and turned out to be a mammoth box-office success. Wikipedia recalls that “Jaws opened with a $7 million weekend and recouped its production costs in two weeks. In just 78 days, it overtook The Godfather as the highest-grossing film at the North American box office ...”

While that entire horror film is pretty frickin’ memorable (you can watch a “best of” montage at the Boing Boing Web site), even people who haven’t seen the picture are probably familiar with the poster used to publicize it--a poster that gave rise to myriad thematic imitations. The artwork, inspired by the Benchley novel’s first scene and showing a young skinny-dipping woman being attacked by a great white shark, was created originally for the 1975 Bantam paperback edition of Jaws. It was painted by Roger Kastel (born 1931), a White Plains, New York, native who’d been turning out magazine and paperback book-cover illustrations since the ’60s, and would go on from the Jaws commission to create the movie artwork for the first Star Wars film sequel, The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

Unfortunately, those Hollywood projects have pretty much eclipsed Kastel’s other artistic efforts. A bit of searching around the Web, though, brings up a number of book and periodical fronts by this artist that merit attention. So as we commemorate this 40th anniversary of Jaws’ release, let us also remember the man behind its iconic poster. Below I’ve embedded Kastel’s original illustration for the 1967 Banner edition of The Tease, by Gil Brewer; several of his façades for paperback novels by Frank Kane, H.G. Wells, John Steinbeck, Franz Kafka, and others; and finally, a quartet of adventure magazine fronts that demonstrate, if nothing else, Kastel’s eye for the fame form.

Click on any of these images to open an enlargement.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Macavitys Prowling for Purr-fect Homes

Blogger and editor Janet Rudolph today announced the contenders for the 2015 Macavity Awards. Nominees are selected and voted on “by members of Mystery Readers International, subscribers to Mystery Readers Journal, and friends and supporters of MRI.”

Best Mystery Novel:
The Lewis Man, by Peter May (Quercus)
The Last Death of Jack Harbin, by Terry Shames (Seventh Street)
The Killer Next Door, by Alex Marwood (Penguin)
The Day She Died, by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)
The Missing Place,
by Sophie Littlefield (Gallery)
The Long Way Home,
by Louise Penny (Minotaur)

Best First Mystery Novel:
Invisible City,
by Julia Dahl (Minotaur)
The Black Hour,
by Lori Rader-Day (Seventh Street)
Someone Else’s Skin,
by Sarah Hilary (Penguin)
Dear Daughter, by Elizabeth Little (Viking)
Blessed Are the Dead, by Kristi Belcamino (Witness Impulse)
Dry Bones in the Valley, by Tom Bouman (Norton)

Best Mystery-Related Non-fiction:
Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer’s Journey, edited by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Henery Press)
The Figure of the Detective: A Literary History and Analysis, by Charles Brownson (McFarland)
Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe, by J.W. Ocker (Countryman)
400 Things Cops Know: Street Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman, by Adam Plantinga (Quill Driver)

Best Mystery Short Story:
“Honeymoon Sweet,” by Craig Faustus Buck (from Murder at the Beach: The Bouchercon Anthology 2014, edited by Dana Cameron; Down & Out)
“The Shadow Knows,” by Barb Goffman (from Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays, edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley; Wildside)
“Howling at the Moon,” by Paul D. Marks (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine [EQMM], November 2014)
“The Proxy,” by Travis Richardson (ThugLit #13,
September/October 2014)
“The Odds Are Against Us,” by Art Taylor (EQMM, November 2014)

Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Mystery:
Queen of Hearts, by Rhys Bowen (Berkley Prime Crime)
Present Darkness, by Malla Nunn (Atria)
A Deadly Measure of Brimstone, by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur)
An Officer and a Spy, by Robert Harris (Knopf)
Hunting Shadows, by Charles Todd (Morrow)
Things Half in Shadow, by Alan Finn (Gallery)

Winners will be declared during Bouchercon 46, to be held in Raleigh, North Carolina, from October 8 to 11.

(By the way, the Macavity Awards take their name from the “mystery cat” in the 1939 collection of whimsical poetry, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. The author of that collection was, of course, T.S. Eliot--about whom I wrote earlier today in regard to his five rules of “detective conduct” in fiction. How’s that for an odd coincidence?)

Eliot’s Expectations

Way back in 2006, I posted on this page author S.S. Van Dine’s “Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories,” which had originally been featured in American Magazine in 1928. I hadn’t realized until today, though, that essayist-playwright--a great fan of mystery and crime fiction, I hear--concocted his own five rules of “detective conduct” a year before Van Dine’s appeared. Curtis J. Evans provides this brief version of those “rules” in his blog, The Passing Tramp.
1. The story must not rely upon elaborate and incredible disguises. ... Disguises must be only occasional and incidental.

2. The character and motives of the criminal should be normal. In the ideal detective story we should feel that we have a sporting chance to solve the mystery ourselves; if the criminal is highly abnormal, an irrational element is introduced which offends us.

3. The story must not rely upon either occult phenomena, or, what comes to the same thing, upon mysterious and preposterous discoveries made by lonely scientists.

4. Elaborate and bizarre machinery is an irrelevance. ... Writers who delight in treasures hid in strange places, cyphers and codes, runes and rituals, should not be encouraged.

5. The detective should be highly intelligent, but not superhuman. We should be able to follow his inferences and almost, but not quite, make them with him.
Hey, I want to hear more about those “mysterious and preposterous discoveries made by lonely scientists.” Were those once regular occurrences in the genre?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Pierce’s Picks

A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

The Convictions of John Delahunt, by Andrew Hughes (Pegasus), sweeps readers confidently--and on the wings of some elegant prose--into the poverty-encumbered world of 1840s Dublin, where a young paid informant for the British government awaits hanging for the brutal murder of a small boy. Based on historical events, Hughes’ debut novel finds former Trinity College student John Delahunt reflecting in his prison cell on his clandestine activities, the romance he’d enjoyed with the sister of a rebellious friend, and the ways in which he betrayed others ... and was in turn betrayed. Charlie Martz and Other Stories (Morrow) finds Elmore Leonard--who died in 2013--back in bookstores with a collection of 15 short tales from his early career, most of them previously unpublished. As Edward A. Grainger notes in Criminal Element, the offerings here range from Westerns (such as “Charlie Martz” and “First Western Siesta in Paloverde”) to criminal yarns (including “One, Horizontal,” about “an older brother looking for revenge for his younger sibling who had been maimed by a mobster and wisely isn’t looking for retribution himself”).

Click here to see more of this season’s most-wanted books.

Theakstons Trims Its Top Picks

Earlier today I posted the news about this year’s shortlisted nominees for three Dagger Awards, to be given out by the Crime Writers’ Association. But I didn’t realize, until reading Karen Meek’s Euro Crime blog, that another prize announcement had been made. Here, then, are the finalists for the 2015 Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year:

The Facts of Life and Death, by Belinda Bauer (Black Swan)
The Axeman’s Jazz, by Ray Celestin (Mantle)
The Outcast Dead, by Elly Griffiths (Quercus)
Someone Else’s Skin, by Sarah Hilary (Headline)
The Devil in the Marshalsea, by Antonia Hodgson
(Hodder & Stoughton)
Entry Island, by Peter May (Quercus)

In addition, Sara Paretsky will be given the Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award. Past winners of that commendation include Denise Mina, Lee Child, Val McDermid, and Mark Billingham.

The Crime Novel of the Year winner will be declared during the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England, July 16-19. The longlist of nominees can be found here.

Who Has Dagger Swagger Today?

The British Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) announced, in May, the longlist of nominees in five of its 2015 Dagger Awards categories. Today it offers up four additional sets of contenders for CWA prizes.

CWA Goldsboro Gold Dagger:
The Shut Eye, by Belinda Bauer (Bantam Press)
The Rules of Wolfe, by James Carlos Blake (No Exit Press)
The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith (Sphere)
Missing, by Sam Hawken (Serpent’s Tail)
Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King (Hodder & Stoughton)
Pleasantville, by Attica Locke (Serpent’s Tail)
The Bone Seeker, by M.J. McGrath (Mantle)
The Serpentine Road, by Paul Mendelson (Constable)
Life or Death, by Michael Robotham (Sphere)
The Kind Worth Killing, by Peter Swanson (Faber and Faber)

CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger:
No Safe House, by Linwood Barclay (Orion)
The Defence, by Steve Cavanagh (Orion)
The Stranger, by Harlan Coben (Orion)
Missing, by Sam Hawken (Serpent’s Tail)
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins (Doubleday)
Nobody Walks, by Mick Herron (Soho Crime)
The White Van, by Patrick Hoffman (Grove Press)
The Final Minute, by Simon Kernick (Century)
Runner, by Patrick Lee (Michael Joseph)
The Night the Rich Men Burned, by Malcolm MacKay (Mantle)
Cop Town, by Karin Slaughter (Century)
The Kind Worth Killing, by Peter Swanson (Faber and Faber)
Heartman, by M.P. Wright (Black & White)

CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger:
The Abrupt Physics of Dying, by Paul E. Hardisty (Orenda)
Dear Daughter, by Elizabeth Little (Harvill Secker)
Dry Bones in the Valley, by Tom Bouman (Faber and Faber)
Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng (Little, Brown)
Fourth of July Creek, by Smith Henderson (Heinemann)
The Girl in the Red Coat, by Kate Hamer (Faber and Faber)
The Killing of Bobbi Lomax, by Cal Moriarty (Faber and Faber)
The Well, by Catherine Chanter (Canongate)
You, by Caroline Kepnes (Simon & Schuster)

Shortlists of the competitors in all of these Dagger categories should be declared on June 30, with the final winners to be announced in September during an awards ceremony in central London.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Live Readers to Pick the Dead Goods

The Dead Good Reader Awards. You’ve never heard of them? That’s probably because their creation was only announced this last April by the crime fiction-oriented UK Web site Dead Good. There are six prizes in total, each “celebrat[ing] a unique element in crime writing” and in some cases a specific author who has gained renown in the genre. Winners are to be selected through online polling as well as by a vote among attendees at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England, July 16-19.

Today brought news of the shortlisted nominees.

The Dead Good Recommends Award for Most Recommended Book:
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins (Transworld)
I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes (Transworld)
The Defence, by Steve Cavanagh (Orion)
I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh (Sphere)
The Lie, by C.L. Taylor (Avon)
No Other Darkness, by Sarah Hilary (Headline)

The Lee Child Award for Best Loner or Detective:
Cormoran Strike, created by Robert Galbraith (Little, Brown)
John Rebus, created by Ian Rankin (Orion)
Harry Hole, created by Jo Nesbø (Vintage)
Lacey Flint, created by Sharon Bolton (Transworld)
David Raker, created by Tim Weaver (Michael Joseph)
Vera Stanhope, created by Ann Cleeves (Pan Macmillan)

The Val McDermid Award for Fiendish Forensics:
Bones Are Forever, by Kathy Reichs (Cornerstone)
Die Again, by Tess Gerritsen (Transworld)
The Ghost Fields, by Elly Griffiths (Quercus)
Flesh and Blood, by Patricia Cornwell (Harper)
Rubbernecker, by Belinda Bauer (Transworld)
Time of Death, by Mark Billingham (Sphere)

The Reichenbach Falls Award for Most Epic Ending:
The Defence, by Steve Cavanagh (Orion)
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins (Transworld)
The Nightmare Place, by Steve Mosby (Orion)
I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh (Sphere)
Personal, by Lee Child (Transworld)
The Skeleton Road, by Val McDermid (Sphere)

The Dr. Lecter Award for Scariest Villain:
The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes (Harper)
Into the Darkest Corner, by Elizabeth Haynes (Myriad)
An Evil Mind, by Chris Carter (Simon & Schuster)
The Stand, by Stephen King (Hodder)
You Are Dead, by Peter James (Macmillan)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson (Quercus)

The Patricia Highsmith Award for Most Exotic Location:
Amsterdam, The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die, by Marnie Riches (Maze)
Bardsey Island, The Bones Beneath, by Mark Billingham (Sphere)
Boston, The Kind Worth Killing, by Peter Swanson (Faber)
Greece, The Long Fall, by Julia Crouch (Headline)
Nepal, The Lie, by C.L. Taylor (Avon)
Oslo, Police, by Jo Nesbø (Vintage)

To vote for all your favorites among this bunch, use these links:

The Dead Good Recommends Award for Most Recommended Book
The Lee Child Award for Best Loner or Detective
The Val McDermid Award for Fiendish Forensics
The Reichenbach Falls Award for Most Epic Ending
The Dr. Lecter Award for Scariest Villain
The Patricia Highsmith Award for Most Exotic Location

The biggest vote-getters will be declared during a special event at the Crime Writing Festival on Friday, July 17.

FOLLOW-UP: There were a couple of questions I thought hadn’t been answered by press releases about these Dead Good Reader Awards. The first was, “What is the last date on which readers can vote for their favorite books in this competition?” Rhiannon Griffiths, a content assistant at Penguin Random House in the UK, got back to me via e-mail this morning, explaining that “The deadline for votes is 18th July, as visitors to Harrogate crime writing festival will have the opportunity to vote in person.” Second question: “Are the Dead Good Reader Awards supposed to be presented annually? If so, are some of the specific prizes likely to change … because I cannot imagine you would get a wholly new crop of nominees every year if you ask readers for the ‘Scariest Villain’ or the ‘Most Epic Ending.’” Again, Ms. Griffiths responds: “We’re hoping to run the Dead Good Reader Awards annually but some of the categories will change” Now we know.

Dollars for Davies?

Ontario illustrator and instructor Leif Peng, who put together the Today’s Inspiration blog, before moving his efforts over to Facebook, recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $21,680 in order to produce a new hardcover book celebrating the art of Will Davies, “Canada’s premier illustrator of the Mad Men era.” So far, $16,428 has been pledged by 166 backers. There are only 18 days left in the campaign. If you can pitch in a few bucks, please do so here.

READ MORE:Giving One of the Canadian Mad Men His Due,” by Graham Rockingham (The Hamilton Spectator).

Friday, June 12, 2015

Chasing Deadly Ink’s David

In advance of the Deadly Ink Mystery Conference, which is set to take place in New Brunswick, New Jersey, from August 7 to 9, organizers have released the list of nominees for the 2015 David Award. Convention attendees will choose the recipient of this prize for the best mystery novel of last year. Here are the contenders:

Blood Rubies, by Jane Cleland (Minotaur)
The Question of the Missing Head, by E.J. Copperman and
Jeff Cohen (Midnight Ink)
Circle of Influence, by Annette Dashofy (Henery Press)
Death and White Diamonds, by Jeff Markowitz (Intrigue)
The Roar of the Crowd, by Janice MacDonald (Ravenstone)
The Outsmarting of Criminals, by Steven Rigolosi (Ransom Note)

The David Award is named in memory of David G. Sasher Sr. Unfortunately, the Deadly Ink Web site doesn’t remind us who Sasher was; that seems like something worth explaining, don’t you think?

Anyway, congratulations to all of the nominees!

(Hat tip to Classic Mysteries.)

FOLLOW-UP: Gerald So, editor of the crime-fiction poetry blog The 5-2, wrote to me late last week, saying he’d “found some information about David G. Sasher” that might be of interest. According to this 2010 post on the news Web site, “The David [Award] is given in memory of Jefferson Township [New Jersey] resident David G. Sasher, Sr. who passed away in November 2006. He had worked hard on Deadly Ink 2006, helping with mailings and manning the registration desk.” Furthermore, this bare-bones obituary says Sasher was born in October 1940 and died at age 66. Thank you, Gerald, for your assistance in this matter.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Bullet Points: Salmagundi Edition

• What a treat! Los Angeles resident and Ross Macdonald biographer Tom Nolan is currently composing a series of posts about that renowned detective novelist for the Library of America site. You’ll find the first couple here and here. They’re well worth reading.

• I mentioned in my interview with Nolan back in April, that The Archer Files, his 2007 compilation of Macdonald’s previously unpublished Lew Archer short stories and story fragments, would be reissued in paperback by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard in July. But there wasn’t cover art available for the book at that time. Now there is. Personally, I prefer artist Jeff Wong’s original front for this collection (which was based on Mitchell Hooks’ illustration for the 1955 Bantam paperback, The Name Is Archer), but clearly, Vintage wanted its edition of The Archer Files to look like its previous Macdonald reprints.

• Rap Sheet reader Peter Hegarty passes along this story from The Irish Times, explaining that former U2 manager Paul McGuinness has been working for the past year with director Neil Jordan and Irish wordsmith John Banville, aka Benjamin Black (The Black-Eyed Blonde, Holy Orders), on a pay-TV crime drama called Riviera. “It’s about a sort-of French, sort-of Italian business family,” McGuinness explains. “This large, seemingly legitimate family business empire conceals a criminal enterprise. That’s the basis of the story.” He hopes to see Riviera make it to the airwaves by the fall of 2016.

• A reminder to authors: The deadline to register, if you wish to be considered for a panel at Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, is June 15!

According to Double O Section, “Sundance Channel has started aggressively advertising for Deutschland 83, their Cold War miniseries event that will mark the first ever German-language program broadcast on American television …” The blog provides a rather humorous video trailer, and you can learn more about the show on the Sundance Web site. Deutschland 83 is scheduled to debut next Wednesday, June 17.

• Lisa Levy, editor of the new crime fiction-oriented Web site, The Life Sentence, is profiled briefly by author Alex Segura in his newsletter, Stuff & Nonsense.

• Speaking of The Life Sentence, it features a new piece about the Black Gat line of paperback noir works rolling out from Stark House Press. That imprint has already brought three books to market: A Haven for the Damned, by Harry Whittington; Stranger at Home, by Leigh Brackett; and Eddie’s World, by Charlie Stella. When asked what future titles to expect, publisher Greg Shepard says, “I don’t want to give much away at this point, but authors I’m considering or have contracted at this point cover an interesting range of old and new: Malcolm Braly, Vin Packer, Orrie Hitt, who we’ve already published in the trade line; and writers like Helen Nielsen, Don Tracy, Gary Phillips, and John Flagg, who would be first-time authors to the list.”

• “Can Reading Make You Happier? asks The New Yorker. There’s no doubt of where I stand on that question--a resounding YES!!!

• Director Guy Richie has released, via Instagram, “what he described as the final poster for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie and said a new trailer debuts June 11.” That news comes from The Spy Command, which notes that “The movie, with Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin, is scheduled to debut Aug. 14.” A new, second trailer for Ritchie’s U.N.C.L.E. is here.

• In case you have not yet noticed (and hey, why the hell haven’t you?), I put together a rather extensive gallery of paperback fronts for my other blog, Killer Covers, all of which employ the word “wanton” in their titles or, alternatively, use it in their cover teasers. One additional entry along the same theme is found here.

• I don’t envy the judges of this year’s Davitt Awards, sponsored by Sisters in Crime Australia. There are a record 96 books vying for only six prizes, all of which are intended to honor the best in Down Under crime writing by women. A list of finalists is to be announced in late July, with the 2015 winners to be declared on August 29.

Here’s a new promo for the 24th James Bond flick, Spectre.

• After “months in the making,” says Sarah Weinman, her good-sized profile of 87-year-old American “Queen of Suspense” Mary Higgins Clark has finally been published in The Guardian. One of the things that stands out in the piece is Clark’s contrary insistence on delivering amiable, reliable female protagonists in her fiction. “Unlikable heroines are in vogue,” notes Weinman, “and the success of books like Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, and Luckiest Girl Alive ensures it will stay that way for some time. Clark’s overtly likable heroines, a standard from which she hasn’t deviated ... in four decades and never will, seem strangely subversive as a result.”

• This comes from In Reference to Murder:
The Bloody Scotland conference announced the lineup for its fourth annual event this September. Highlights will include an all-woman panel of writers tackling the topic, “Killer Women--Deadlier Than the Male?”; a celebration of the 125th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birth, with talks by research chemist Dr. Kathryn Harkup (whose book A Is for Arsenic looks at Christie’s obsession with poison), and Icelandic author Ragnar Jonasson, who’s translated 14 of Christie’s books; writers and comics will join forces to improvise the plot of a crime novel on stage; and the event culminates with the Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the Year awards dinner. The conference also announced it’s giving away free tickets to the unemployed.
• Really, Edgar Allan Poe inspired the game Scrabble?

• Nancie Clare has been busy of late, posting a number of new Speaking of Mysteries podcasts for your delectation. Her interviewees include Robert Rotstein (The Bomb Maker’s Son), Stephen Hunter (I, Ripper), Sharon Bolton (Little Black Lies), and Attica Locke (Pleasantville). Check out all of her author conversations right here.

• Cuban/Spanish novelist Leonardo Padura, whose books include a quartet of crime novels featuring Lieutenant Mario Conde (Havana Black), has won Spain’s Princess of Asturias Award for Literature. In The Game’s Afoot, blogger Jose Ignacio Escribano quotes the prize jury’s president, Dario Villanueva Prieto, as saying: “The vast work of Leonardo Padura, which crosses all genres of prose, highlights a resource which characterizes his literary work and that is the interest in listening to people’s voices and lost stories from others.”

• Good-bye to Richard Johnson, a distinguished 87-year-old British actor who was once Sean Connery’s rival for the movie role of James Bond. Johnson eventually went on to appear in other spy films, including “the greatest Bond knock-off ever made,” 1967’s Deadlier Than the Male. He died on June 6.

• Meanwhile, SpyVibe reports that a new Blu-ray edition of Deadlier Than the Male has gone on sale in Britain. “If you are curious to explore slightly less mainstream 1960s spy movies and/or Eurospy, this is definitely in the top-five and not to be missed.” Hmm. I’m not altogether sure that I have seen Deadlier Than the Male (a trailer for which is embedded below). Maybe a viewing is in order.


• But don’t vampires live forever? Apparently, only the “real” ones do. The Guardian brings the sad news that “Sir Christopher Lee, known as the master of horror, has died at the age of 93 after being hospitalized for respiratory problems and heart failure.” In addition to his horror-flick roles, Lee also played the villainous Scramanga in the 1974 Bond picture, The Man with the Golden Gun. More here.

• For The Strand Magazine, Joseph Finder (The Fixer) picks his 10 favorite heist novels, among them Donald E. Westlake’s The Hot Rock, Steve Hamilton’s The Lock Artist, Michael Crichton’s The Great Train Robbery, and Gerald Browne’s 19 Purchase Street.

• HBO-TV is really trying to whet our appetites for the second season of True Detective. It’s released two new video teasers for the show, which is scheduled to return on June 21. “Although terse--one of the teasers (titled ‘Stand’) contains no dialogue at all--some insight about the new characters can be gleaned,” avers Flavorwire.

• Author Henry Miller’s11 Commandments of Writing and Daily Routine” include one morsel of advice that I always try (and sometimes struggle) to bear in mind: “Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.”

• Bob Douglas has put together a helpful overview of Charles McCarry’s espionage novels for the blog Critics at Large.

• Speaking of guides to authors’ works, folks interested in exploring Henning Mankell’s acclaimed Kurt Wallander series--either in books or on screen--would do well to check out this piece in Crime Lover.

• The British Library has decided to bring back into print The Incredible Crime, a 1931 novel by Lois Austen-Leigh, the granddaughter of Jane Austen’s nephew. “[Austen-Leigh] seems to have completely slipped out of memory--even experts in the field haven’t heard of her,” says Robert Davies of the British Library. “But she wrote four crime novels. This first one has an academic setting in a Cambridge college, and is very well done. It’s a witty take on academic life in Cambridge.”

• J.K. Rowling’s third detective novel written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith will be titled Career of Evil. It’s set for release in the UK in late October. I don’t find any U.S. publication date yet.

• Did you know author Lynda La Plante, who created the long-running TV police-procedural series Prime Suspect, has a new novel due out in the UK on September 24 starring the same protagonist? It’s titled simply Tennison (Simon & Schuster), and serves as a prequel to the small-screen drama. “In 1972 Jane Tennison, aged 22, leaves the Metropolitan Police Training Academy to be placed on probationary exercise in Hackney where criminality thrives,” reads the book’s plot description. “We witness her struggle to cope in a male-dominated, chauvinistic environment, learning fast to deal with shocking situations with no help or sympathy from her superiors. Then comes her involvement in her first murder case.” Again, no U.S. release date for this work has been publicized.

• La Plante, by the way, is scheduled to be “among the big names at this year’s Hay Festival Kells in County Meath,” reports Crime Fiction Ireland. That festival will run from June 25 to 28.

In Noah’s Archives, Scott Ratner delivers a lengthy and fascinating piece about the myth of “fair play” in Golden Age mystery fiction.

• And I’m well aware of James Franciscus’ 1971-1972 ABC-TV series Longstreet, which cast him as a blind insurance investigator in New Orleans. But I didn’t know until this week that he’d previously held the same sort of position in CBS’s The Investigators (1961). According to this fine piece by Michael Shonk, in Mystery*File, “The Investigators told the story of a major investigation firm that worked for various insurance companies around the country (or maybe the world). Investigators, Inc. was run by Russ Andrews [Franciscus] and Steve Banks [James Philbrook] and located in New York. … The Investigators is worth remembering for the work of director Joseph H. Lewis and giving TV its first female licensed P.I., Maggie Peters [played by Mary Murphy]. However it, as [well as] many other action and crime dramas during the 1961-62 season, was doomed by the changing times.” Only 13 episodes of this Thursday night program were aired.