The Great American Book Tour
Jenny Milchman

usabookshelfAuthor Jenny Milchman is a lover of bookstores. She shares her favorite independent shops (and nearby stops) across the US. Time to sit back, hit the road, and read your way across the nation.

Image credit: Custom bookshelf designed by artist Ron Arad.

You can drive cross-country visiting amusement parks or baseball fields. You can eat your way across the country road food-style or get your kicks on route 66. But if you're a mystery fan, you can see America bookstore by bookstore—and possibly have the biggest adventure yet.

My family of four set out with stops scheduled at 19 mystery bookstores...

The Mysterious Bookshop (New York, New York)

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We began at The Mysterious Bookshop, located in the snaking skein of streets in lower Manhattan. Mystery Editor Otto Penzler owns this bookstore and has peopled it with booksellers as passionate and learned as he. In addition to being a place where you can snatch up the newest blockbuster, this bookshop also serves as a mystery museum. As you make your way from the front of the store to the rear, you take a journey back in time. You can view the history of our genre preserved behind glass doors. There are rare books, signed first editions, and the largest collection of Sherlock Holmes works in the country. But nothing about the shop is archaic. It's a happening spot in a happening city, with a full calendar of events, launch parties, and a mystery book club that draws members from far beyond New York. The Mysterious Bookshop, 58 Warren Street, New York, NY 10007. Tel: 212-587-1011, www.mysteriousbookshop.com

Moonstone Mystery Books (Flemington, New Jersey)

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You can't plan a tour of bookstores and not run into the claim that they are foundering. We found that reports of this demise were greatly exaggerated. How, in this virtual age, are the bricks and mortars continuing to thrive? One answers lies in the booksellers themselves.

Marilyn Thiele is one such person. There is a blend of new and gently used books at Moonstone Mystery Books, which is tucked away on a quiet street in Flemington, New Jersey. Despite the out-of-the-way location, customers are drawn by a myriad of strategies, including a dessert buffet at author events. But cake can only go so far. (Well, in my experience, cake can go very far.) Still, a successful bookstore relies on a whole bouquet of appealing approaches. Readers love finding books set in locations they know, and by local authors, and so Thiele features a wide range of titles with a New Jersey element. But even as a locavore movement surges, the globe also seems to be shrinking. Moonstone Mystery carries contemporary blockbusters, classics, and foreign mysteries in translation—from the Scandinavians to titles from Latin America and China. The Moonstone Mystery Bookstore, 12-14 Bloomfield Avenue, Flemington, NJ 08822. Telephone: 908-788-9094, www.facebook.com/pages/Twice-Told-Tales-The-Moonstone-Mystery-Book-Store

Nearby: Flemington is a charming Victorian town, in which you would expect something like a proper English tea house, and indeed you can have your scones and cucumber sandwiches at Teaberry's. For a more contemporary American culinary experience, try 55 Main or Matt's Red Rooster Grill.

Murder on the Beach (Delray Beach, Florida)

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A recent James Patterson signing at Murder on the Beach.

Another bookseller who understands the wisdom of local is Joanne Sinchuk of Murder on the Beach, in Delray Beach, Florida. This bookstore specializes in regional mysteries, and indeed its very setting is perfect for a mystery. Wind-swept beaches, rustling palm fronds, and a blue sky that means you simply know all is not well. Inside a reader will find new, used, and antiquarian titles, with an emphasis on signed first editions by Florida authors. Oh, and a skeleton guarding the gate. What's a mystery without a dead body? Murder on the Beach,
273 NE 2nd Ave, Delray Beach, FL 33444. Telephone: 561-279-7790, www.murderonthebeach.com

Mysteries & More (Nashville, Tennessee)

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Photo by Jen Forbus from jensbookthoughts.com.

Mysteries & More outside Nashville, Tennessee, is a cozy place that allows owners Greg and Mary Bruss to surround themselves with the mysteries they loved reading all their lives. Their stock is 90% used and 10% new with an emphasis on local authors. But in a city whose population rallied in protest when the last independent bookstore closed in 2010, M&M holds a special place. The Brusses open their doors to special events such as the 4th of July Free Lunch & Carnival, and these have become the "lifeblood of the store." Mysteries and More, 6965 Sunnywood Drive, Nashville, TN 37211. Telephone: 615-837-3300, www.mysteriesandmore.net

Mystery Lovers Bookshop (Oakmont, Pennsylvania)

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Laurie Stephens of Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, talks about the bookseller factor when she describes the care taken to make sure that each book recommendation is precisely pegged to the customer who asks. Readers who live nowhere near Pittsburgh routinely phone in orders; Laurie and her staff tuck peppermints into each shipment. This bookstore moves beyond local in another way as well. On MLB's bathroom walls you can find the signatures of every mystery author who has ever visited, which is seemingly every one who has ever written. You may have to climb over the toilet to see it, but yes, that's Lisa Gardner's scrawl up there. Mystery Lovers Bookshop, 514 Allegheny River Boulevard, Oakmont, PA 15139. Telephone: (412) 828-4877, www.mysterylovers.com

Aunt Agatha’s Bookshop (Ann Arbor, Michigan)

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Aunt Agatha's in Ann Arbor, Michigan, won the 2013 Raven award, and indeed the place is like a candy store for mystery lovers. Robin Agnew has held onto everything from the Pocket display rack for early pulp paperbacks to the toy safe that Steve Hamilton's publisher sent out to promote The Lock Artist. The store carries new and used titles. Robin loves the happy accidents—such as when a first edition of C Is For Corpse turned up in a box she was unpacking—but her approach to bookselling is quite deliberate. Robin or one of her booksellers will go so far as to place a title in a customer's hands. The fact that many they suggest wind up on the bookstore's bestseller list suggests they are doing their job—and a service to mystery readers. Aunt Agatha's Bookshop, 213 S. 4th Ave #1A, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. Telephone: 734-769-1114

Nearby: A few blocks away is Grange Kitchen and Bar, a lovely farm to table restaurant serving local food and fancy cocktails. Also in town is the University of Michigan and its Hopwood Program for Creative Writing, something that tempted me as a teenaged writer, and inspired my daughter to want to go to college after all.

Mystery to Me (Madison, Wisconsin)

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Moving farther west, Mystery to Me had just opened in Madison, Wisconsin, when we arrived. The streets were balmy and customers were walking in and out of the store. Bookseller Joanne Berg carries new and gently used titles, with a growing emphasis on children's books. She wants the bookstore to become a hub of the community, and author events are a large part of that. We wondered how a bookstore comes to life in the cyber age, and found one answer in the enormous screen on the wall, which allows authors from all over the globe to appear via Skype—not to mention spooky music played via Pandora to get browsers in the mystery mood. Mystery to Me, 1863 Monroe St, Madison, WI. Telephone: (608) 283-9332, www.mysterytomebooks.com

Nearby: Madison is a very cool college town, with the culture and inexpensive ethnic dining you'd expect with that. For Laotian food, try Vientiane Palace Restaurant. There's also Dumpling Haus and Umami Ramen & Dumpling Bar (clearly, I like dumplings). For an upscale meal, try Harvest, which is across the street from the gorgeous white marble Capitol Building and steps away from the Madison Children's Museum.

Mystery One Bookstore (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

mysteryonebookstoreIn Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a mystery lover can find an icon of the field. Mystery One is roughly the size of a box truck whose every cubic inch is filled with books. Owner Richard Katz has an encyclopedic knowledge of the genre, and any trip to the store will find first editions, signed and carefully preserved with plastic, as well as scores of forgotten finds. Mystery One Bookstore, 2109 N. Prospect Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53202. Telephone: 414-347-4077, www.mysteryone.com

Big Sleep Books (St. Louis, Missouri)

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Missouri and Kansas may not be states with the densest populations, but they belong on any mystery lover's map. In St. Louis, you can visit Big Sleep, another tiny, book-crammed store. We found an interesting contrast between mystery bookstores; the categories could be described as new and shiny versus gritty and gray. Neither is superior—think blockbuster versus noir. Readers might prefer one over the other, or favor both. Big Sleep falls into the latter category. After a conversation with owner Ed King, any mystery lover will walk away better informed and enriched by at least a few rarely seen reads. Big Sleep Books, 239 N Euclid Ave., St. Louis, MO 63108, Telephone: 314-361-6100, www.bigsleepbooks.com

Nearby: Around the corner is one of the more specific museums you will encounter, the World Chess Hall of Fame, four stories devoted to the game, the greats who have played it, and astonishing chess sets, from the precious to the whimsical. A few blocks in the other direction is Forest Park, a 1,400 acre urban greenspace that houses the Saint Louis Art Museum, the zoo, the Missouri History Museum, and many other nifty sites.

MysteryScape Bookstore (Overland Park, Kansas)

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Author Patrick Rothfuss at a MysteryScape reading.

Just outside Kansas City, in Overland Park, there is a bookstore called MysteryScape that is arguably Big Sleep's polar opposite. It's branding for the new millennium, an oasis of innovation. Right down to the logos and display, MysteryScape has its own exquisite design aesthetic. Owner Cheri LeBlond believes that for a bookstore to thrive it must provide both entertainment and a personal connection. She calls her booksellers Escapologists and says the bookstore promises three things: escape, intrigue, and diversion. This could mean anything from finding the perfect, transporting title to watching a play adapted from a mystery tale performed right there in the store. Professional and amateur actors, minimal props and costumes, but plenty of suspense. There'll even be a discussion afterwards along with a potluck dinner. MysteryScape Bookstore, 7309 West 80th Street, Overland Park, KS 66204. Telephone: 916-649-0000, www.mysteryscape.com

Nearby: You know you spend a lot of time on book tour when you live on the East Coast and have a favorite dumpling restaurant in Kansas City. Mine is Blue Koi Noodles & Dumplings, where you can get a plate of maybe a dozen fried ones with several sauces, or a big bowl of them with noodles and greens in a half dozen choices of broth. The Alamo Drafthouse shows new and vintage movies, and has a video arcade with classic games from the 1980s, which is a major but rarely indulged craving of my husband's. Occasionally, they have events where you play video games on the movie screen. How cool is that? A bit closer to the bookstore in Overland Park, a few doors down in fact, is Smallcakes a Cupcakery, which tells you all you need to know.

Murder by the Book (Houston, Texas)

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The great state of Texas is home to one terrific mystery bookstore, and one that's just a little bit different. Mention Houston to mystery lovers and you'll probably hear Murder by the Book. McKenna Jordan's cavernous palace displays new books arrayed on tables like jewels in cases, signed copies, plus a staggering event schedule. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet St., Houston, TX 77005. Telephone: 713-524-8597, www.murderbooks.com

Book People (Austin, Texas)

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In Austin, Book People contains a secret, as does any good mystery. Wend along the aisles of the store and you will come to "Mystery People," the brainchild of "Crime Fiction Coordinator" Scott Montgomery. A series of soaring shelves hold current titles as well as a range of thematic displays. Thanks to Scott's avid love of the genre, and ability to tailor this bookstore-within-a-bookstore, authors who may be overlooked elsewhere find their day in the hot Texas sun. Book People, 603 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703. Telephon: (512) 472-5050, www.bookpeople.com

Nearby: This may be our only bookstore-within-a-bookstore…the great Scott Montgomery’s brainchild. Plus, there is some of the country’s best ice cream around the corner at Amy’s. The talented scoop guys even juggle your dips!

The Poisoned Pen (Scottsdale, Arizona)

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Image courtesy of litreactor.com

The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona, boasts columns in shades of sand and straw that call to mind their desert home. The Pen is a grand space, and its ambition and reach are grand as well. This bookstore contains mostly new mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels, displayed on tables in tempting starbursts and arrays. Owner Barbara Peters describes what might be called book theater—that intersection between literature and entertainment, which we heard about back in Kansas. "We reinvented The Pen as a media company sometime back," Barbara says. "You can buy a book anywhere, but online you can't buy the experience [of finding it] or the face-to-face with authors. A new book is a ticket to an evening or afternoon out." Events include food and giveaways, a real party either in the bookstore or offsite. Well over 100 authors have signed every single one of their titles in this store. Why not see when your favorite is planning a trip? The Poisoned Pen, 4014 N Goldwater Blvd #101, Scottsdale, AZ. Telephone: (480) 947-2974, www.poisonedpenpress.com

Nearby: Pane Bianco in Phoenix is a lovely place for artisan pizza and salads. In the mood for Earl Grey Chocolate Tartlets? Try Arcadia Farms Cafe. For new Italian comfort food, Cafe Forte is right around the corner.

Clues Unlimited (Tucson, Arizona)

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Arizona is home to more than one mystery gem. In Tucson, Clues Unlimited boasts a friendly dog you might be lucky enough to meet, and a range of new and used titles. Bookseller Chris Burke's particular interest is in used copies of out-of-print mysteries, ones that might otherwise be lost to the browsing customer. This bookstore is also the place to find titles that "push the envelope," literary thrillers that at first glance might not be considered to fit within the genre. Clues Unlimited, 3146 E. Fort Lowell Rd, Tucson, AZ 85716. Telephone: 520-326-8533, cluesunlimited.com

Nearby: Tucson has the most perfect museum there could possibly be for kids, The Mini-Time Machine, A Museum of Miniatures. This is 15,000 square feet of miniature houses, rooms, and landscapes, what my daughter calls "scene setups." If you like dollhouses or miniatures, you need to see this place. My son likes it because in many of the scenes are little cars, of all periods and scales, which is his thing. Tucson is also only an hour from Sonora, Mexico, and has too many Sonoran places to name, as well as lots of modernist places, such as the gastropubWilko or Umi Star for Japanese fusion and clever drinks.

Mysterious Galaxy (San Diego, California)

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Mysterious Galaxy has not one but two locations in southern California and just celebrated its twentieth birthday with a huge gala. (Yes, there was cake). There were also authors from all over the country. One of the owners, Maryelizabeth Hart, explains that MG, as it's lovingly known, carries mostly new titles, including many signed first editions: "the collectibles of tomorrow." This focus on new arises from how "many titles there are to be excited about." Maryelizabeth and the other booksellers here delight in discovering new authors. Events are a big part of bookstore life, as we've seen elsewhere. The store employs a "have books, will travel" approach whereby libraries, fitness centers, and private homes all become sites for unique events. Mysterious Galaxy Bookshop, 7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92111. Telephone: 858-268-4747, www.mystgalaxy.com

Mystery Ink (Huntington Beach, California)

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Carola Dunn signing at Mystery Ink.

California boasts two other mystery bookstores that are off-the-beaten-freeway, but well worth a trip. Mystery Ink in Huntington Beach is a tiny shop that comes into its own around author events. The number of writers who appear, not to mention their star power, is impressive, especially for such a cozy store. Mystery Ink, 8907 Warner Avenue #136, Huntington Beach, CA 92647. Telephone: 714-960-4000, www.mysteryink.com

Book 'em Mysteries (Pasedena, California)

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Storefront for Book'em Mysteries. Photo from LA Times Blog.

Book 'Em Mysteries in South Pasadena carries a range of new and used mysteries, and exemplifies yet another way in which a bookstore can be an important part of any fan's life. The store sponsors a mystery book club and holds meetings to discuss titles. Book’em Mysteries, 1118 Mission St., S. Pasadena, CA 91030. Telephone: 626-799-9600, www.bookem.com

Seattle Mystery Bookstore (Seattle, Washington)

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On a steep street in Seattle, down a flight of stairs, lies a semi-subterranean repository of books. Seattle Mystery Bookstore boasts many current titles, with a middle grade and young adult section curated by a bookseller who retains a child's enthusiasm for discovering books. Actually, Fran, JB, and all of the booksellers at Seattle Mystery retain this enthusiasm. It was here that we encountered the most serious collectors of our trip. Authors from Lee Child to Hank Phillippi Ryan hightail it out to Seattle so that attendees at events can have their books signed and dated within thirty days of publication. The chalkboard roster on the wall shows that a trip to the farthest corner of the lower forty-eight is considered well worth it—for authors and readers. Seattle Mystery Bookstore, 117 Cherry Street, Seattle, WA 98104. Telephone: 206-587-5737, www.seattlemystery.com

Once Upon a Crime (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

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Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis, Minnesota is owned by Gary Schulze and Pat Frovarp, who met as collectors and decided to open a bookstore. They stock a blend of new, used, and antiquarian titles, the latter in the Mystery Annex. Like many of the booksellers in this article, Gary and Pat feel that author events, discovering new writers, and communing with readers are some of the greatest pleasures of running a bricks and mortar. And oh, the stories they tell. If you stop in the next time you're in Minnesota, you might get to hear Gary describe the inscribed edition of John D. MacDonald's I Could Go On Singing that he sold. Gary explains, "This was a movie tie-in of a Judy Garland bio-pic, with only one printing ever made. Apparently MacDonald hated it, was perhaps a bit embarrassed by it, and asked the publisher not to reprint it. In the inscription, he wrote To ---- Please don't read this. Priceless." Once Upon a Crime, 604 W. 26th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55405. Telephone: 612-870-3785, www.onceuponacrimebooks.com

Nearby: The Twin Cities, in high summer at least, include verdant greenery, and my kids playing in the fountain at Whittier Park just before a soft and gauzy rainstorm. Or cooling off at Common Roots with an iced tea spiked with herbs grown in the garden just around the corner. Also nice for French pastries and a light lunch is French Meadow Bakery & Cafe. We don’t only eat out while on the road. Sometimes we stay put for a few days, get groceries, and cook. And we always try to have cereal, milk, and fruit on hand for breakfast. We've come to appreciate nice supermarkets well-placed near bookstores. A particularly nice one is Wedge Community Co-Op, a true local, community-owned, farm-oriented market.

***

We learned on our travels that just as every mystery tells a story, so does every mystery bookstore. There are many ways to find mysteries today. But hearing the tales behind the books, seeing their lore, meeting the authors, and talking to stars as your copy is signed? Well, as Gary Schulze of OUAC might say, that is truly priceless.

Jenny Milchman is a suspense writer who until recently lived on the road with her family on what Shelf Awareness called "the world's longest book tour." Jenny's debut novel, Cover of Snow, was published by Ballantine/Random House in 2013. Her second novel, is Ruin Falls (Ballantine, April 2014). She currently lives and writes in upstate New York. jennymilchman.com

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 26 March 2014 04:03

usabookshelfAuthor Jenny Milchman is a lover of bookstores. She shares her favorite independent shops across the US.

Mystery on the Air: 10 Great Old-Time Radio Thrillers (Part 1)
Tom Nolan

Suspense2Mystery and crime stories were a main source of programming during the golden age of what is now known as “old-time radio” (1935 to 1960, say).

Well-known literary detectives from Sherlock Holmes to Mike Hammer joined a host of colleagues on radio’s “theater of the mind,” where listeners had the mental pleasure of providing all the scenery and other visual details.

The old coast-to-coast radio networks and their weekly dramatic programs are gone, but radio drama (including mystery stories) persists here and there in America, England, and Canada. Meanwhile, great shows from the past can be enjoyed today on audiotape, on CD, and online.

Most of the shows mentioned below can be found, for sale or for free, from a variety of sources. One such vendor is Jerry Haendiges’ Vintage Radio Site. And SPERDVAC is a longstanding organization of OTR-lovers.

Rebecca
The Campbell Playhouse / Mercury Theater on the Air
December 9, 1938

Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater on the Air did many notable live-radio dramatizations of well-known mystery stories during the 1930s and ’40s, including William Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes stage-play, G.K. Chesterton’s metaphysical puzzler The Man Who Was Thursday, and Dashiell Hammett’s hard-boiled novel The Glass Key. The Mercury’s one-hour 1938 version of Daphne du Maurier’s then-bestselling novel Rebecca is of special interest on several counts. It precedes the David Selznick-produced, Alfred Hitchcock-directed 1940 film and in some ways surpasses it, especially in the performance of Margaret Sullavan as the otherwise-unnamed “second Mrs. de Winter.” Also memorable are Agnes Moorehead as a Midwestern snob at prey in the UK, and Mildred Natwick as the creepy housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (“Why don’t you jump now and have done with it? … Go on, go on, go on, go on!”).

orson_welles_1_xOrson Welles (right) became a worldwide celebrity with the broadcast of War of the Worlds in 1938. He had already made an impression on a generation of children as the voice of Lamont Cranston in “The Shadow.” Photo: CBS.

Welles himself is fine as the vague, tormented master of Manderley. And this adaptation of Rebecca, being the first commercially sponsored Mercury show after the troupe’s notorious War of the Worlds broadcast, comes wrapped in lots of extravagant Wellesian puffery—and Campbell’s Soup.

Splendid, too, is the music of composer-conductor Bernard Herrmann, whose orchestral interludes create near-visual effects to underscore and link the scenes.

Finally, “direct by short wave from London,” there’s an interview with author Daphne du Maurier, who gives these directions to the “real” Manderley:

“Get into a train at Paddington Station and travel west. When you’ve been 250 miles, get out of that train and walk southeast for half an hour. You’ll come to some iron gates, a lodge, and a narrow twisting drive. If you ever find your way to the end of that drive, you may discover Manderley.”

The Fallen Sparrow
The Lux Radio Theater
CBS; February 21, 1944

“Deep in the hearts of most of us, there must be a suppressed longing to emulate Sherlock Holmes and the other masters of his profession,” guessed Lux host Cecil B. DeMille in his introduction to this broadcast. “How else can you explain the appeal of the mystery story to farmer and financier, haberdasher and housewife, chorus girl or—clergyman? A shiver running down the spine is no respecter of persons.”

Mysteries were often done on the Lux Radio Theater, a weekly show that ran from 1934 to 1955 and specialized in presenting live-radio versions of recent hit movies. Lux was a big-budget show broadcast from Hollywood, and often featured most if not all of a spotlighted film’s stars. Also included were a full orchestra, a large ensemble of character and atmosphere players, and elaborate sound patterns. All of this helped create the effect of a motion picture on radio—all performed live for a theater audience. These were deluxe productions, so to speak.

young_ohara_fallensparrowJohn Garfield and Maureen O’Hara (left) starred in the 1944 film The Fallen Sparrow and in the radio adaptation on The Lux Radio Theater. Photo: RKO Pictures.

Robert Young, Maureen O’Hara, and Walter Slezak are the leads in this adaptation of the RKO picture The Fallen Sparrow, based on a novel by Dorothy B. Hughes (Ride the Pink Horse, In a Lonely Place). Young plays a fellow escaped from a Fascist-Spanish prison after fighting for the Loyalist cause. He’s made his way to New York in 1940 to look into the suspicious death of the police-detective friend who helped him to freedom; he’s convinced his pal was murdered, and he thinks he knows who did it: Axis agents who covet the Loyalist relic that Young’s character smuggled out of Spain. Mingling with the émigré-refugee set in Manhattan, the hero hunts the German spy he’s certain is on his trail.

The Fallen Sparrow is interesting for its evocation of global politics before Pearl Harbor, and for Young’s performance as the emotionally damaged torture victim who can go from wisecracks to panic attacks at the sound of an echoing footstep. (“The wounds on his body are mended, but the wounds on his mind are slow to heal.”)

Other fine Lux mysteries and thrillers include versions of The Thin Man (June 8, 1936), Laura (February 5, 1945), Murder, My Sweet (based on Farewell, My Lovely; June 11, 1945), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (April 18, 1949), and 5 Fingers (October 13, 1952).

A Passage To Benares
Suspense
CBS; August 23, 1942

One of the best and longest-lasting U.S. radio-drama series was Suspense, which began its regular run in 1942. Supervised during its best period by the highly-regarded producer William Spier, Suspense used top Hollywood talent (including Cary Grant, Ronald Colman, Joan Crawford, and James Stewart) in adaptations of crime-fiction tales by such genre masters as Cornell Woolrich, Dorothy Sayers, John Dickson Carr, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett—and T.S. Stribling, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of this bizarre gem, which begins in Trinidad and ends somewhere in the Twilight Zone.

robson_suspenseProducer-director (and occasional actor) William N. Robson (right) in the control booth. Robson started out on the West Coast in the mid-1930s as the writer-producer of Calling All Cars. Moving to New York, he worked on The Man Behind the Gun (a wartime series), Escape, Suspense, Columbia Workshop, and many other shows. Photo: CBS.

Paul Stewart (the creepy butler in the movie Citizen Kane) plays the American psychologist Henry Poggioli, on Caribbean sabbatical when he learns of the murder of a young Hindu bride, slain during a night spent in a temple for a purification rite. Five beggars found sleeping at the scene are immediately suspected, but Poggioli presses ahead with his own informal investigation—with extraordinary results.

Among the fine supporting cast is Barry Kroeger (who doubles as the show’s announcer). The music of the peerless Bernard Herrmann is superbly integrated into the texture of this strange saga, whose final line sends the listener’s mind reeling into another surreal dimension.

Perfect Alibi
The Whistler
CBS; June 12, 1949

This well-written, well-acted show was heard only on the West Coast for most of its 1942–1955 run. It was narrated sardonically by the eponymous shadow-lurker who saw all and told all a bit at a time, taunting and mocking the modern fools whose criminal schemes he chronicled.

In “Perfect Alibi,” LA private investigator Johnny Seltzer (played by Jack Webb) is approached by a beautiful would-be heiress who offers him $50,000 to help her escape the clutches of a local hoodlum. Johnny falls hard for this temptress, and he thinks he has the perfect scheme to win them both what they want. But given the Whistler’s penchant for a story with a sting in its tail, Seltzer’s plans are almost certain to fall flat in some unforeseen manner. In the late 1940s, it seems, only the cosmic gall of the Whistler could foil the success of the sort of tough-talking private-eye then ubiquitous on the airwaves (Webb himself starred in three such series).

Pass to Berlin
Escape
CBS; May 19, 1950

The talented William N. Robson was the producer/director of Escape, a “dramatic adventure anthology” which ran from 1947 to 1954 as a sort of low-budget, high-energy supplement to Suspense. The series mixed adaptations of short stories and novels (Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” Joseph Conrad’s Typhoon) with original scripts like this exercise in radio noir by Morton Fine and David Friedkin.

In “Pass to Berlin,” a US soldier in postwar Berlin (played by radio stalwart Stacy Harris), on the run from a crime of passion, falls under the spell of a blind female nightclub entertainer, a “mentalist” who seems to have tumbled to his guilty secret. But perhaps she’s simply an instrument of fate, sent to provoke his self-destruction. Then there’s the woman’s blackmailing partner, whose interest in the increasingly frantic narrator-protagonist is merely mercenary, if no less dangerous.

As with most of the series mentioned in this compilation, the choice of one episode as “best” is arbitrary. “Pass to Berlin” is representative of Escape’s high level of quality. For a less crime-oriented but unforgettable listen, hear Escape’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “Poison” (July 28, 1950), in which William Conrad succumbs to a fit of hysterical bigotry doleful witnessed by Jack Webb.

Read Mystery Scene's "Mystery on the Air" Part II.

Read Mystery Scene's "Mystery on the Air" Part III.

Tom Nolan is the author of Ross Macdonald: A Biography and the editor of the recently published The Couple Next Door: Collected Short Mysteries by Margaret Millar (Crippen & Landru).

Correction: In the original publication of "Mystery on Air" from print Issue 90 of Mystery Scene, the actor John Garfield, pictured with Mary O'Hara in the 1944 film The Fallen Sparrow, was mistakenly identified as the radio actor Robert Young. The error was corrected for the online publication of the series.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Summer Issue #90.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 26 March 2014 05:03

Suspense2Mystery and crime stories of the golden age of what is now known as “old-time radio.”

A Fond Farewell to Psych, Justified
Oline Cogdill
psych_usasseries_s
I offer an appreciation as well as a fond farewell to two vastly different crime dramas: Psych, which ended its eighth-year run last week on USA network, and Justified, which ends its fifth season this week on FX but will return for its final sixth season.

(The season finale of Justified begins at 10 p.m. EST Tuesday on FX.)

The two shows could not be more different—one a comic-drama mystery, the other a hard-charging, often violent series—yet each was/is completely satisfying in its own way with realistic characters who drew you in to their exploits, good plots and, especially in Justified’s case, crisp dialogue.

Psych finished its series—no spoilers here, I promise—with an episode that paid homage to the series’ comedy, yet also gave a bit of a serious subtext; it wrapped up certain story threads, yet left room for a glimpse of these character’s future. And there were also a couple of clever surprises and a brilliant reference to a former, much beloved USA series about another defective detective.

Psych is about Shawn Spencer, wonderfully played by James Roday, whose claims of being a psychic somehow lead to him being a consultant for the Santa Barbara police department and setting up a private detective agency with his best friend Gus Guster, the equally terrific Dule Hill.

Shawn’s “heightened observational skills,” of course, have nothing to do with him being a psychic but from the intense training he got since childhood from his father Henry, a former officer with the Santa Barbara police department.

Henry, perfectly played by Corbin Bernsen, wanted his only son to be a cop but Shawn’s rebelliousness lead him to a different path. A bit of a slacker, Shawn used this early training into what began as a con game but developed into real career at which he was quite good.

Psych had its roots in those same “heightened observational skills” in the novels about Sherlock Holmes, the TV series The Mentalist and so many other detective stories in which a detective uses his wits and intuitiveness to solve a crime. Shawn could spot an errant button, a spot of blood, a misplaced book a mile a way and use that information to save the day.

The last episode featured Billy Zane, who has been referenced so many times on Psych that he has deserved an ending credit for years. And we finally got to meet Det. Dobson, played by another actor mentioned numerous times on Psych. I’ll let you figure out which police consultant was referenced as being “in the kitchen, alphabetizing the pantry.”

During the season run, Shawn, perhaps against his nature, began to grow up. He began to see his father not as an adversary but as a concerned parent. His growing relationship with Juliet "Jules" O'Hara (Maggie Lawson) has been a catalyst for the past three season’s action.

But a main point of Psych has been the unshakeable friendship between Shawn and Gus. Buddies since they were children, they are the epitome of the bro-mance. It has always been obvious how much these two men care for each other as true friends who believe in each other and support each other. Gus is the more solid, more adult but he never gives up on Shawn, even when Shawn is messing up or acting immature, which has been often in the series.

justified_goggoly
A “bro-mance” of sorts also is at the heart of Justified. But this one is quite a different kind.

The story of U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (played to perfection by Timothy Olyphant, right) and the criminal Boyd Crowder (also played to perfection by Walton Goggins) has given an extra texture to Justified.

The two men grew up together and know how each other thinks. As each is fond of saying, “We shovelled coal together,” a phrase that may not mean anything outside of Kentucky's hills but implies a code of mutual obligation for those who live in Harlan County.

Each man could easily have turned the other way and each knows that.

We root for Raylan, of course, as he is supposed to be the good guy, but, in a way, we also want to see Boyd succeed. Both men are capable of incredible violence and incredible tenderness. Raylan can never completely commit to a woman, while Boyd is devoted to Ava (Joelle Carter).

This season of Justified has been perhaps the darkest in a very dark series with Ava in jail and Boyd caught up with even nastier people than usual both for business but also to get Ava freed. Too many people from big cities have underestimated the country Boyd. Hint, never smoke a cigarette with Boyd.

Raylan’s tangling with the very odd and very criminal Crowe family has brought another set of issues, including a turn in Raylan’s relationship with Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen (Nick Searcy). Art is the kind of father that Raylan’s own father wasn’t; Art, as Raylan said, “is the only man I truly care about.”

Each actor on Justified is terrific. This year the main villain in the Crowe family is played by a sneering, no holding back Michael Rapaport as Darryl Crowe, Jr. The dialogue is pitch perfect, as it should be since it is based on Elmore Leonard’s 2001 novella Fire in the Hole.

TV will be a little less fun without Psych and Justified.

Photos: Top: James Roday as Shawn Spencer, Dule Hill as Gus Guster on Psych. USA Network photo
Center:Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). FX photo


Oline Cogdill
Saturday, 29 March 2014 11:03
psych_usasseries_s
I offer an appreciation as well as a fond farewell to two vastly different crime dramas: Psych, which ended its eighth-year run last week on USA network, and Justified, which ends its fifth season this week on FX but will return for its final sixth season.

(The season finale of Justified begins at 10 p.m. EST Tuesday on FX.)

The two shows could not be more different—one a comic-drama mystery, the other a hard-charging, often violent series—yet each was/is completely satisfying in its own way with realistic characters who drew you in to their exploits, good plots and, especially in Justified’s case, crisp dialogue.

Psych finished its series—no spoilers here, I promise—with an episode that paid homage to the series’ comedy, yet also gave a bit of a serious subtext; it wrapped up certain story threads, yet left room for a glimpse of these character’s future. And there were also a couple of clever surprises and a brilliant reference to a former, much beloved USA series about another defective detective.

Psych is about Shawn Spencer, wonderfully played by James Roday, whose claims of being a psychic somehow lead to him being a consultant for the Santa Barbara police department and setting up a private detective agency with his best friend Gus Guster, the equally terrific Dule Hill.

Shawn’s “heightened observational skills,” of course, have nothing to do with him being a psychic but from the intense training he got since childhood from his father Henry, a former officer with the Santa Barbara police department.

Henry, perfectly played by Corbin Bernsen, wanted his only son to be a cop but Shawn’s rebelliousness lead him to a different path. A bit of a slacker, Shawn used this early training into what began as a con game but developed into real career at which he was quite good.

Psych had its roots in those same “heightened observational skills” in the novels about Sherlock Holmes, the TV series The Mentalist and so many other detective stories in which a detective uses his wits and intuitiveness to solve a crime. Shawn could spot an errant button, a spot of blood, a misplaced book a mile a way and use that information to save the day.

The last episode featured Billy Zane, who has been referenced so many times on Psych that he has deserved an ending credit for years. And we finally got to meet Det. Dobson, played by another actor mentioned numerous times on Psych. I’ll let you figure out which police consultant was referenced as being “in the kitchen, alphabetizing the pantry.”

During the season run, Shawn, perhaps against his nature, began to grow up. He began to see his father not as an adversary but as a concerned parent. His growing relationship with Juliet "Jules" O'Hara (Maggie Lawson) has been a catalyst for the past three season’s action.

But a main point of Psych has been the unshakeable friendship between Shawn and Gus. Buddies since they were children, they are the epitome of the bro-mance. It has always been obvious how much these two men care for each other as true friends who believe in each other and support each other. Gus is the more solid, more adult but he never gives up on Shawn, even when Shawn is messing up or acting immature, which has been often in the series.

justified_goggoly
A “bro-mance” of sorts also is at the heart of Justified. But this one is quite a different kind.

The story of U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (played to perfection by Timothy Olyphant, right) and the criminal Boyd Crowder (also played to perfection by Walton Goggins) has given an extra texture to Justified.

The two men grew up together and know how each other thinks. As each is fond of saying, “We shovelled coal together,” a phrase that may not mean anything outside of Kentucky's hills but implies a code of mutual obligation for those who live in Harlan County.

Each man could easily have turned the other way and each knows that.

We root for Raylan, of course, as he is supposed to be the good guy, but, in a way, we also want to see Boyd succeed. Both men are capable of incredible violence and incredible tenderness. Raylan can never completely commit to a woman, while Boyd is devoted to Ava (Joelle Carter).

This season of Justified has been perhaps the darkest in a very dark series with Ava in jail and Boyd caught up with even nastier people than usual both for business but also to get Ava freed. Too many people from big cities have underestimated the country Boyd. Hint, never smoke a cigarette with Boyd.

Raylan’s tangling with the very odd and very criminal Crowe family has brought another set of issues, including a turn in Raylan’s relationship with Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen (Nick Searcy). Art is the kind of father that Raylan’s own father wasn’t; Art, as Raylan said, “is the only man I truly care about.”

Each actor on Justified is terrific. This year the main villain in the Crowe family is played by a sneering, no holding back Michael Rapaport as Darryl Crowe, Jr. The dialogue is pitch perfect, as it should be since it is based on Elmore Leonard’s 2001 novella Fire in the Hole.

TV will be a little less fun without Psych and Justified.

Photos: Top: James Roday as Shawn Spencer, Dule Hill as Gus Guster on Psych. USA Network photo
Center:Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). FX photo


Mystery at the Theater
Bill Hirschman

Today, we have a guest blogger—Bill Hirschman who occasionally has written about theater for Mystery Scene.

A former newspaper reporter, Bill is the publisher, editor and chief critic for Florida Theater on Stage (floridatheateronstage.com), an online journalism arts publication.

He’s also my husband, which is how I persuaded him to include one of his reviews on our blog.

According to Bill, “A critic’s trip to New York City to overdose on theater is like taking a semester’s worth of object lessons for both audience members and theatrical professionals.”

Sublime Silliness: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love And Murder

maysjefferson_gentlemans_guidetomurderplay
If you’re planning to go to New York in the near future, do it before the Tony Awards because one of the funniest, most inventive shows since The Book of Mormon is just hanging on at the box office and likely won’t survive past awards season.

This musical by people you’ve never heard of (Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak) directed by someone you’ve never heard of (Darko Tresnjak) is a dryly witty spoof of Edwardian/Dickensian plots about likable young men trying to rise from poverty to wealth by dint of pure pluck and intelligence.

In this case, the handsome young man (played by the callow Bryce Pinkham) discovers he is the disavowed bastard son of a wealthy lord and could inherit his estate – except there are seven relatives with more proximate call on the fortune. So the enterprising young man sets out to murder everyone in his path – with aplomb and style, of course. Pinkham is also inspired by his pursuit of the snobbish money-worshiping socialite Sibella (Lisa O’Hare) and the seemingly virginal cousin Phoebe (Lauren Worsham).

It borrows its plot from a 1907 novel that also inspired the 1949 British comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets. In both the film and this show, all of the stumbling blocks are played by the same actor, Alec Guinness on film and here on stage gloriously and profligately portrayed by Jefferson Mays, left. Mays, many of you know, has serious roles to his credit such as Journey’s End, but his fame comes from playing dozens of characters in I Am My Own Wife.

Here he has an absolute field day playing a snotty scion, a doddering old lady, a dissolute clergymen, a hapless do-gooder among others. Each has a unique bearing and physical appearance, but all of them share that slightly demented gleam in Mays’ eyes. To belie what we said about irreplaceable actors, certainly other actors can play this part(s), but it’s hard to imagine anyone else whose scene-munching skill could be as contagious and joyously fun as he and the creative team mercilessly skewer the dissolute, callous and clueless upper class.

It is nearly impossible to relate just how perfectly the creative team lampoons the fantasy of a stiff upper lip, high-buttoned English society being undermined by the conscienceless ambition of someone with no regard for the calcified straitjacket of Britain’s turn-of-the-century social strata. The score echoes the English music hall via Gilbert and Sullivan; the lyrics and script bow to Oscar Wilde.

When our hero pursues the social climber, he asks, “Sibella, has it ever occurred to you to marry for love?” To which she responds, “Don’t be cruel.”

The whole thing is imaginatively stage in a faux toy theater with Edward Gorey overtones.

Mays’ performance and the opulent production values make it a don’t miss stop in New York over the next two months before it’s too late.

Oddly, and here’s the lesson, it may be too smart for mainstream audiences. Easily the most acclaimed musical to open to date, it’s only selling three-quarters of its seats. There’s no accounting for taste among tasteless tourists.

Coming Soon To A Theater Near You Part 1: Murder For Two

Imagine a comic mystery musical spoof with just two actors doubling as the entire orchestra and playing even more roles than the aforementioned Mr. Mays, all created on a postage stamp of a stage in a small house with a modest amount of lights, sound and set costs. In other words, this is catnip to a small local theater.

This quite cute and maniacally kinetic two-hander by Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair is made for small theaters whose troupes boast a couple of chameleonic clowns and an inventive director.

Still running in New York through mid-summer, the mothership production stars the Mutt and Jeff team of Jeff Blumenkrantz and Brett Ryback under Scott Schwartz’s direction.

Essentially, it’s one of those tweedy English mysteries with a forthright detective played by one actor and a manse-full of suspects played by the other actor – although both play the piano to accompany the songs and both occasionally play each other’s parts. The thing is batty and punny fun invoking every hoary cliché in the canon including a shelf that just happens to hold all of the weapons used the in the board game Clue and even having a real light bulb go off over someone’s head when he gets a bright idea.

Like the two men who change characters in a nano-second in The Thirty-Nine Steps, these two slip in and out of different personas and voices with a contortionist’s speed and grace.

We’re taking bets on how long will it take before this hits regional theaters across the country. Pick a month within the next season.

Photo: Jefferson Mays in one of his characters in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.

Oline Cogdill
Wednesday, 02 April 2014 12:04

Today, we have a guest blogger—Bill Hirschman who occasionally has written about theater for Mystery Scene.

A former newspaper reporter, Bill is the publisher, editor and chief critic for Florida Theater on Stage (floridatheateronstage.com), an online journalism arts publication.

He’s also my husband, which is how I persuaded him to include one of his reviews on our blog.

According to Bill, “A critic’s trip to New York City to overdose on theater is like taking a semester’s worth of object lessons for both audience members and theatrical professionals.”

Sublime Silliness: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love And Murder

maysjefferson_gentlemans_guidetomurderplay
If you’re planning to go to New York in the near future, do it before the Tony Awards because one of the funniest, most inventive shows since The Book of Mormon is just hanging on at the box office and likely won’t survive past awards season.

This musical by people you’ve never heard of (Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak) directed by someone you’ve never heard of (Darko Tresnjak) is a dryly witty spoof of Edwardian/Dickensian plots about likable young men trying to rise from poverty to wealth by dint of pure pluck and intelligence.

In this case, the handsome young man (played by the callow Bryce Pinkham) discovers he is the disavowed bastard son of a wealthy lord and could inherit his estate – except there are seven relatives with more proximate call on the fortune. So the enterprising young man sets out to murder everyone in his path – with aplomb and style, of course. Pinkham is also inspired by his pursuit of the snobbish money-worshiping socialite Sibella (Lisa O’Hare) and the seemingly virginal cousin Phoebe (Lauren Worsham).

It borrows its plot from a 1907 novel that also inspired the 1949 British comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets. In both the film and this show, all of the stumbling blocks are played by the same actor, Alec Guinness on film and here on stage gloriously and profligately portrayed by Jefferson Mays, left. Mays, many of you know, has serious roles to his credit such as Journey’s End, but his fame comes from playing dozens of characters in I Am My Own Wife.

Here he has an absolute field day playing a snotty scion, a doddering old lady, a dissolute clergymen, a hapless do-gooder among others. Each has a unique bearing and physical appearance, but all of them share that slightly demented gleam in Mays’ eyes. To belie what we said about irreplaceable actors, certainly other actors can play this part(s), but it’s hard to imagine anyone else whose scene-munching skill could be as contagious and joyously fun as he and the creative team mercilessly skewer the dissolute, callous and clueless upper class.

It is nearly impossible to relate just how perfectly the creative team lampoons the fantasy of a stiff upper lip, high-buttoned English society being undermined by the conscienceless ambition of someone with no regard for the calcified straitjacket of Britain’s turn-of-the-century social strata. The score echoes the English music hall via Gilbert and Sullivan; the lyrics and script bow to Oscar Wilde.

When our hero pursues the social climber, he asks, “Sibella, has it ever occurred to you to marry for love?” To which she responds, “Don’t be cruel.”

The whole thing is imaginatively stage in a faux toy theater with Edward Gorey overtones.

Mays’ performance and the opulent production values make it a don’t miss stop in New York over the next two months before it’s too late.

Oddly, and here’s the lesson, it may be too smart for mainstream audiences. Easily the most acclaimed musical to open to date, it’s only selling three-quarters of its seats. There’s no accounting for taste among tasteless tourists.

Coming Soon To A Theater Near You Part 1: Murder For Two

Imagine a comic mystery musical spoof with just two actors doubling as the entire orchestra and playing even more roles than the aforementioned Mr. Mays, all created on a postage stamp of a stage in a small house with a modest amount of lights, sound and set costs. In other words, this is catnip to a small local theater.

This quite cute and maniacally kinetic two-hander by Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair is made for small theaters whose troupes boast a couple of chameleonic clowns and an inventive director.

Still running in New York through mid-summer, the mothership production stars the Mutt and Jeff team of Jeff Blumenkrantz and Brett Ryback under Scott Schwartz’s direction.

Essentially, it’s one of those tweedy English mysteries with a forthright detective played by one actor and a manse-full of suspects played by the other actor – although both play the piano to accompany the songs and both occasionally play each other’s parts. The thing is batty and punny fun invoking every hoary cliché in the canon including a shelf that just happens to hold all of the weapons used the in the board game Clue and even having a real light bulb go off over someone’s head when he gets a bright idea.

Like the two men who change characters in a nano-second in The Thirty-Nine Steps, these two slip in and out of different personas and voices with a contortionist’s speed and grace.

We’re taking bets on how long will it take before this hits regional theaters across the country. Pick a month within the next season.

Photo: Jefferson Mays in one of his characters in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.

Mystery on the Air: 10 Great Old-Time Radio Thrillers (Part 2)
Tom Nolan

hobbs_sherlockMystery and crime stories were a main source of programming during the golden age of what is now known as “old-time radio” (1935 to 1960, say).

Carleton Hobbs (left) and Norman Shelley were the BBC’s choice to play Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson for over 20 years. Photo: BBC Radio.

Well-known literary detectives from Sherlock Holmes to Mike Hammer joined a host of colleagues on radio’s “theater of the mind,” where listeners had the mental pleasure of providing all the scenery and other visual details.

The old coast-to-coast radio networks and their weekly dramatic programs are gone; but radio drama (including mystery stories) persists here and there in America, England and Canada. Meanwhile, great shows from the past can be enjoyed today on audiotape, on CD, and online.

Most of the shows mentioned below can be found, for sale or for free, from a variety of sources. One such vendor is Jerry Haendiges’ Vintage Radio Site. And SPERDVAC is a longstanding organization of OTR-lovers.

John and Judith: Their Crime and Why They Didn’t Get to Enjoy It
Crime Classics
CBS; December 16, 1953

Producer-director Elliott Lewis was the creative force behind this extraordinary one-year series, which dramatized true-crime chronicles from ancient times to the (then) near-present. Cases ranged from the legendary (Lincoln’s assassination) to the obscure, with all scripts written (again) by the team of Morton Fine and David Friedkin, who achieved an amazing blend of stylized realism, period dialogue, and dark humor. The music was composed by Bernard Herrmann, by now one of the most respected film-scorers in Hollywood. Herrmann took the assignment as a favor and a challenge; limited by budget to a handful of musicians, he employed only instruments used during the time period of each week’s tale. The actors were the top West Coast radio players of the time, all of whom seemed to relish the opportunities given them by this most out-of-the-ordinary show.

Crime Classics told many murderous tales of 17th- and 18th-century England. “John and Judith” takes place in an English country town in 1684. A man’s affection for his servant girl leads to the poisoning death of his wife; but the new couple’s ill-gotten happiness is disturbed by the greedy intrusions of a goodwoman-neighbor (played with malicious glee by Jeanette Nolan), whose demands for payment in exchange for silence are incessant.

The Shady Lane Matter
Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
CBS; July 9-13, 1956

This show featuring “America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator … the man with the action-packed expense account,” had a long and checkered broadcast history, from 1949 to 1962 (it left as the last-ever regularly scheduled network-radio dramatic program). During this span, it went from being one of the silliest detective shows on the air to one of the best (and then slipped partway back).

At its creative peak (October 1955 to November 1956), Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar ran as a 15-minute, five-nights-a-week program, with a single “Matter” unfolding in five serial episodes. Dollar’s assignments took him all over the 48 states and to foreign lands, for cases that ranged in tone from hardboiled to humanistic to sometimes whimsical. Bob Bailey (supported by a stalwart stock-company of LA radio actors) was superb as Dollar, who narrated the well-written tales as itemizations of his expenseaccount: “Item one: thirty-six dollars and seventy cents, transportation and incidentals, Hartford to Shady Lane, a quiet little town of around a thousand population…”

“The Shady Lane Matter” (written by Les Crutchfield, directed by Jack Johnstone) involves a woman in a small Vermont town shot to death for no apparent reason. A coroner’s open verdict allows imminent payment of an insurance policy—but an anonymous letter to the company prompts a trip, and a probing investigation, by Dollar.

bailey_johnnydollar

Bob Bailey as Johnny Dollar. Photo: CBS.

The Hound of the Baskervilles
BBC Radio; April 6-May 11, 1958

Tired of revisionist dramatizations of the saga of Baker Street, in which Sherlock Holmes is a testy neurotic and Dr. Watson a greater intellect than he once was? Return with us then to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when Holmes was Holmes and Watson was Watson, and never the twain would ambiguously meet.

For almost 20 years, British actors Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley were the audio personifications of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s mythical duo in a series of BBC radio adaptations of the Holmes canon which included this three-part, 90-minute version of that greatest of Holmes novels: the one that bears “the footprints of a gigantic hound.”

Hobbs achieved just the desired mixture of affection and condescension in his treatment of Shelley’s Watson, who was equal parts bluster, steadfastness, sympathy towards the plight of others, and amused or exasperated wonder at his brilliant friend’s abilities.

It’s the autumn of 1889 when Holmes is approached by a doctor from Dartmoor on behalf of the young heir Sir Charles Baskerville, whose predecessor as the head of the family line has come to a frightful end. Might a local legend involving a demonic hound have played a part in the dead man’s demise? And might the new heir now be in danger? After a preliminary visit to Baskerville Hall, Holmes leaves Watson in charge for a time—causing the good doctor to hope: “For once I may succeed where even Holmes has failed!” Then again, perhaps not.

This 1958 transcribed program hasn’t the ultra-crisp production values of later BBC radio dramas, but its sound effects and music work well to sustain a period feel and atmospheric mood. The supporting cast (including a blessedly non-obnoxious Canadian-American heir and a nicely underplayed villain) is uniformly fine, in a script by Felix Felton. Heard on American radio in a variety of formats, this Hound has also been packaged more than once on audiocassette.

Rumpole and the Confession of Guilt
Rumpole of the Bailey
BBC Radio; July 21, 1980

John Mortimer’s popular character Horace Rumpole, the barrister-at-law familiar from the long-running Mortimer-penned English TV series as well as from Mortimer’s short stories and a novel, had his origins in a Mortimer radio play. In fact, in 1980 Mortimer wrote a 13-episode series of BBC Radio scripts about Rumpole, in which Maurice Denham gave memorable voice to “the splendors and miseries” of this “Old Bailey hack.”

Horace—husband of Hilda (“She who must be obeyed”), father of Nick, imbiber of Chateau Fleet Street—has acquired a well-stocked bag of courtroom tricks while serving, “from time immemorial,” clients who sometimes don’t know their own best interests or even their own minds. A young Jamaican man accused of a violent crime is the one in need of Rumpole’s services in this half-hour play (one of several from this series made available over the years from different audio-publishers). Having signed a written confession, the accused now seeks to retract his statement, but once Rumpole begins work on his behalf, the defendant wants to change his plea to guilty.

Witnessing the courtroom proceedings with dismay is Horace’s son Nick, who takes a dim view of his dad’s attempt to discredit the arresting officer’s testimony. “That’s your stock in trade, isn’t it: doubt?” he taunts Rumpole. “Well they’re all guilty of something,” Horace shoots back; his job, as he sees it, is to defend the accused “by telling his story as well as I can.” This he does, with surprising and satisfying results—but son Nick isn’t present to acknowledge his triumph.

Whimsical, bittersweet, bluff, and vulnerable, the late Maurice Denham was wonderful as Rumpole, in a first-rate production skillfully directed by Ian Cotterell.

Eeny Meeny Murder Mo
Nero Wolfe
CBC Radio; March 13, 1982

Rex Stout’s durable detective Nero Wolfe made his print debut in 1934—and almost immediately also leapt into movies, radio, and (eventually) TV. But before the 2001 A&E television series, the best non-book Wolfe came via this 1982 CBC radio series, which hewed closely in style and content to Stout’s actual stories and was far superior, for instance, to the long-running American radio series from the 1940s and ’50s.

Mayver Moore stars as Wolfe, with Don Francks (Walter in La Femme Nikita) as his erstwhile assistant Archie Goodwin, in the 13 well-directed (by Ron Hartman), well-played 50-minute CBC shows, all based on Stout novelettes. Some of these, including “Eeny Meeny Murder Mo,” were released commercially on audiotape.

In “Eeny Meeny,” a woman waiting to see the great detective is murdered in Wolfe’s office—strangled with one of Wolfe’s own neckties. The sleuth thus has personal as well as professional reasons for taking up the murdered woman’s case, which apparently involves improper behavior on the part of one of the members of the law firm where she worked. It’s a typical Stout story: at once breezy and thoughtful, serious and semi-comic—with a full cast of plausible suspects, drawn just sharply enough to hold one’s interest for the length of the tale. Moore’s Wolfe exudes the perfect mix of ire and insight; and Franck’s Archie is both street-smart and suave. The rest of the Canadian players are equally good, and Don Gillis’s original score also strikes just the right note.

Shows such as these bring crime and suspense tales to life in unique fashion. Radio dramas are different in effect from stageplays and movies; they’re closer to the experience of reading—but with sets, scenery, faces and expressions all provided by your memory, and a budget as big as your imagination. It’s an all-but-vanished art form with its own demands and rewards—not unlike its polar opposite, silent film. At the flip of a switch or the turn of a dial, you’re in another world, one fueled by the greatest mystery of all: the primal enchantment of being told a story.

Further Investigation

Radio crime-drama, old and new, can still be found if you hunt for it:

KCRW-FM, a Southern California NPR station, has done dramatizations of Ross Macdonald and Walter Mosley books in recent seasons and intends more such programming.

The BBC's Radio 7 regularly offers treats from its archives (such as Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter Wimsey, in dramatizations of Dorothy L. Sayers’ books), which can be heard through its "Listen Again" feature.

Cape Cod Radio Mystery Theater was given a Raven Award by the MWA in 2005 for its contemporary productions with an old-time feel.

Radio Days has a list of US and Canadian stations offering OTR programming.

BOOKS

On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio
by John Dunning. Oxford University Press, 1998.
Detailed, comprehensive and extremely well-written. Dunning is also, of course, the author of the “Bookman” mysteries.

The Great American Radio Broadcast: A Celebration of Radio’s Golden Age
by Leonard Maltin, Dutton, 1997.
A collection of anecdotes and stories.

Private Eye-Lashes: Radio's Lady Detectives
by Jack French, Bear Manor Media, 2004.
A look at some of the neglected female ’tecs on old time radio shows.

Read Mystery Scene's Mystery on the Air: 10 Great Old-Time Radio Thrillers (Part I)

Read Mystery Scene's Mystery on the Air: 10 Great Old-Time Radio Thrillers (Part III)

Tom Nolan is the author of Ross Macdonald: A Biography and the editor of the recently published The Couple Next Door: Collected Short Mysteries by Margaret Millar (Crippen & Landru).

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Summer Issue #90.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 01 April 2014 12:04

hobbs_sherlockMore mystery from the golden age of broadcasting now known as “old-time radio.”

2014 Thriller Award Nominations Announced
Oline Cogdill

ITW_logo2014
The awards season continues with the announcement of ITW's (International Thriller Writers) 2014 Thriller Award nominees.

The winners will be announced during Thrillerfest IX July 8-12 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City.

Congratulations to all the nominees.

BEST HARDCOVER NOVEL
Linda Castillo – HER LAST BREATH (Minotaur Books)
Lee Child – NEVER GO BACK (Delacorte Press)
Lisa Gardner – TOUCH AND GO (Dutton Adult)
Stephen King – DOCTOR SLEEP (Scribner)
Owen Laukkanen CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE (Putnam Adult)
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – WHITE FIRE (Grand Central Publishing)
Andrew Pyper – THE DEMONOLOGIST (Simon & Schuster)

BEST FIRST NOVEL
Gwen Florio – MONTANA (Permanent Press)
J.J. Hensley – RESOLVE (Permanent Press)
Becky Masterman RAGE AGAINST THE DYING (Minotaur Books)
Jason Matthews – RED SPARROW (Scribner)
Carla NortonTHE EDGE OF NORMAL (Minotaur Books)
Hank Steinberg – OUT OF RANGE (William Morrow)
Dick Wolf – THE INTERCEPT (Harper)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL NOVEL
Allison Brennan – COLD SNAP (Minotaur Books)
Kendra Elliot – BURIED (Montlake Romance)
Susan Elia MacNeal – HIS MAJESTY’S HOPE (Bantam)
Jennifer McMahon – THE ONE I LEFT BEHIND (William Morrow Paperbacks)
Nele Neuhaus – SNOW WHITE MUST DIE (Minotaur Books)
Michael Stanley – DEADLY HARVEST (Harper Paperbacks)

BEST SHORT STORY
Eric Guignard – “Baggage of Eternal Night” (JournalStone)
Laura Lippman – “Waco 1982” (Grand Central)
Kevin Mims – “The Gallows Bird” (Ellery Queen)
Twist Phelan – “Footprints in the Water” (Ellery Queen)
Stephen Vessels – “Doloroso” (Ellery Queen)

BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL
Ashley Elston – THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING (Disney-Hyperion)
Mari Mancusi – SCORCHED (Sourcebooks Fire)
Elisa Nader – ESCAPE FROM EDEN (Merit Press)
Cristin Terrill – ALL OUR YESTERDAYS (Disney-Hyperion)
Allen Zadoff – BOY NOBODY (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

BEST E-BOOK ORIGINAL NOVEL
Rebecca Cantrell – THE WORLD BENEATH (Rebecca Cantrell)
J.G. Faherty – THE BURNING TIME (JournalStone)
Joshua Graham – TERMINUS (Redhaven Books)
James Lepore and Carlos Davis – NO DAWN FOR MEN (The Story Plant)
Luke Preston – OUT OF EXILE (Momentum)

Oline Cogdill
Monday, 07 April 2014 10:04

ITW_logo2014
The awards season continues with the announcement of ITW's (International Thriller Writers) 2014 Thriller Award nominees.

The winners will be announced during Thrillerfest IX July 8-12 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City.

Congratulations to all the nominees.

BEST HARDCOVER NOVEL
Linda Castillo – HER LAST BREATH (Minotaur Books)
Lee Child – NEVER GO BACK (Delacorte Press)
Lisa Gardner – TOUCH AND GO (Dutton Adult)
Stephen King – DOCTOR SLEEP (Scribner)
Owen Laukkanen CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE (Putnam Adult)
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – WHITE FIRE (Grand Central Publishing)
Andrew Pyper – THE DEMONOLOGIST (Simon & Schuster)

BEST FIRST NOVEL
Gwen Florio – MONTANA (Permanent Press)
J.J. Hensley – RESOLVE (Permanent Press)
Becky Masterman RAGE AGAINST THE DYING (Minotaur Books)
Jason Matthews – RED SPARROW (Scribner)
Carla NortonTHE EDGE OF NORMAL (Minotaur Books)
Hank Steinberg – OUT OF RANGE (William Morrow)
Dick Wolf – THE INTERCEPT (Harper)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL NOVEL
Allison Brennan – COLD SNAP (Minotaur Books)
Kendra Elliot – BURIED (Montlake Romance)
Susan Elia MacNeal – HIS MAJESTY’S HOPE (Bantam)
Jennifer McMahon – THE ONE I LEFT BEHIND (William Morrow Paperbacks)
Nele Neuhaus – SNOW WHITE MUST DIE (Minotaur Books)
Michael Stanley – DEADLY HARVEST (Harper Paperbacks)

BEST SHORT STORY
Eric Guignard – “Baggage of Eternal Night” (JournalStone)
Laura Lippman – “Waco 1982” (Grand Central)
Kevin Mims – “The Gallows Bird” (Ellery Queen)
Twist Phelan – “Footprints in the Water” (Ellery Queen)
Stephen Vessels – “Doloroso” (Ellery Queen)

BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL
Ashley Elston – THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING (Disney-Hyperion)
Mari Mancusi – SCORCHED (Sourcebooks Fire)
Elisa Nader – ESCAPE FROM EDEN (Merit Press)
Cristin Terrill – ALL OUR YESTERDAYS (Disney-Hyperion)
Allen Zadoff – BOY NOBODY (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

BEST E-BOOK ORIGINAL NOVEL
Rebecca Cantrell – THE WORLD BENEATH (Rebecca Cantrell)
J.G. Faherty – THE BURNING TIME (JournalStone)
Joshua Graham – TERMINUS (Redhaven Books)
James Lepore and Carlos Davis – NO DAWN FOR MEN (The Story Plant)
Luke Preston – OUT OF EXILE (Momentum)

Reed Coleman Revives Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone
Oline Cogdill

coleman_reed
The late Robert B. Parker’s novels continue to have a life of their own.

Ace Atkins has kept Parker’s iconic Spencer series alive with his contributions. Atkins' third Spencer novel Robert B. Parker’s Cheap Shot comes out in May.

Now Reed Coleman, left, has been tapped to continue the Jesse Stone series.

Coleman is the author of 17 novels, including the Moe Prager series. A three-time winner of the Shamus Award and a two-time Edgar nominee, Coleman also has won the Macavity, Audie, Barry and Anthony Awards. He is an adjunct instructor of English at Hofstra University and a founding member of MWA University.

And Coleman certainly knows how to keep a secret. Coleman was asked if he wanted to continue the Jesse Stone novels in May 2013. But it has only been during the last week that he was able to make the news public.

Coleman said on his website it took him “about a nanosecond to say yes. From that moment on my life has been turned on its ear.”

Coleman will write four novels in the Jesse Stone series.colemanreed_blindspot2

Jesse Stone seems to be a good fit for him, Coleman said.

“Jesse Stone is a character with enormous appeal for me. I’d written an essay about Jesse entitled “Go East, Young Man: Robert B. Parker, Jesse Stone, and Spenser” for the book In Pursuit of Spenser, edited by Otto Penzler. In doing the research for the essay, I found a rare and magical thing that only master writers like Mr. Parker could create: the perfectly flawed hero. Easy for writers to create heroes. Easy for writers to create characters with flaws. Not so easy to do both. But Robert B. Parker was an alchemist who turned simple concepts into enduring characters,” Coleman said on his blog.

Following Parker’s death, three Jesse Stone novels were written by Michael Brandman.

Coleman’s first Jesse Stone novel Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot will be published in September by Putnam.

In Blind Spot, Jesse Stone’s reunion with his former baseball team is cut short when a young woman is murdered and her boyfriend, a son of one of Paradise’s most prominent families, is missing and presumed kidnapped.

Oline Cogdill
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 10:04

coleman_reed
The late Robert B. Parker’s novels continue to have a life of their own.

Ace Atkins has kept Parker’s iconic Spencer series alive with his contributions. Atkins' third Spencer novel Robert B. Parker’s Cheap Shot comes out in May.

Now Reed Coleman, left, has been tapped to continue the Jesse Stone series.

Coleman is the author of 17 novels, including the Moe Prager series. A three-time winner of the Shamus Award and a two-time Edgar nominee, Coleman also has won the Macavity, Audie, Barry and Anthony Awards. He is an adjunct instructor of English at Hofstra University and a founding member of MWA University.

And Coleman certainly knows how to keep a secret. Coleman was asked if he wanted to continue the Jesse Stone novels in May 2013. But it has only been during the last week that he was able to make the news public.

Coleman said on his website it took him “about a nanosecond to say yes. From that moment on my life has been turned on its ear.”

Coleman will write four novels in the Jesse Stone series.colemanreed_blindspot2

Jesse Stone seems to be a good fit for him, Coleman said.

“Jesse Stone is a character with enormous appeal for me. I’d written an essay about Jesse entitled “Go East, Young Man: Robert B. Parker, Jesse Stone, and Spenser” for the book In Pursuit of Spenser, edited by Otto Penzler. In doing the research for the essay, I found a rare and magical thing that only master writers like Mr. Parker could create: the perfectly flawed hero. Easy for writers to create heroes. Easy for writers to create characters with flaws. Not so easy to do both. But Robert B. Parker was an alchemist who turned simple concepts into enduring characters,” Coleman said on his blog.

Following Parker’s death, three Jesse Stone novels were written by Michael Brandman.

Coleman’s first Jesse Stone novel Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot will be published in September by Putnam.

In Blind Spot, Jesse Stone’s reunion with his former baseball team is cut short when a young woman is murdered and her boyfriend, a son of one of Paradise’s most prominent families, is missing and presumed kidnapped.

Mystery on the Air: 10 Great Old-Time Radio Thrillers (Part 3)
Francis M. Nevins

Bernard_Herrmann_and_Lucile_Fletcher

Let Us Now Praise Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975)

Composer Bernard Herrmann excelled at creating film, radio and television scores. He is shown here with his wife Lucile Fletcher, whom he encouraged to write for radio. She authored two of the most famous shows in radio history, “The Hitchhiker” and “Sorry, Wrong Number,” both of which appeared on Suspense.

My parents had little interest in either movies or music but they bought their first TV set around 1952, and that 12-inch screen exposed me to both those worlds when I was nine. My first experience of great music was in the form of the scores for cliffhanger serials like Flash Gordon and TV series like Captain Video and The Lone Ranger. Little did I know that I was listening to Liszt, Wagner, and Tchaikovsky!

bernardhermmann_and_alfredhitchcock

Pictured right: Alfred Hitchcock and his maestro Bernard Herrmann.

My first experience of great music written specifically for the small screen came when I was around 14 and spent many a Friday and Saturday evening watching CBS series like Perry Mason, Have Gun Will Travel, Rawhide, and The Twilight Zone. I had no idea that I was listening to Bernard Herrmann, who wasn’t even listed in the credit crawls of those superb series. More precisely, he was credited as composer of the score for Have Gun’s debut episode, but with his name misspelled. Even had I seen his name several times a weekend as by rights I should have, it would have meant nothing to me. Discovering him by name didn’t come until several years later when I had become entranced by classic Alfred Hitchcock films like Vertigo and Psycho—not only the films but the haunting scores, which of course Herrmann had composed. By the time I finished my education I should have had enough musical savvy to recognize the unique Herrmann sound whenever I heard it, but I was well into adulthood before I learned that much of the TV music of my formative years came from the man who had scored Hitchcock’s greatest hits.

All this is by way of introduction to Bernard Herrmann: The CBS Years, a 2-CD set released late in 2003 by the Belgium-based Prometheus label and already a scarce item. I had to turn handstands to get my copy, but the hassle was well worth it. Listen to those themes which no one else could have written and you’ll understand part of the reason why the first seasons of Rawhide and Have Gun and Twilight Zone remain so green in the memories of my generation.

You’ll also understand why the early Perry Mason segments, when offered on video by Columbia House a few years ago, were touted as having been shot in the film noir style—a ridiculous claim, but one that almost makes sense if you know that the Mason background themes came from the same pen that had scored Vertigo and Psycho, and earlier noirs like On Dangerous Ground, and that spiritual grandfather of so much film noir, Citizen Kane. No one does ominous like Herrmann does ominous.

“The Case of the Sulky Girl” (October 19, 1957) offers a lovely example of his contributions. Cross-examining a crucial witness against his innocent client, Mason approaches, hands him a set of flash cards and asks him to read from them. A Herrmann chord is played.

“The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

Mason takes a few steps back.

Herrmann chord. “The early bird catches the worm.”

Mason, stepping further back: “Louder, please, Mr. Graves.”

Herrmann chord. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

Mason steps even further back.

Herrmann chord. “In a democracy all men are created equal.”

Mason, shouting: “What was that? I can’t hear you, Mr. Graves!” He repeats the line.

Herrmann chord. Graves turns to the next card. “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.”

Mason: “Louder, please!”

Herrmann chord. “A stitch in time saves nine.”

Mason, now at the courtroom door: “The next card!”

The witness starts to read, then stops. Herrmann’s music floods the soundtrack from this point on. “Go on, Mr. Graves!” Mason shouts.

“Crinston, I want Graves to go with you.”

“Read it again, Mr. Graves. LOUDER, MR. GRAVES! GO ON!”

“CRINSTON, I WANT GRAVES TO GO WITH YOU!”

That is all Mason needs to break down the witness and expose the plot to frame his client. Thanks in part to Herrmann, but also of course to director Christian Nyby and scriptwriter Harold Swanton, it’s the most dramatic climax in any episode of the series, and nothing at all like the denouement in Erle Stanley Gardner’s 1933 novel of the same name.

Soon after finding the CBS Years set, I typed Herrmann’s name into ever-faithful Google and was rewarded with two discoveries: a Bernard Herrmann Society with its own website, and Steven C. Smith’s excellent biography A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann, which taught me much about the composer. Let me quote a few passages and then, in the best Ellery Queen manner, challenge you to spot the connection I made.

“Explosive, insecure, paranoiac, Herrmann was, as many observed, his own worst enemy.”

“Herrmann’s life was an ongoing battle with demons. [He had] a lifelong fascination with—and fear of—death, a subject Herrmann...studied obsessively in his art.”

“[His] vision of life...recognized both the beauty and horror in the human condition....[He] excelled in capturing the psychological bond between love and anxiety.”

“[He was] a lost child who wanted affection desperately... [E]verything about him said, ‘Love me, please.’ Yet his behavior drove people away, the very people he wanted to love him.”

“[His] favorite dramatic themes [were] romantic obsession, isolation, and the ultimate release of death.”

Sound familiar? These passages, and countless more in Smith’s biography, describe another man precisely as well as they describe Herrmann. A man whom I’ve called the Hitchcock of the written word and the director’s spiritual brother. A man who, like Herrmann, was born and raised in New York City, had Jewish roots that were meaningless to him and who, like Herrmann, died at age 64. I refer, as if you hadn’t guessed by now, to Cornell Woolrich. We don’t ordinarily think of an author as having any special affinity with a composer, and no one would dream of trying to identify most crime-suspense novelists with particular composers. But if you’ve read enough Woolrich and heard enough Herrmann, I bet you will also hear the click in your head just as I did. Woolrich-Hitchcock, Hitchcock-Herrmann, Herrmann-Woolrich. Like Jules and Jim and Catherine in Truffaut’s film: “round and round, together bound.”

FURTHER INVESTIGATION ON OLD-TIME RADIO

Read Mystery Scene's "Mystery On Air" Part I

Read Mystery Scene's "Mystery On Air" Part II

Francis M. Nevins is a professor of law at St. Louis University and the author of six mystery novels, forty-odd short stories and a mountain of nonfiction on the genre, including two Edgar Award-winning books.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Summer Issue #90.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 11:04

Bernard_Herrmann_and_Lucile_FletcherLet Us Now Praise Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975)

Laura Lippman’s Every Secret Thing Movie
Oline Cogdill

everysecretthing_lauralippmanfilm
Not every detail makes it into an author profile. Sometimes there isn’t room or things happen after publication.

Take our current issue of Mystery Scene with the profile of Laura Lippman, written by me.

Laura and I had a good interview, filled with lots of details about her work, her books, the film that has been made based on Every Secret Thing.

Much of that is in the profile.

But at the time we talked, and even with the follow up just before we went to press, where and when the film of Every Secret Thing was still up in the air.

So, naturally, soon after the issue hit the stands, the announcement comes out.

Every Secret Thing is being shown as part of the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, which will take place in Manhattan from April 16-27. Here’s the link and look for updates.

Screening times for Every Secret Thing are scheduled to be 6 p.m. Sunday April 20 at BMCC Tribeca; 3 p.m. Wednesday April 23 at Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea; and 7 p.m. Thursday April 24 at the AMC Loews Village.

Here’s how the Tribeca festival describes the film:

Every Secret Thing
, directed by Amy Berg, written by Nicole Holofcener. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. One clear summer day in a Baltimore suburb, a baby goes missing from her front porch. Two young girls serve seven years for the crime and are released into a town that hasn’t fully forgiven or forgotten. Soon, another child is missing, and two detectives are called in to investigate the mystery in a community where everyone seems to have a secret. An ensemble cast, including Elizabeth Banks, Diane Lane, Dakota Fanning, and Nate Parker, brings to life Laura Lippman’s acclaimed novel of love, loss, and murder.

That sounds about right.

The website Vulture.com listed Every Secret Thing as one of the seven best films at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The Vulture.com review says: “. . . and as you might expect with that creative team, this is less a mystery and more a diffuse character study, a look at how the past can continue to haunt those broken by it. The cast is uniformly excellent, but Diane Lane, playing the mother of one of the convicted girls, stands out: She turns this efficient, suspenseful little drama into something downright Shakespearean.”

PHOTO: Ronnie Fuller (played by Dakota Fanning) has heart to heart conversation with Detective Nancy Porter (played by Elizabeth Banks) in Every Secret Thing. Photograph/Alison Rosa; courtesy Tribeca Film Festival

Oline Cogdill
Friday, 11 April 2014 09:04

everysecretthing_lauralippmanfilm
Not every detail makes it into an author profile. Sometimes there isn’t room or things happen after publication.

Take our current issue of Mystery Scene with the profile of Laura Lippman, written by me.

Laura and I had a good interview, filled with lots of details about her work, her books, the film that has been made based on Every Secret Thing.

Much of that is in the profile.

But at the time we talked, and even with the follow up just before we went to press, where and when the film of Every Secret Thing was still up in the air.

So, naturally, soon after the issue hit the stands, the announcement comes out.

Every Secret Thing is being shown as part of the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, which will take place in Manhattan from April 16-27. Here’s the link and look for updates.

Screening times for Every Secret Thing are scheduled to be 6 p.m. Sunday April 20 at BMCC Tribeca; 3 p.m. Wednesday April 23 at Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea; and 7 p.m. Thursday April 24 at the AMC Loews Village.

Here’s how the Tribeca festival describes the film:

Every Secret Thing
, directed by Amy Berg, written by Nicole Holofcener. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. One clear summer day in a Baltimore suburb, a baby goes missing from her front porch. Two young girls serve seven years for the crime and are released into a town that hasn’t fully forgiven or forgotten. Soon, another child is missing, and two detectives are called in to investigate the mystery in a community where everyone seems to have a secret. An ensemble cast, including Elizabeth Banks, Diane Lane, Dakota Fanning, and Nate Parker, brings to life Laura Lippman’s acclaimed novel of love, loss, and murder.

That sounds about right.

The website Vulture.com listed Every Secret Thing as one of the seven best films at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The Vulture.com review says: “. . . and as you might expect with that creative team, this is less a mystery and more a diffuse character study, a look at how the past can continue to haunt those broken by it. The cast is uniformly excellent, but Diane Lane, playing the mother of one of the convicted girls, stands out: She turns this efficient, suspenseful little drama into something downright Shakespearean.”

PHOTO: Ronnie Fuller (played by Dakota Fanning) has heart to heart conversation with Detective Nancy Porter (played by Elizabeth Banks) in Every Secret Thing. Photograph/Alison Rosa; courtesy Tribeca Film Festival

A Visit to Chinatown With Henry Chang
Oline Cogdill

changhenry_deathmoney
Henry Chang
’s novels about New York police detective Jack Yu have delivered an insider’s view of Chinatowns and the Asian culture.

Chang’s novels have taken us to the inner workings of New York’s Chinatown as well as these neighborhoods across the country.

Chang’s fourth novel Death Money brings his detective back to New York where his latest investigation involves the death of an Asian man whose body is found in the Harlem River.

The case takes Jack to the benevolent associations of Chinatown to a wealthy New Jersey borough.

Like other authors, Chang will begin a round of book signings and discussions to talk to readers about his books.

What is different is that Chang’s events will take him to a variety of Asian venues, including the Museum of the Chinese in America on April 17.

Chang isn’t the first author to showcase his work where the novel is set. Bookstores are wonderful places to connect with readers. But many authors also find they can expand their readerships by looking for other venues.

Rosemary Harris has talked about her gardening series at herb shops and gardening clubs. Ellen Crosby has discussed her wine series at wine festivals. Elaine Viets’ Dead End Jobs series has taken her to spas, pet grooming stores and boats.

Authors know that going where the readers are works.

Where is the most unusual place you’ve been for a book signing.

Oline Cogdill
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 09:04

changhenry_deathmoney
Henry Chang
’s novels about New York police detective Jack Yu have delivered an insider’s view of Chinatowns and the Asian culture.

Chang’s novels have taken us to the inner workings of New York’s Chinatown as well as these neighborhoods across the country.

Chang’s fourth novel Death Money brings his detective back to New York where his latest investigation involves the death of an Asian man whose body is found in the Harlem River.

The case takes Jack to the benevolent associations of Chinatown to a wealthy New Jersey borough.

Like other authors, Chang will begin a round of book signings and discussions to talk to readers about his books.

What is different is that Chang’s events will take him to a variety of Asian venues, including the Museum of the Chinese in America on April 17.

Chang isn’t the first author to showcase his work where the novel is set. Bookstores are wonderful places to connect with readers. But many authors also find they can expand their readerships by looking for other venues.

Rosemary Harris has talked about her gardening series at herb shops and gardening clubs. Ellen Crosby has discussed her wine series at wine festivals. Elaine Viets’ Dead End Jobs series has taken her to spas, pet grooming stores and boats.

Authors know that going where the readers are works.

Where is the most unusual place you’ve been for a book signing.

Farewell to Book’em
Oline Cogdill

heartbook
It’s always sad when a bookstore closes its doors.

Bookstores aren’t just brick and mortar buildings, they are readers’ living rooms. A place to meet like minded people, a place to discuss favorite books and discover new novels, a place to meet your favorite author.

So the news that Book'em Mysteries in South Pasadena, California, will close on April 30 is a time to mourn its passing but also to praise its 24 years of being in business. That’s 24 years of introducing a couple of generations of readers to books and authors.

Book'em Mysteries’ owners Mary Riley, 82, and Barry Martin,75, have been quoted in a couple of newspaper articles as saying it is time to close.

You reach a point in your life when you feel you’ve accomplished something,” Martin, a retired TV producer, told the Pasadena Star-News.

And they certainly have accomplished a lot.

Just last month the bookstore was named No. 6 in LA Weekly’s list of “10 Best Independent Bookstores in L.A.”

bookem_pasadenastore
Book’em Mysteries almost didn’t make it to its first year. The store opened in October, 1990, a block and a half from its present location in South Pasadena. In the pre-dawn hours of Aug. 9, 1991, just 10 months later, an arsonist destroyed the building where the first bookstore was located.

Riley and Martin lost everything and had to start over. And they did. Just 10 days short of three months later, Book’em Mysteries reopened in its current 1,500-square foot location. The arsonist has never been caught.

Count me as one of the fans of Book’em Mysteries. Any time I am in a city in which there is a mystery bookstore, I make a point of visiting. I usually don’t say anything to the staff, just wander the aisles. And I try to always buy something, even it is just a cup of coffee or a canvas bag or a hat.

When Riley and Martin opened Book’em in 1990, there were no mystery bookstores on the east side of greater Los Angeles. They had met several years earlier through their children—his two were in the high school band, her daughter participated in tall flags. They were both widowed. After 20 years as partners, they married at Book’em.

Until the couple shuts the doors for the final time, they will be heavily discounting the books they have in stock and offering for sale the furniture and fixtures. Meanwhile, they have been greeting and reminiscing with long-time customers and authors.

In an interview with the Pasadena Star-News, Martin perfectly summed up most people’s feelings on what an independent bookstore offers its customers: “A sense of community; a place where you can go and not be judged; a place where you can go and have a conversation outside of politics or whatever is going on. A place where people can come and talk about books. Our emphasis has always been books and people,” he told the newspaper.

And he’s exactly right.

Mystery Scene wishes Martin and Riley the best of luck, and thanks for the memories.

Oline Cogdill
Wednesday, 23 April 2014 07:04

heartbook
It’s always sad when a bookstore closes its doors.

Bookstores aren’t just brick and mortar buildings, they are readers’ living rooms. A place to meet like minded people, a place to discuss favorite books and discover new novels, a place to meet your favorite author.

So the news that Book'em Mysteries in South Pasadena, California, will close on April 30 is a time to mourn its passing but also to praise its 24 years of being in business. That’s 24 years of introducing a couple of generations of readers to books and authors.

Book'em Mysteries’ owners Mary Riley, 82, and Barry Martin,75, have been quoted in a couple of newspaper articles as saying it is time to close.

You reach a point in your life when you feel you’ve accomplished something,” Martin, a retired TV producer, told the Pasadena Star-News.

And they certainly have accomplished a lot.

Just last month the bookstore was named No. 6 in LA Weekly’s list of “10 Best Independent Bookstores in L.A.”

bookem_pasadenastore
Book’em Mysteries almost didn’t make it to its first year. The store opened in October, 1990, a block and a half from its present location in South Pasadena. In the pre-dawn hours of Aug. 9, 1991, just 10 months later, an arsonist destroyed the building where the first bookstore was located.

Riley and Martin lost everything and had to start over. And they did. Just 10 days short of three months later, Book’em Mysteries reopened in its current 1,500-square foot location. The arsonist has never been caught.

Count me as one of the fans of Book’em Mysteries. Any time I am in a city in which there is a mystery bookstore, I make a point of visiting. I usually don’t say anything to the staff, just wander the aisles. And I try to always buy something, even it is just a cup of coffee or a canvas bag or a hat.

When Riley and Martin opened Book’em in 1990, there were no mystery bookstores on the east side of greater Los Angeles. They had met several years earlier through their children—his two were in the high school band, her daughter participated in tall flags. They were both widowed. After 20 years as partners, they married at Book’em.

Until the couple shuts the doors for the final time, they will be heavily discounting the books they have in stock and offering for sale the furniture and fixtures. Meanwhile, they have been greeting and reminiscing with long-time customers and authors.

In an interview with the Pasadena Star-News, Martin perfectly summed up most people’s feelings on what an independent bookstore offers its customers: “A sense of community; a place where you can go and not be judged; a place where you can go and have a conversation outside of politics or whatever is going on. A place where people can come and talk about books. Our emphasis has always been books and people,” he told the newspaper.

And he’s exactly right.

Mystery Scene wishes Martin and Riley the best of luck, and thanks for the memories.

Berkley Prime Crime and the Traditional Mystery
Oline Cogdill

hart_deadwhiteandblue
This year Berkley Prime Crime is turning 20 years, and that is cause for celebration.

Now other publishing imprints have been around just as long if not longer. But I especially want to praise Berkley Prime Crime for not just publishing cozy mysteries but for allowing this category of the genre to thrive.

When it started in 1994, the imprint released 40 mass market paperbacks. In 2013, Berkley Prime Crime published 150 novels, which were a combination of mass market originals, trade paperbacks, and hardcovers.

The imprint has shown readers that there is room in the genre for all kinds of voices, even those on the softer side.

What I admire about Berkley Prime Crime’s editors is that they know the traditional mystery—a term I have increasingly preferred to cozy—can open windows into new worlds for readers.

The Miss Marples of yesterday have morphed into the wonderful Carolyn Hart with her many series, including the novels about ghost Bailey Ruth Raeburn and bookstore owner Annie Darling. Hart's latest novel is Dead, White, and Blue.

We have Maggie Sefton and her knitter Kelly Flynn; Monica Ferris and her Betsy Devonshire, owner of the Crewel World needlework shop; Laura Childs who writes about a tea shop owner, a scrapbooker and the restaurateurs who have an egg-themed café in three separate series.

slan_deathofaschoolgirlJulie Hyzy adds a soupcon of politics into her lovely series about White House chef Olivia Paras.

Stephanie Jaye Evans shows the challenges of being a man of faith in a secular world.

For historicals, there are Victoria Thompson’s tales about 19th-century New York, midwife Sarah Brandt and Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy; Carol K. Carr’s espionage novels set in Victorian London where India Black makes spying an art.

Joanna Campbell Slan's Jane Eyre Chronicles pick up where Bronte left off.

And it is possible to do a traditional mystery with a harder edge such as Naomi Hirahara’s LAPD bike cop Ellie Rush or M.L Rowland’s search and rescue series about expert Grace Kinkaid.

Berkley Prime Crime had a couple of celebrations last month. But the real celebration of the traditional mystery comes every year at the Malice Domestic conference. This year it will be May 2-4 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bethesda, MD.

Not surprising that many Berkley Prime Crime authors will be there including Earlene Fowler, who is the toastmaster at Malice.

And Carolyn Hart will be honored during the Edgar Award banquet on May 1 as one of the Grand Masters selected by the Mystery Writers of America.

Once again, it’s a good year for the traditional mystery.

Oline Cogdill
Sunday, 27 April 2014 05:04

hart_deadwhiteandblue
This year Berkley Prime Crime is turning 20 years, and that is cause for celebration.

Now other publishing imprints have been around just as long if not longer. But I especially want to praise Berkley Prime Crime for not just publishing cozy mysteries but for allowing this category of the genre to thrive.

When it started in 1994, the imprint released 40 mass market paperbacks. In 2013, Berkley Prime Crime published 150 novels, which were a combination of mass market originals, trade paperbacks, and hardcovers.

The imprint has shown readers that there is room in the genre for all kinds of voices, even those on the softer side.

What I admire about Berkley Prime Crime’s editors is that they know the traditional mystery—a term I have increasingly preferred to cozy—can open windows into new worlds for readers.

The Miss Marples of yesterday have morphed into the wonderful Carolyn Hart with her many series, including the novels about ghost Bailey Ruth Raeburn and bookstore owner Annie Darling. Hart's latest novel is Dead, White, and Blue.

We have Maggie Sefton and her knitter Kelly Flynn; Monica Ferris and her Betsy Devonshire, owner of the Crewel World needlework shop; Laura Childs who writes about a tea shop owner, a scrapbooker and the restaurateurs who have an egg-themed café in three separate series.

slan_deathofaschoolgirlJulie Hyzy adds a soupcon of politics into her lovely series about White House chef Olivia Paras.

Stephanie Jaye Evans shows the challenges of being a man of faith in a secular world.

For historicals, there are Victoria Thompson’s tales about 19th-century New York, midwife Sarah Brandt and Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy; Carol K. Carr’s espionage novels set in Victorian London where India Black makes spying an art.

Joanna Campbell Slan's Jane Eyre Chronicles pick up where Bronte left off.

And it is possible to do a traditional mystery with a harder edge such as Naomi Hirahara’s LAPD bike cop Ellie Rush or M.L Rowland’s search and rescue series about expert Grace Kinkaid.

Berkley Prime Crime had a couple of celebrations last month. But the real celebration of the traditional mystery comes every year at the Malice Domestic conference. This year it will be May 2-4 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bethesda, MD.

Not surprising that many Berkley Prime Crime authors will be there including Earlene Fowler, who is the toastmaster at Malice.

And Carolyn Hart will be honored during the Edgar Award banquet on May 1 as one of the Grand Masters selected by the Mystery Writers of America.

Once again, it’s a good year for the traditional mystery.

A Salute to the Raven Winners and All the Edgar Nominees
Oline Cogdill

ravenoline_mwa
I’d like to get a bit personal today.

This time last year, I was high on a cloud because I had been selected to receive the Raven Award from the Mystery Writers of America during the Edgar banquet.

I shared the Raven honor with the lovely people from The Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, which has been owned by Terry Gillman, Maryelizabeth Hart and Jeff Mariotte since in 1993.

It was a glorious night for The Mysterious Galaxy and myself. I also was so happy for the authors who took home Edgars that night.

The Raven remains a career highlight for me. I felt—and said so in my acceptance speech—that receiving the Raven meant my work was respected by the board and by the mystery writers.

So enough about me.

It is now time to pass the baton, or in the case, the Raven.
Figuratively, that is.

I have the Raven in a place of honor and you are not getting it back.auntagatha_agnews2

So I offer an extra heartfelt congratulations to Robin and James Agnew, at right, whose store Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, will take home this year’s Raven. I know how you’ll feel taking that little bird home with you.

The Raven as well as the Edgar Awards will be presented by the Mystery Writers of America May 1 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. Here’s a list of all the Edgar nominees.

Aunt Agatha’s is celebrating its 22nd year in business this year, no small feat in this day of online orders. A couple of years ago I did a story on the store’s celebrating its 20th anniversary, which is linked here.

The store has stayed in business because, like other independent bookstores, its staff knows its clientele. They can intelligently recommend books that they know their customers will like. And that personal kind of service never goes out of style.

The Agnews have no plans for an anniversary party this year. They are going to wait until “the big 25,” Robin Agnew told me in an email. ye are

“Otherwise things are chugging along as they always have though weirdly when it's busy, it's REALLY busy, and when it's slow, it's REALLY slow,” said Robin Agnew in the email last week.

“All the things we've been doing - book clubs, author visits, etc. we plan to continue. I'm looking forward to what's next, what great writers are coming up, and what kind of work writers I already love will continue to create,” she said.

Authors who have been coming to Aunt Agatha’s for years speak highly of the store.

“There’s no one more important to an author than the bookseller. Who else will make sure that your beloved novel gets placed personally into a reader’s hand?” said William Kent Krueger, whose Ordinary Grace is up for an Edgar in the best novel category.

“Among all the fine booksellers out there, Robin and Jamie Agnew are at the top of the list. Their store, Aunt Agatha’s, is such a splendid place, particularly in spirit. When a crowd gathers for a book event there, it’s like a little festival. I love the store, and I dearly love those two folks who own it,” Krueger added.

Needless to say, the Agnews are delighted about the Raven.

“We are unbelievably pleased to be honored by the writers whose work we love to sell and share with customers and friends,” Robin Agnew said in the email.

“Mysteries have been a touchstone for me all of my life starting with Nancy Drew and they continue to be. The friends we've made and the authors whose careers we've seen grow from specks to big success has really been a delight as well,” she added.

Congratulations to all.

Oline Cogdill
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 06:04

ravenoline_mwa
I’d like to get a bit personal today.

This time last year, I was high on a cloud because I had been selected to receive the Raven Award from the Mystery Writers of America during the Edgar banquet.

I shared the Raven honor with the lovely people from The Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, which has been owned by Terry Gillman, Maryelizabeth Hart and Jeff Mariotte since in 1993.

It was a glorious night for The Mysterious Galaxy and myself. I also was so happy for the authors who took home Edgars that night.

The Raven remains a career highlight for me. I felt—and said so in my acceptance speech—that receiving the Raven meant my work was respected by the board and by the mystery writers.

So enough about me.

It is now time to pass the baton, or in the case, the Raven.
Figuratively, that is.

I have the Raven in a place of honor and you are not getting it back.auntagatha_agnews2

So I offer an extra heartfelt congratulations to Robin and James Agnew, at right, whose store Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, will take home this year’s Raven. I know how you’ll feel taking that little bird home with you.

The Raven as well as the Edgar Awards will be presented by the Mystery Writers of America May 1 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. Here’s a list of all the Edgar nominees.

Aunt Agatha’s is celebrating its 22nd year in business this year, no small feat in this day of online orders. A couple of years ago I did a story on the store’s celebrating its 20th anniversary, which is linked here.

The store has stayed in business because, like other independent bookstores, its staff knows its clientele. They can intelligently recommend books that they know their customers will like. And that personal kind of service never goes out of style.

The Agnews have no plans for an anniversary party this year. They are going to wait until “the big 25,” Robin Agnew told me in an email. ye are

“Otherwise things are chugging along as they always have though weirdly when it's busy, it's REALLY busy, and when it's slow, it's REALLY slow,” said Robin Agnew in the email last week.

“All the things we've been doing - book clubs, author visits, etc. we plan to continue. I'm looking forward to what's next, what great writers are coming up, and what kind of work writers I already love will continue to create,” she said.

Authors who have been coming to Aunt Agatha’s for years speak highly of the store.

“There’s no one more important to an author than the bookseller. Who else will make sure that your beloved novel gets placed personally into a reader’s hand?” said William Kent Krueger, whose Ordinary Grace is up for an Edgar in the best novel category.

“Among all the fine booksellers out there, Robin and Jamie Agnew are at the top of the list. Their store, Aunt Agatha’s, is such a splendid place, particularly in spirit. When a crowd gathers for a book event there, it’s like a little festival. I love the store, and I dearly love those two folks who own it,” Krueger added.

Needless to say, the Agnews are delighted about the Raven.

“We are unbelievably pleased to be honored by the writers whose work we love to sell and share with customers and friends,” Robin Agnew said in the email.

“Mysteries have been a touchstone for me all of my life starting with Nancy Drew and they continue to be. The friends we've made and the authors whose careers we've seen grow from specks to big success has really been a delight as well,” she added.

Congratulations to all.

Jack of Spies With David Downing
Oline Cogdill

downing_jackofspies
Our fascination with WWI should never end.

This so-called Great War was a game changer in so many ways in the way it restructured combat, politics and society.

I think our fascination has nothing to do with Downton Abbey, though that has increased some awareness, and everything to do how we view our history.

David Downing has explored the Second World War in his six excellent espionage novels about John Russell.

But now Downing turns his attention to the First World War in Jack of Spies (Soho), for which the British author will be touring the U.S. for the first time. Jack of Spies will be published on May 13.

Some of the best and most involving espionage novels aren’t about super-spys, the James Bonds, but about ordinary people caught up in circumstances beyond their control.

And that is what Downing does in Jack of Spies. Set in 1913, on the eve of WWI, the novel’s hero is Jack McColl, a Scottish luxury car salesman. McColl has a knack for languages and he served England during the Boer War. Being a globetrotting car salesman proves to be the perfect cover to gather some light intelligence for Great Britain.

But “light espionage” won’t cut it when the world is on the brink of disaster, when war—a horrific war—looms over the U.K., Germany and Europe.

Jack is kind of playing at being a spy, supplementing his Royal Navy pay with his sales commissions. He’s in China showing a magnificent bottle-green Maya automobile, strolling along the harbor and snapping photos and watching the movement of ships. He’s not above paying the occasional prostitute to tell what her German clients talk about.

downing_david
But this is not the time to dabble in spy craft. And as the situation intensifies, Jack is pulled into the spy business. In addition to the politics that will result in WWI, Downing also fills Jack of Spies a look at Irish and Indian revolutionary causes that were shaping the political landscape.

Jack of Spies is set in Tsingtao, San Francisco, New York, Tampico and Dublin, on steamliners and cross-country trains, reflective of the time.

Jack of Spieshad received a lot of pre-publication buzz, and had been chosen by the American Booksellers Association (ABA) as its June IndieNextList, It’s also been picked as one of the Top Ten Mysteries & Thrillers Pick for Spring 2014 and is a Library Journal Editor’s Pick for Spring 2014.

While I post interviews on this blog that I have conducted, the Soho site has an interesting discussion with Downing about his new series and his thoughts on WWI and WWII.

Here are some excerpts from that interview:

On why Downing decided to write about WWI: “The Second World War was more horrendous than the First in many ways—most notably in the number of civilians killed—but I’ve always felt that the latter was more of game-changer, and I wanted to write a series that reflected the move away from conflicts between established nation states, and the increasing importance of the class, gender and colonial conflicts raging inside them.”

On Downing’s new hero: “I wanted a protagonist who would find these changes hard to cope with, but struggle to do so nevertheless. In the ‘Station’ series John Russell was always politically-motivated, and his views at the end have hardly changed at all, but in the new series British agent Jack McColl is more of a blank slate, politically speaking. The events he witnesses and the people he meets will confront him with many uncomfortable choices.

On the political landscape of the time, including the Irish Republican movement; the Indian independence movement; the Paterson strikes and workers’ rights; the Tampico Affair: “In 1914 there was no shortage of places where the British Empire was being threatened in one way or another. In Jack of Spies he turns up in China, the US, Mexico and Ireland, but it could have been any number of exotic destinations. And my female protagonist, Caitlin, a radical New York journalist, would have been all too aware of the Paterson strike and its aftermath in 1913-14.”

Oline Cogdill
Sunday, 11 May 2014 05:05

downing_jackofspies
Our fascination with WWI should never end.

This so-called Great War was a game changer in so many ways in the way it restructured combat, politics and society.

I think our fascination has nothing to do with Downton Abbey, though that has increased some awareness, and everything to do how we view our history.

David Downing has explored the Second World War in his six excellent espionage novels about John Russell.

But now Downing turns his attention to the First World War in Jack of Spies (Soho), for which the British author will be touring the U.S. for the first time. Jack of Spies will be published on May 13.

Some of the best and most involving espionage novels aren’t about super-spys, the James Bonds, but about ordinary people caught up in circumstances beyond their control.

And that is what Downing does in Jack of Spies. Set in 1913, on the eve of WWI, the novel’s hero is Jack McColl, a Scottish luxury car salesman. McColl has a knack for languages and he served England during the Boer War. Being a globetrotting car salesman proves to be the perfect cover to gather some light intelligence for Great Britain.

But “light espionage” won’t cut it when the world is on the brink of disaster, when war—a horrific war—looms over the U.K., Germany and Europe.

Jack is kind of playing at being a spy, supplementing his Royal Navy pay with his sales commissions. He’s in China showing a magnificent bottle-green Maya automobile, strolling along the harbor and snapping photos and watching the movement of ships. He’s not above paying the occasional prostitute to tell what her German clients talk about.

downing_david
But this is not the time to dabble in spy craft. And as the situation intensifies, Jack is pulled into the spy business. In addition to the politics that will result in WWI, Downing also fills Jack of Spies a look at Irish and Indian revolutionary causes that were shaping the political landscape.

Jack of Spies is set in Tsingtao, San Francisco, New York, Tampico and Dublin, on steamliners and cross-country trains, reflective of the time.

Jack of Spieshad received a lot of pre-publication buzz, and had been chosen by the American Booksellers Association (ABA) as its June IndieNextList, It’s also been picked as one of the Top Ten Mysteries & Thrillers Pick for Spring 2014 and is a Library Journal Editor’s Pick for Spring 2014.

While I post interviews on this blog that I have conducted, the Soho site has an interesting discussion with Downing about his new series and his thoughts on WWI and WWII.

Here are some excerpts from that interview:

On why Downing decided to write about WWI: “The Second World War was more horrendous than the First in many ways—most notably in the number of civilians killed—but I’ve always felt that the latter was more of game-changer, and I wanted to write a series that reflected the move away from conflicts between established nation states, and the increasing importance of the class, gender and colonial conflicts raging inside them.”

On Downing’s new hero: “I wanted a protagonist who would find these changes hard to cope with, but struggle to do so nevertheless. In the ‘Station’ series John Russell was always politically-motivated, and his views at the end have hardly changed at all, but in the new series British agent Jack McColl is more of a blank slate, politically speaking. The events he witnesses and the people he meets will confront him with many uncomfortable choices.

On the political landscape of the time, including the Irish Republican movement; the Indian independence movement; the Paterson strikes and workers’ rights; the Tampico Affair: “In 1914 there was no shortage of places where the British Empire was being threatened in one way or another. In Jack of Spies he turns up in China, the US, Mexico and Ireland, but it could have been any number of exotic destinations. And my female protagonist, Caitlin, a radical New York journalist, would have been all too aware of the Paterson strike and its aftermath in 1913-14.”

2014 Agatha Award Winners
Oline Cogdill

malicedomestic_banner

The winners of the 2014 Agatha Awards were announced this weekend at the Malice Domestic 26 conference (May 2-4, 2014) at the Hyatt, Bethesda, Maryland.

Congratulations to all of this year’s Agatha winners and nominees. Good books all.

The winners below are in bold:

ryan_wronggirlBEST CONTEMPORARY NOVEL
The Wrong Girl, Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)

Through the Evil Days, Julia Spencer-Fleming (Minotaur Books)
Pagan Spring, G.M. Malliet (Minotaur Books)
How the Light Gets In, Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Clammed Up, Barbara Ross (Kensington Books)

 

 

 

budewitz_deathaldenteBEST FIRST NOVEL
Death Al Dente, Leslie Budewitz (Berkley Prime Crime)
You Cannoli Die Once, Shelley Costa (Pocket Books)
Board Stiff, Kendel Lynn (Henery Press)
Kneading to Die, Liz Mugavero (Kensington)
Front Page Fatality, LynDee Walker (Henery Press)

 

 

 

todd_aquestionofhonorBEST HISTORICAL NOVEL
A Question of Honor, Charles Todd (William Morrow)

Heirs and Graces, Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
Death in the Time of Ice, Kaye George (Untreed Reads Publishing)
A Friendly Game of Murder, JJ Murphy (Signet)
Murder in Chelsea, Victoria Thompson (Berkley Prime Crime)

 

 

 

grabenstein_escapefrommrlemoncellosBEST CHILDREN'S/ YA
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, Chris Grabenstein (Random House Books)

The Testing, Joelle Charbonneau (HMH Books for Young Readers)
Traitor in the Shipyard: A Caroline Mystery, Kathleen Ernst (American Girl Mysteries)
Andi Unexpected, Amanda Flower (Zonderkidz)
Code Busters Club: Mystery of the Pirate's Treasure, Penny Warner (Edgmont USA)

 

stashower_thehourofperilBEST NONFICTION
The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War, Daniel Stashower (Minotaur Books)
Georgette Heyer, Jennifer Kloester (Source Books Inc.)
Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, Maria Konnikova (Viking Penguin)
Not Everyone's Cup of Tea: An Interesting & Entertaining History of Malice Domestic's First 25 Years, Verena Rose and Rita Owen, editors (Wildside Press)

 

 

EQMM_March-April_2013BEST SHORT STORY
"The Care and Feeding of House Plants" in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Art Taylor

 "Evil Little Girl" in Don't Get Mad, Get Even, Barb Goffman (Wildside Press) "Nightmare" in Don't Get Mad, Get Even, Barb Goffman (Wildside Press)
"The Hindi Houdini" in Fish Nets, Gigi Pandian (Wildside Press)
"Bread Baby" in Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold, Barbara Ross (Level Best Books)

 

Oline Cogdill
Saturday, 03 May 2014 10:05

malicedomestic_banner

The winners of the 2014 Agatha Awards were announced this weekend at the Malice Domestic 26 conference (May 2-4, 2014) at the Hyatt, Bethesda, Maryland.

Congratulations to all of this year’s Agatha winners and nominees. Good books all.

The winners below are in bold:

ryan_wronggirlBEST CONTEMPORARY NOVEL
The Wrong Girl, Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)

Through the Evil Days, Julia Spencer-Fleming (Minotaur Books)
Pagan Spring, G.M. Malliet (Minotaur Books)
How the Light Gets In, Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Clammed Up, Barbara Ross (Kensington Books)

 

 

 

budewitz_deathaldenteBEST FIRST NOVEL
Death Al Dente, Leslie Budewitz (Berkley Prime Crime)
You Cannoli Die Once, Shelley Costa (Pocket Books)
Board Stiff, Kendel Lynn (Henery Press)
Kneading to Die, Liz Mugavero (Kensington)
Front Page Fatality, LynDee Walker (Henery Press)

 

 

 

todd_aquestionofhonorBEST HISTORICAL NOVEL
A Question of Honor, Charles Todd (William Morrow)

Heirs and Graces, Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
Death in the Time of Ice, Kaye George (Untreed Reads Publishing)
A Friendly Game of Murder, JJ Murphy (Signet)
Murder in Chelsea, Victoria Thompson (Berkley Prime Crime)

 

 

 

grabenstein_escapefrommrlemoncellosBEST CHILDREN'S/ YA
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, Chris Grabenstein (Random House Books)

The Testing, Joelle Charbonneau (HMH Books for Young Readers)
Traitor in the Shipyard: A Caroline Mystery, Kathleen Ernst (American Girl Mysteries)
Andi Unexpected, Amanda Flower (Zonderkidz)
Code Busters Club: Mystery of the Pirate's Treasure, Penny Warner (Edgmont USA)

 

stashower_thehourofperilBEST NONFICTION
The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War, Daniel Stashower (Minotaur Books)
Georgette Heyer, Jennifer Kloester (Source Books Inc.)
Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, Maria Konnikova (Viking Penguin)
Not Everyone's Cup of Tea: An Interesting & Entertaining History of Malice Domestic's First 25 Years, Verena Rose and Rita Owen, editors (Wildside Press)

 

 

EQMM_March-April_2013BEST SHORT STORY
"The Care and Feeding of House Plants" in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Art Taylor

 "Evil Little Girl" in Don't Get Mad, Get Even, Barb Goffman (Wildside Press) "Nightmare" in Don't Get Mad, Get Even, Barb Goffman (Wildside Press)
"The Hindi Houdini" in Fish Nets, Gigi Pandian (Wildside Press)
"Bread Baby" in Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold, Barbara Ross (Level Best Books)

 

2014 Edgar Winners Announced
Oline Cogdill

hart_carolyn
The Mystery Writers of America has announced the winners of the 2014 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television, published or produced in 2013.

The Edgar Awards were presented to the winners at the 68th banquet last night, May 1, 2014, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.

The winners are in bold below. We congratulate all the winners as well as the nominees.

 

(pictured left: Grand Master honoree Carolyn Hart)

 

 

krueger_ordinarygraceBEST NOVEL

Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger (Atria Books)
Sandrine’s Case, by Thomas H. Cook (Grove Atlantic/The Mysterious Press)
The Humans, by Matt Haig (Simon & Schuster)
How the Light Gets In, by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Standing in Another Man’s Grave, by Ian Rankin (Hachette Book Group)
Until She Comes Home, by Lori Roy (Dutton Books)

 

 

matthews_redsparrowBEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR

Red Sparrow, by Jason Matthews (Scribner)

The Resurrectionist, by Matthew Guinn (W.W. Norton)
Ghostman, by Roger Hobbs (Alfred A. Knopf)
Rage Against the Dying, by Becky Masterman (Minotaur Books)
Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight (HarperCollins)

 

 

marwood_thewickedgirlsBEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL

The Wicked Girls, by Alex Marwood (Penguin Books)

The Guilty One, by Lisa Ballantyne (William Morrow)
Almost Criminal, by E. R. Brown (Dundurn)
Joe Victim, by Paul Cleave (Atria Books)
Joyland, by Stephen King (Hard Case Crime)
Brilliance, by Marcus Sakey (Thomas and Mercer)

 

 

stashower_thehourofperilBEST FACT CRIME

The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War, by Daniel Stashower (Minotaur Books)
Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America's First Sensational Murder Mystery, by Paul Collins (Crown)
Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal, by Michael D’Antonio (Thomas Dunne Books)
The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness and Murder, by Charles Graeber (Grand Central/Twelve)
The Secret Rescue: An Untold Story of American Nurses and the Medics Behind Nazi Lines, by Cate Lineberry (Little, Brown and Company)


dussere_americaiselsewhereBEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL

America is Elsewhere: The Noir Tradition in the Age of Consumer Culture, by Erik Dussere (Oxford University Press)
Maigret, Simenon and France: Social Dimensions of the Novels and Stories, by Bill Alder (McFarland & Company)
Pimping Fictions: African American Crime Literature and the Untold Story of Black Pulp Publishing, by Justin Gifford (Temple University Press)
Ian Fleming, by Andrew Lycett (St. Martin’s Press)
Middlebrow Feminism in Classic British Detective Fiction, by Melissa Schaub (Palgrave Macmillan)

 

connolly_caxtonprivatelendingBEST SHORT STORY

"The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” – Bibliomysteries, by John Connolly (Mysterious)
 "The Terminal" – Kwik Krimes, by Reed Farrel Coleman (Thomas & Mercer)
"So Long, Chief" – The Strand Magazine, by Max Allan Collins & Mickey Spillane (The Strand)
"There Are Roads In the Water" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, by Trina Corey (Dell Magazines)
"Where That Morning Sun Goes Down" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, by Tim L. Williams (Dell Magazines)

 

 

timberlake_onecamehomeBEST JUVENILE

Strike Three, You’re Dead, by Josh Berk (Random House Children’s Books – Alfred A. Knopf BFYR)
Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking, by Erin Dionne (Penguin Young Readers Group – Dial)
P.K. Pinkerton and the Petrified Man, by Caroline Lawrence  (Penguin Young Readers Group – Putnam Juvenile)
Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Publishing Worldwide – Disney-Hyperion)
One Came Home, by Amy Timberlake (Random House Children’s Books – Alfred A. Knopf BFYR)

 

pitcher_ketchupcloudsBEST YOUNG ADULT

All the Truth That’s In Me, by Julie Berry (Penguin Young Readers Group – Viking Juvenile)
Far Far Away, by Tom McNeal (Random House Children’s Books – Alfred A. Knopf BFYR)
Criminal, by Terra Elan McVoy (Simon & Schuster – Simon Pulse)
How to Lead a Life of Crime, by Kirsten Miller (Penguin Young Readers Group – Razorbill)
Ketchup Clouds, by Annabel Pitcher (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

 

thefallBEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY

“Episode 3” – Luther, teleplay by Neil Cross (BBC)
“Episode 1” – The Fall, teleplay by Allan Cubitt (Netflix)
“Legitimate Rape” – Law & Order: SVU, teleplay by Kevin Fox & Peter Blauner (NBC)
“Variations Under Domestication” – Orphan Black, teleplay by Will Pascoe (BBC)
“Pilot” – The Following, teleplay by Kevin Williamson (Fox/Warner Bros. Television)

 

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD
"That Wentworth Letter" – Criminal Element’s Malfeasance Occasional, by Jeff Soloway (St. Martin’s Press)

 

crais_robertGRAND MASTER

Robert Crais
Carolyn Hart

(Pictured right: Grand Master honoree Robert Crais)

 

RAVEN AWARD

Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Michigan


milchman_coverofsnowTHE SIMON & SCHUSTER - MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD

(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, April 30, 2014)
Winner is in bold:

Cover of Snow, by Jenny Milchman (Ballantine Books)
There Was an Old Woman, by Hallie Ephron (William Morrow)
Fear of Beauty, by Susan Froetschel (Seventh Street Books)
The Money Kill, by Katia Lief (Harper)
The Sixth Station, by Linda Stasi (Forge Books)

 

 

 

 
Oline Cogdill
Thursday, 01 May 2014 10:05

hart_carolyn
The Mystery Writers of America has announced the winners of the 2014 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television, published or produced in 2013.

The Edgar Awards were presented to the winners at the 68th banquet last night, May 1, 2014, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.

The winners are in bold below. We congratulate all the winners as well as the nominees.

 

(pictured left: Grand Master honoree Carolyn Hart)

 

 

krueger_ordinarygraceBEST NOVEL

Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger (Atria Books)
Sandrine’s Case, by Thomas H. Cook (Grove Atlantic/The Mysterious Press)
The Humans, by Matt Haig (Simon & Schuster)
How the Light Gets In, by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Standing in Another Man’s Grave, by Ian Rankin (Hachette Book Group)
Until She Comes Home, by Lori Roy (Dutton Books)

 

 

matthews_redsparrowBEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR

Red Sparrow, by Jason Matthews (Scribner)

The Resurrectionist, by Matthew Guinn (W.W. Norton)
Ghostman, by Roger Hobbs (Alfred A. Knopf)
Rage Against the Dying, by Becky Masterman (Minotaur Books)
Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight (HarperCollins)

 

 

marwood_thewickedgirlsBEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL

The Wicked Girls, by Alex Marwood (Penguin Books)

The Guilty One, by Lisa Ballantyne (William Morrow)
Almost Criminal, by E. R. Brown (Dundurn)
Joe Victim, by Paul Cleave (Atria Books)
Joyland, by Stephen King (Hard Case Crime)
Brilliance, by Marcus Sakey (Thomas and Mercer)

 

 

stashower_thehourofperilBEST FACT CRIME

The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War, by Daniel Stashower (Minotaur Books)
Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America's First Sensational Murder Mystery, by Paul Collins (Crown)
Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal, by Michael D’Antonio (Thomas Dunne Books)
The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness and Murder, by Charles Graeber (Grand Central/Twelve)
The Secret Rescue: An Untold Story of American Nurses and the Medics Behind Nazi Lines, by Cate Lineberry (Little, Brown and Company)


dussere_americaiselsewhereBEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL

America is Elsewhere: The Noir Tradition in the Age of Consumer Culture, by Erik Dussere (Oxford University Press)
Maigret, Simenon and France: Social Dimensions of the Novels and Stories, by Bill Alder (McFarland & Company)
Pimping Fictions: African American Crime Literature and the Untold Story of Black Pulp Publishing, by Justin Gifford (Temple University Press)
Ian Fleming, by Andrew Lycett (St. Martin’s Press)
Middlebrow Feminism in Classic British Detective Fiction, by Melissa Schaub (Palgrave Macmillan)

 

connolly_caxtonprivatelendingBEST SHORT STORY

"The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” – Bibliomysteries, by John Connolly (Mysterious)
 "The Terminal" – Kwik Krimes, by Reed Farrel Coleman (Thomas & Mercer)
"So Long, Chief" – The Strand Magazine, by Max Allan Collins & Mickey Spillane (The Strand)
"There Are Roads In the Water" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, by Trina Corey (Dell Magazines)
"Where That Morning Sun Goes Down" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, by Tim L. Williams (Dell Magazines)

 

 

timberlake_onecamehomeBEST JUVENILE

Strike Three, You’re Dead, by Josh Berk (Random House Children’s Books – Alfred A. Knopf BFYR)
Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking, by Erin Dionne (Penguin Young Readers Group – Dial)
P.K. Pinkerton and the Petrified Man, by Caroline Lawrence  (Penguin Young Readers Group – Putnam Juvenile)
Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Publishing Worldwide – Disney-Hyperion)
One Came Home, by Amy Timberlake (Random House Children’s Books – Alfred A. Knopf BFYR)

 

pitcher_ketchupcloudsBEST YOUNG ADULT

All the Truth That’s In Me, by Julie Berry (Penguin Young Readers Group – Viking Juvenile)
Far Far Away, by Tom McNeal (Random House Children’s Books – Alfred A. Knopf BFYR)
Criminal, by Terra Elan McVoy (Simon & Schuster – Simon Pulse)
How to Lead a Life of Crime, by Kirsten Miller (Penguin Young Readers Group – Razorbill)
Ketchup Clouds, by Annabel Pitcher (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

 

thefallBEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY

“Episode 3” – Luther, teleplay by Neil Cross (BBC)
“Episode 1” – The Fall, teleplay by Allan Cubitt (Netflix)
“Legitimate Rape” – Law & Order: SVU, teleplay by Kevin Fox & Peter Blauner (NBC)
“Variations Under Domestication” – Orphan Black, teleplay by Will Pascoe (BBC)
“Pilot” – The Following, teleplay by Kevin Williamson (Fox/Warner Bros. Television)

 

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD
"That Wentworth Letter" – Criminal Element’s Malfeasance Occasional, by Jeff Soloway (St. Martin’s Press)

 

crais_robertGRAND MASTER

Robert Crais
Carolyn Hart

(Pictured right: Grand Master honoree Robert Crais)

 

RAVEN AWARD

Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Michigan


milchman_coverofsnowTHE SIMON & SCHUSTER - MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD

(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, April 30, 2014)
Winner is in bold:

Cover of Snow, by Jenny Milchman (Ballantine Books)
There Was an Old Woman, by Hallie Ephron (William Morrow)
Fear of Beauty, by Susan Froetschel (Seventh Street Books)
The Money Kill, by Katia Lief (Harper)
The Sixth Station, by Linda Stasi (Forge Books)

 

 

 

 
Reading With James Patterson
Oline Cogdill
pattersonwade_reading2014
Mega-bestseller James Patterson cares deeply about the future of literacy in this country.

And he has been working for literacy.

Last month it was announced that Patterson will be giving $1 million to independent bookstores to help support them. Details here.

For the second year, Patterson and NBA all-star Dwyane Wade will team up for the webcast "One on One" promoting reading for children, emphasizing “the importance of reading for success in life,” according to the press release.

The webcast will air on Thursday, April 24, at 1 p.m. EST. The webcast is free to schools, libraries and individuals. Visit jamespattersonevents.com to sign up. Patterson and his publisher, Hachette Book Group, will be donating about 1,500 books in conjunction with the webcast.

This year, Patterson and Wade will be joined by NBA players LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Terrence Ross and Dirk Nowitzki.

A collaboration with NBA Cares, the Wade’s World Foundation, ReadKiddoRead and Hachette Book Group, the webcast will include interviews with superstars LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, Stephen Curry and Terrence Ross.

Each player will discuss how reading helped them reach the very highest heights in their careers.

Dwyane Wade and James Patterson are highlighted in an in-depth conversation with six-time Emmy Award winner and Miami Heat courtside reporter Jason Jackson on how reading has changed their lives and made their megawatt careers possible. And, viewers will see interviews about reading with real middle school students from John Dibert Community School of New Orleans.

In a release, Patterson explained why he choose this project: “Dwyane and I agree on this: getting kids reading will save their lives, especially those at-risk,” James Patterson said.

“That’s why we’ll be visiting (by webcast) as many schools as will have us. Dwyane and I are shooting for 100 percent literacy in our schools.”

Photo: Miami Heat courtside reporter Jason Jackson, left, with Dwayne Wade and James Patterson. Photo by Sue Patterson

Oline Cogdill
Saturday, 19 April 2014 10:04
pattersonwade_reading2014
Mega-bestseller James Patterson cares deeply about the future of literacy in this country.

And he has been working for literacy.

Last month it was announced that Patterson will be giving $1 million to independent bookstores to help support them. Details here.

For the second year, Patterson and NBA all-star Dwyane Wade will team up for the webcast "One on One" promoting reading for children, emphasizing “the importance of reading for success in life,” according to the press release.

The webcast will air on Thursday, April 24, at 1 p.m. EST. The webcast is free to schools, libraries and individuals. Visit jamespattersonevents.com to sign up. Patterson and his publisher, Hachette Book Group, will be donating about 1,500 books in conjunction with the webcast.

This year, Patterson and Wade will be joined by NBA players LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Terrence Ross and Dirk Nowitzki.

A collaboration with NBA Cares, the Wade’s World Foundation, ReadKiddoRead and Hachette Book Group, the webcast will include interviews with superstars LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, Stephen Curry and Terrence Ross.

Each player will discuss how reading helped them reach the very highest heights in their careers.

Dwyane Wade and James Patterson are highlighted in an in-depth conversation with six-time Emmy Award winner and Miami Heat courtside reporter Jason Jackson on how reading has changed their lives and made their megawatt careers possible. And, viewers will see interviews about reading with real middle school students from John Dibert Community School of New Orleans.

In a release, Patterson explained why he choose this project: “Dwyane and I agree on this: getting kids reading will save their lives, especially those at-risk,” James Patterson said.

“That’s why we’ll be visiting (by webcast) as many schools as will have us. Dwyane and I are shooting for 100 percent literacy in our schools.”

Photo: Miami Heat courtside reporter Jason Jackson, left, with Dwayne Wade and James Patterson. Photo by Sue Patterson

Arthur Ellis Nominations Announced
Oline Cogdill

engel_howard1
This year, the Crime Writers of Canada adds a new aspect to its annual Arthur Ellis Awards—a Grand Master.

This is the inaugural year of the Crime Writers of Canada’s Grand Master Award, intended to recognize Canadian crime writers who have a substantial body of work that has garnered national and international recognition.

Howard Engel, left, the author of the award winning Benny Cooperman detective series, has the honor of being the group’s first Grand Master. In its announcement, the Crime Writers of Canada stated “A mainstay of the Canadian crime writing scene for many years, Mr. Engel helped put Canadian crime writing on the map at a time when few mysteries were set in this country.”

The Crime Writers of Canada was established by Derrick Murdoch, a prolific Canadian crime fiction reviewer, in 1982, and has sponsored the Arthur Ellis Awards for Crime and Mystery Writing for 30 years. Engel is among the group’s seven founding members.

arthurellisaward_crimewriterscanada
And in case you are wondering where the name Arthur Ellis came from, here’s a bit of history. “Arthur Ellis” was the pseudonym for the man who became Canada’s hangman in 1912. Among the various categories, the organization annually awards the Unhanged Arthur Award, which recognized and promotes the careers of emerging crime writers.

All awards will be announced during the group’s annual banquet, scheduled to be June 5, 2014.

The 2014 Arthur Ellis Shortlists for Excellence in Crime Writing

Best Novel
John Brooke, Walls of a Mind, Signature Editions

Seán Haldane, The Devil’s Making, Stone Flower Press

Lee Lamothe, Presto Variations, Dundurn

Howard Shrier, Miss Montreal, Vintage Canada

Simone St. James, An Inquiry into Love and Death, Penguin Books

Best First Novel
E.R. Brown, Almost Criminal, Dundurn

A.S.A. Harrison, The Silent Wife, Penguin Books Canada

Axel Howerton, Hot Sinatra, Evolved Publishing

J. Kent Messum, Bait, Penguin Canada

S.G. Wong, Die on Your Feet, Carina Press

Best Novella
Melodie Campbell, The Goddaughter’s Revenge, Orca Books

Brenda Chapman, My Sister’s Keeper, Grassroots Press

James Heneghan, A Woman Scorned, Orca Books

Best Short Story
Donna Carrick, Watermelon Weekend, Thirteen, Carrick Publishing

Jas. R. Petrin, Under Cap Ste. Claire, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, October 2013, Dell Magazines

Twist Phelan, Footprints in Water, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, July 2013, Dell Magazines

Sylvia Maultash Warsh, The Emerald Skull, Thirteen, Carrick Publishing

Sam Wiebe, The Third Echo, Girl Trouble: Malfeasance Occasional, MacMillan/St Martin’s Press

Best Book in French
Chrystine Brouillet, Saccages, La courte échelle

Jacques Côté, Et à l'heure de votre mort, éditions Alire

Maureen Martineau, L’enfant promis, La courte échelle

Jacques Savoie, Le fils emprunté, Éditions Libre Expression

Best Juvenile/YA
Karen Autio, Sabotage, Sono Nis Press

Gail Gallant, Apparition, Doubleday Canada

Elizabeth MacLeod, Bones Never Lie: How Forensics Helps Solve History’s Mysteries, Annick Press

Ted Staunton, Who I’m Not, Orca Books

Unhanged Arthur
L.J. Gordon, Death at the Iron House Lodge

Rachel Greenaway, Cold Girl

Charlotte Morganti, The Snow Job

Kristina Stanley, Descent

Kevin Thornton, Coiled

Oline Cogdill
Saturday, 26 April 2014 11:04

engel_howard1
This year, the Crime Writers of Canada adds a new aspect to its annual Arthur Ellis Awards—a Grand Master.

This is the inaugural year of the Crime Writers of Canada’s Grand Master Award, intended to recognize Canadian crime writers who have a substantial body of work that has garnered national and international recognition.

Howard Engel, left, the author of the award winning Benny Cooperman detective series, has the honor of being the group’s first Grand Master. In its announcement, the Crime Writers of Canada stated “A mainstay of the Canadian crime writing scene for many years, Mr. Engel helped put Canadian crime writing on the map at a time when few mysteries were set in this country.”

The Crime Writers of Canada was established by Derrick Murdoch, a prolific Canadian crime fiction reviewer, in 1982, and has sponsored the Arthur Ellis Awards for Crime and Mystery Writing for 30 years. Engel is among the group’s seven founding members.

arthurellisaward_crimewriterscanada
And in case you are wondering where the name Arthur Ellis came from, here’s a bit of history. “Arthur Ellis” was the pseudonym for the man who became Canada’s hangman in 1912. Among the various categories, the organization annually awards the Unhanged Arthur Award, which recognized and promotes the careers of emerging crime writers.

All awards will be announced during the group’s annual banquet, scheduled to be June 5, 2014.

The 2014 Arthur Ellis Shortlists for Excellence in Crime Writing

Best Novel
John Brooke, Walls of a Mind, Signature Editions

Seán Haldane, The Devil’s Making, Stone Flower Press

Lee Lamothe, Presto Variations, Dundurn

Howard Shrier, Miss Montreal, Vintage Canada

Simone St. James, An Inquiry into Love and Death, Penguin Books

Best First Novel
E.R. Brown, Almost Criminal, Dundurn

A.S.A. Harrison, The Silent Wife, Penguin Books Canada

Axel Howerton, Hot Sinatra, Evolved Publishing

J. Kent Messum, Bait, Penguin Canada

S.G. Wong, Die on Your Feet, Carina Press

Best Novella
Melodie Campbell, The Goddaughter’s Revenge, Orca Books

Brenda Chapman, My Sister’s Keeper, Grassroots Press

James Heneghan, A Woman Scorned, Orca Books

Best Short Story
Donna Carrick, Watermelon Weekend, Thirteen, Carrick Publishing

Jas. R. Petrin, Under Cap Ste. Claire, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, October 2013, Dell Magazines

Twist Phelan, Footprints in Water, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, July 2013, Dell Magazines

Sylvia Maultash Warsh, The Emerald Skull, Thirteen, Carrick Publishing

Sam Wiebe, The Third Echo, Girl Trouble: Malfeasance Occasional, MacMillan/St Martin’s Press

Best Book in French
Chrystine Brouillet, Saccages, La courte échelle

Jacques Côté, Et à l'heure de votre mort, éditions Alire

Maureen Martineau, L’enfant promis, La courte échelle

Jacques Savoie, Le fils emprunté, Éditions Libre Expression

Best Juvenile/YA
Karen Autio, Sabotage, Sono Nis Press

Gail Gallant, Apparition, Doubleday Canada

Elizabeth MacLeod, Bones Never Lie: How Forensics Helps Solve History’s Mysteries, Annick Press

Ted Staunton, Who I’m Not, Orca Books

Unhanged Arthur
L.J. Gordon, Death at the Iron House Lodge

Rachel Greenaway, Cold Girl

Charlotte Morganti, The Snow Job

Kristina Stanley, Descent

Kevin Thornton, Coiled

Lawrence Block on the Pleasures of Rereading
Lawrence Block

block_lawrence01Twice is nice


A couple of weeks ago I sat in my favorite chair, picked up a book, and relaxed into a blend of contentment and anticipation. I had a book in hand, The Queen’s Gambit, a novel by Walter Tevis, and I knew I was going to enjoy it.

That’s not always the case. I spend far less time reading these days than I did in the past. I don’t pick up that many books, and finish a slim percentage of the ones I start. Some I abandon with extreme prejudice, as it were; something in the writing or story line aggravates me, and that’s the end of that. But other books simply slip away; I put them down and find myself disinclined to pick them up again.

Part of this is physical. My eyes find reading a little more effortful every couple of years. But the greater portion, I expect, is the natural effect of a lifetime of reading and writing.

So how could I know I’d enjoy The Queen’s Gambit?

Simple. I’d read it before.

Several times, actually. I read it for the first time within a year or two of its 1983 publication. While the book is in no sense a crime novel, it was Carol Brener of Murder Ink who steered me to it. Carol kept a small section of non-mysteries she felt would appeal to mystery readers, and she had perfect pitch in this area. (I recall that W. P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe was on that same shelf.)

Tevis tells the story of a girl, an institutionalized orphan, who watches the building’s janitor moving pieces on a chessboard and emerges as a chess prodigy. You don’t have to know anything about chess to find the book wholly engrossing and deeply moving.

It seems to me that I twice reread The Queen’s Gambit during the past 30 years. When I sat down with it last month, I’m sure it had been at least 10 years since my last go at it, and it may well have been more like 15. I picked the book up knowing what I’d encounter within its pages, remembered Beth Harmon, recalled her story.

tevis_thequeensgambitSo it was familiar, and yet the details had faded with time, and there were many incidents that I did not recall until I came upon them. And I’m sure I noticed subtleties that had slipped past me on earlier readings. From the first page to the last, Beth’s story was everything I could want a novel to be.

There are, it seems to me, certain satisfactions that are specific to rereading. One comfort, obviously, is that one knows what one is getting. Readers seek out authors they’ve enjoyed in the past because they can trust that they’re in safe hands; similarly, series fiction owes much of its popularity to the reader’s confidence born of experience.

Another satisfaction derives, paradoxically, from the reduction of suspense. It is an appreciation of suspense, a delight in the urgent need to know what happens next, that spurs much of our reading, but at the same time that headlong rush can hurry us like blindered horses past all the scenery along the way. One finds oneself skimming, or at the least racing through scenes too swiftly to savor them.

When I reread, I have time to notice the roadside flowers, and even take in their bouquet. Lines of dialogue that served merely to advance the plot on first reading now echo in the mind’s ear. And a strong resolution remains richly satisfying, even if it was never in doubt this time around.

Not every book can stand up to a second reading. Sometimes one’s taste changes, as well it might over a lifetime. During my high school years I thought the world of James T. Farrell, and his Studs Lonigan and Danny O’Neill novels opened a window on the world for me. I’ve no less respect for Farrell now, but got nowhere when I tried rereading him a few years ago; I found his naturalism plodding and turgid.

At the same early age, I read Leon Uris’s Battle Cry with great enjoyment, and felt I knew each of those marines personally; I know better than to try revisiting those pages, certain my older self would find the work impossibly simplistic.

Agatha Christie would seem an unlikely candidate for rereading, with so much of her strength vested in the brilliance of her plotting and the surprise of her resolutions. Yet often enough over the years I’ve chosen one of her old titles from a ship’s library, and never failed to push through to the end. Armed with the knowledge of what was coming, I could seek to observe just how she did what she did.

As the years pass, I find another positive aspect of rereading, albeit an unsettling one. I took a second trip last year through the World War II novels of Alan Furst, and was surprised to discover how much I’d entirely forgotten of books I’d read with great pleasure not that many years ago. Parts were familiar, of course, but great sections were not.

Unsettling indeed. It does give one a harrowing glimpse of the future. I can look forward, it would appear, to meeting new people every day—in and out of books.

This "Writers on Reading" essay was originally published in "At the Scene" eNews May 2014 as a first-look exclusive to our enewsletter subscribers. For more special content available first to our enewsletter subscribers, sign up here.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 28 April 2014 12:04

block_lawrence01Twice is nice

Veronica Mars: a Gen Y Lew Archer?
Gary Phillips

 

Veronica_Mars_S1_011After 10 years, Veronica Mars is back in the news and on the big screen with a Kickstarter-funded movie. But back in 2005, noir author Gary Phillips was quite taken with the surprisingly sophisticated charms of this teenage TV sleuth.

 

Maybe I am a girly man, as my Governator Arh-nald might say, but I dig the Veronica Mars TV show. Tuesday nights, me and my 16-year-old daughter Chelsea carve out some couch time and groove on this hip post-deconstructionist Nancy Drew and her adventures in small-town snooping. What makes this show work for me is not simply that its creator and exec producer, Rob Thomas, draws on just enough of that Smallville-by-way-of-Dawson’s Creek vibe to hook the youth, but the subterranean current flowing underneath the overarching story line comes straight from Ross Macdonald.

Whether this is intentional I can’t say. But having pitched a couple of TV shows in my time, one doesn’t imagine Mr. Thomas invoked Mr. Macdonald in his first meeting with the suits. Pilates-obsessed Hollywood execs don’t exactly have deep filmic history let alone a feel for Mr. Macdonald’s work. For, alas, the teller of the Lew Archer tales retains a following, but is not burning up the bestseller lists.

It seems today Macdonald is best known to the fellow writers who have been inspired by his work and his ability to harness the mercurial factor, a factor Mr. Thomas and sundry writers employ on Veronica Mars.

The outline for a TV program usually includes the log line, that is, the one sentence that describes the show, plus the backstory—who the characters are, the arena, and what might be the initial episodes. Essentially this is the closer, the pages you leave behind or send over after you’ve made your verbal pitch to whomever can advance your idea from being just that, an idea.

Let’s take for example the recent clunker Hawaii. No, not the book and film of that name from the James Michner novel, but the cop show that came and went this past fall on NBC. While it wasn’t a hip post-deconstructionist Hawaii 5-0, it wasn’t much else either. None of the characters seemed distinct one from another, though there was a running gag about how one of the crew transplanted from the mainland (the black guy I might add) couldn’t swim. There was some nod to local culture as one of the episodes had to do with ritualistic killings, but as I heard a writer once say, there was nothing more there than what was on the page. And what was on the page was far too pedestrian.

Back then to Macdonald, the premise, and the execution of Veronica Mars. Neptune, California, like Macdonald’s Santa Theresa, is an emotion-laden Sargasso that the respective protagonists must wade through in their quests. The abusive actor father, the rich man who cajoles his son to follow in his footsteps, the mother who fakes her own death but leaves behind a clue for her son—all about the corrosive secrets and lies that eat at the family from within.

The point here is the writer not only conveys the facts, but must command the feel of who the characters are and what it is about them that will have us coming back for more. What’s there between the lines, the elusive mercurial factor. You can put down the external and internal factoids of the characters, how they interact, what secrets they have or hold over one another. But that thing that makes them pop off the page? That’s the hard part, the part that demands rewriting, honing, and jettisoning precious passages.

“Resourceful, sarcastic 17-year-old female outcast is this era’s Nancy Drew” might be the log line of Veronica Mars. But is that enough to get you to read more, to see the potential of a series built around a character like Veronica?

veronica_mars_2014

Veronica Mars is back and on the big screen.

 

Macdonald said of Lew Archer, “If he turned sideways, he’d disappear.” Maybe that’s what has made Archer so hard to capture on TV and film. He is known but unknown. The trick is how to convey that in what is said or not, what’s in the detective’s head (Veronica Mars employs voice-over, the Lew Archer books were first person), gestures, looks, the details that tell so much.

Clearly in terms of TV and film, a lot depends on the actors, but there’s got to be enough there on the page for them to grasp, to build on and bring to life. And for the reader, that also holds true for them to bring your characters to life in their heads.

Veronica is played by the bright and just-sexy-enough 24-year-old-playing-17, Kristen Bell. I first noticed her as the less-than-righteous sister half of a con team put to death by Powers Booth’s venal saloon owner Cy Tolliver in Deadwood. And Enrico Colantoni, the photographer in Just Shoot Me, is her ex-sheriff father who is now a PI. He plays Keith Mars (no relation to Eddie Mars from The Big Sleep I presume) in an understated but convincing way.

It’s established in the first episode that Veronica was once one of the popular girls at Neptune High. Her best friend, sister of her rich boyfriend, is murdered. Pops Mars, then the sheriff, suspects the rich father is the culprit. Due to the man’s position, and another man confessing to the murder, the backlash has the senior Mars recalled from office and thus he hangs out his private eye shingle. Then Veronica’s mom takes off, for reasons unknown at that point, and Veronica wakes up after being drugged at a party and she may or may not have been raped. Whew!

Despite the confession of the supposed killer, the thing that drives Veronica is finding out who really murdered her best friend, Lilly Kane. From that as our touchstone, the Macdonald-esque twists of familial intrigue manifest. In any episode the A story line may be about Veronica helping a kid find his lost father (who’s had a sex change and is now a woman) or bust a secret school society. But the B story line—the overarching one—is her seeking the bigger truth of who murdered Lilly.

Veronica’s digging uncovers clues that her mother was possibly having an affair, and that her dad may not be her biological dad. And for reasons held close, he’s backed off of looking into the Lilly Kane matter.

This prying young woman uses people to get information and often this is discovered and causes her to pay a psychological toll. This gives the show a certain edge, and it keeps her as an outcast, the wiseass who through her manipulations becomes harder and more cynical, an observer of the human drama but less and less a participant.

A Gen Y Lew Archer?

I don’t know. I don’t even know at the time of this writing if the freshman show has been spared the axe. My daughter and I hope so. Veronica Mars has it’s goofiness (who the hell believes that Weevil, the Chicano leader of the local gang would still be in school?), but it’s a show that combusts with the mercurial factor to concoct some good yarns.

 

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Spring Issue #89.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 05:04

veronica_mars_2014Veronica Mars is back on the big screen, but we've been charmed by this teen since her small screen debut.

Cagney & Lacey: 30 Years Later
Sharon Elizabeth Doyle

 

CagneyLaceyThis groundbreaking television series about two strong, intelligent female detectives redefined the cop show.

 

Photo: MGM Home Entertainment

 

Over 30 years ago, a show named Cagney & Lacey appeared on television. It was part of a golden era of television that began with Lou Grant, wended its way through Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, Alien Nation, Frank’s Place, thirtysomething, and ended with L.A. Law. It was probably Cop Rock that really killed it. It was an era which gave birth to multiple, intertwining story lines. An era when TV tried to use its bully pulpit to talk about serious issues and to portray complicated, imperfect human beings in realistic situations.

Cagney & Lacey started out in 1974 as a screenplay by Barbara Corday and Barbara Avedon, became a TV movie in 1981, and finally a series in 1982. It was cancelled almost instantly and then revived—one of the few shows ever to succeed in being recalled by its fans. By the end of its run, it had been written by some of the best television writers (and future novelists) around—April Smith, Robert Crais, Terry Louise Fisher, Patricia Green, Georgia Jeffries, Robert Eisele, and Peter Lefcourt. It’s a credit that I will never take off my resume, no matter how old it makes me look, because it was one of the smartest, painfully honest and best-written shows ever to be popular on television.

Following its demise in 1988 for a 16.8 rating—or perhaps because they hired me to write two episodes—there were no hour-long shows featuring female protagonists for almost ten years. That mold was finally broken by Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This season we have The Closer, The Shark, and The Women’s Murder Club—all featuring women protagonists who stand alone, no questions asked. Their way was paved by the partnership of Christine Cagney, a single, somewhat obsessed career woman and Lacey, a mother and wife who needed to work. Both of them happened to be great cops.

CagneyLaceyI sat down with Georgia Jeffries, the executive story editor and a producer of Cagney & Lacey in its Emmy years (her credits also include China Beach and Sisters), to explore the show. Georgia was hired in 1984 to write a freelance episode, based on a pitch and a screenplay she’d written about a female marine. After her second episode, she was invited to join the staff to give Cagney’s character more depth and edge. Because she was the only staff writer with young children, she often ended up writing “mom” speeches for Lacey as well. Three years later, she wrote the episode where Cagney bottoms out as an alcoholic—a possibility she’d seen in the character from the start.

“April Smith, who shaped the series in its earliest days, brought a novelist’s attitude to layered character development,” remembers Jeffries. “Character is action. Understanding the internal conflicts within the character, wrestling with her most deep-seated needs and desires…these are the essential seeds of drama.” When Jeffries read the backstory of hard-drinking Cagney’s bond with her charming Irish drunk of a father, she saw a story line and began “stringing the pearls”—laying in story beats—so that Christine would someday have to face her demons. That episode (“Turn, Turn, Turn”) garnered Sharon Gless her second Emmy and Jeffries a Writers Guild award.

In the beginning, however, the main point of the series was that these were women making it in a man’s profession and they were good at what they did. Period. In those years, that was the only issue that needed to be explored.

“The producers didn’t want to do ‘Technicolor cops,’” remembers Jeffries. “There was an emphasis on being absolutely accurate.” As a journalist, Jeffries had gone on a ride-along with a Rampart LAPD sergeant and was nearly caught in a gunfight. The screenwriter’s night on patrol transformed her attitude toward the job that cops have to do and became the basis for her first episode (“An Unusual Occurrence”). “That young officer was also the father of three children who risked his own safety to protect, serve, and put bread on his family’s table. And, oh, yes, he had to make split-second, gut-level life-and-death decisions without warning. You bet that opened my eyes and won my respect.”

Something visceral and true creeps in when you write about something you’ve actually done. My first episode (“Land of the Free”) was based on my experience providing shelter for a Salvadoran activist. The fear she felt was not an intellectual exercise for me. Unlike television shows today, in which teams of writer-researchers produce reams of research and outline the stories which the Aaron Sorkins and Shonda Rhimes turn into teleplays, the writers of Cagney & Lacey were supposed to bring their own research to the table.

CagneyLacy_clippingLike Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski or Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe, Cagney & Lacey’s crime stories were often driven by issues. But no one was interested in a unified liberal mind-set. Jeffries calls it “progressive humanism.” Cagney leaned right—she was all about law and order; Lacey leaned left, a blue-collar liberal. When it came to personal issues, they often reversed their positions. Cagney took on workplace discrimination and date rape. Lacey tended to be more subservient to authority; she could not afford to lose her job. It was very common to process the issues through their disagreement. Jeffries says, “One of the goals of the series was [to show] the complexities of each individual behind the badge.”

The women were also partners. They could disagree intellectually and still watch each other’s back. Gloria Steinem wrote that Cagney and Lacey’s partnership “honors women’s friendships and represents a radical departure from the myth that women can’t get along…[They] are work buddies in a way that only male characters have been in the past.” Julie D’Acci, a researcher in women’s roles in the media, wrote about the show, “The negotiation of meanings of women, woman, and femininity took place among a variety of vested interests and with considerable conflict.”

Translated, that means the network was so nervous about the homosexual overtones of the partnership that the cancelled series was only brought back on the condition that the tougher Meg Foster be replaced. She had once played a homosexual character in a TV movie. An unnamed CBS programmer said that the characters were “too harshly women’s lib…. We perceived them as dykes.” Enter the unambiguously heterosexual and unabashedly pretty Sharon Gless.

Had Cagney & Lacey been preachy, it never would have lasted. The issues were always played out in the context of character and the workplace—they were cops, they were women, and they worked in a squad room with their fellow officers. There was the moment when Sgt. Samuels coaxed Lacey to take time off before her cancer operation. She threw a tantrum in the squad room, pulled off her jacket, and poked her left breast. “I have cancer. I have breast cancer... It’s this one here, the left one. Does that satisfy everybody’s curiosity? I have to have an operation, but I do not want people treating me like some kinda freak! I’d appreciate it if everybody here would please...forget about it.”

Cagney succeeded by being as tough as a man. One of my favorite lines I wrote for her was a throwaway as she inspects the dead body of a Hispanic gang member, “I love it when they kill each other.” According to Jeffries, “she was defined by her ambition and by her own sense of righteous justification for any choice she made.”

Jeffries enjoyed the freedom of writing Cagney: “Viewers loved her for saying out loud some of the things they thought and wanted to say themselves but couldn’t. Cagney wasn’t worried about being politically correct. Lacey, on the other hand, did the balancing act. She cared deeply about others’ suffering yet had to be tough to do a decent job. It was always clear to her that she had to keep bringing in that paycheck.”

By its fourth season Cagney & Lacey was no longer a show that neatly resolved crimes in an hour. The B stories were as important as the A stories and the show developed a cumulative narrative like good mystery novels do.

However, this novel was written by a contentious family of people. The set was not a peaceful one. (The good shows in Hollywood rarely are.) The actresses, the producers, and the writers all had strong opinions about everything. Sharon Gless gleefully told People magazine, “Barbara Corday and her co-writer Barbara Avedon may have created Christine Cagney, but she’s mine now.” Tyne Daly was furious when the writers gave Lacey breast cancer. “I said to the writers, ‘**** it, guys, what’s the matter, you don’t like me?’ …Poor old Mary Beth’s had a hard goddamn year…(but) I realized that as long as there are women being led astray by the medical establishment, women getting hacked up into pieces, it’s important that I tell the story.”

doylesharonjeffriesgeor

Scriptwriter Sharon Doyle and Georgia Jeffries (right), the executive story editor and a producer of Cagney & Lacey, during the Writers Guild of America strike. Photo courtesy of Sharon Elizabeth Doyle.

 

It’s something for novelists to remember when writing screenplays. Something you can get away with in a book because it’s on the page, an actor has to actually do—sometimes in front of millions of people. They get very protective of “your” character. Two friends of mine wrote an episode which featured drug testing. They expected a fight to break out because they’d written a scene where Lacey has to pee with the door open for a drug inspector. At that point, things were not going smoothly between the writing staff and Ms. Daly. But nothing happened. For weeks they waited on pins and needles, but no complaints came from the star’s honey wagon. Then, on the day of the shoot, with everyone in makeup and the cameras about to roll—Tyne Daly (on behalf of Mary Beth Lacey) refused to do it. It was undignified. In the situation—with hundreds of dollars going down the drain for every minute the camera wasn’t rolling—the producers quickly agreed and the door was closed. I think it’s safe to say that Tyne Daly taught me something about picking your battles that day.

But back to the bully pulpit. Television is our national camp fire. It is here where we air issues through our avatars—be it Archie Bunker, Andy Sipowicz, Ugly Betty, or Jack McCoy. It is a place to test-drive new ideas and shine the light on obscure issues. When my episode about the underground railroad for Salvadoran refugees aired, I suspect half of the 16 million viewers that night heard about it for the first time, and they heard about it from two people they trusted, Christine and Mary Beth. Later I was embarrassed when my Salvadoran babysitter’s husband insisted on shaking my hand after seeing it. Then I realized what had impressed him: He had seen himself on television. It’s a validation middle-class white people do not have a clue about. Jeffries sums it up this way: “Any time we can give silenced voices a platform we’ve done something of worth in the world.”

In August of 1990, America began what appears to be a generation-long war in the Middle East. In tough times, people want to watch shows about nothing, like Seinfeld, or fantasies like Grey’s Anatomy. They want their police work cut, dried, and successful. On Law & Order the cops have no personal lives, and on CSI the science always works. Gritty reality has retreated to cable. Most of the issues we wrote about are still with us. I suspect many of them will be with us in 2080. But I miss the voice of Cagney & Lacey, which was humorous, healthy, and hopeful that we could do the right thing—and contentious when it didn’t happen. It spoke to my life; it spoke of life, and did it through a great pair of cops.

 

REFERENCES

D’Acci, Julie. Defining Women: Television and the Case of Cagney & Lacey. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1994.

Quotes from “Who Said It’s Fair” by Patricia Green for Cagney & Lacey, 1985.

Quotes by Tyne Daly from People magazine, Feb 11, 1985.

Quotes by Sharon Gless from New York Times Magazine, September 22, 1985.

 

Sharon Elizabeth Doyle wrote several scripts for Cagney & Lacey and has since written over 20 episodes for such shows as 21 Jump Street and Reasonable Doubts. She is the author of nine TV movies including Stolen Babies, Sins of the Mind, and When Danger Follows You Home, which was based on a character created by Sara Paretsky. Her most recent credit was as the writer-producer for the late-lamented Nero Wolfe on A&E. Doyle now teaches screenwriting and acting for screenwriters at USC and UCLA and is completing her first novel.

 

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Winter Issue #103.

 

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 06 May 2014 07:05

This groundbreaking television series about two strong, intelligent female detectives redefined the cop show.

William Campbell Gault
Jon L. Breen

GaultWilliamCampbellWilliam Campbell Gault was a serious writer, as concerned with social issues and non-simplistic morality as with telling an entertaining, fast-moving story. (Warning! This article contains plot spoilers.)



Photo: Arthur Knight

The $50 first prize in a 1936 newspaper short story contest launched Milwaukee native William Campbell Gault (1910–1995) on a professional writing career that would span nearly 60 years. Among the most original and critically acclaimed mid-20th-century mystery writers, Gault combined storytelling knack with strong social consciousness.

By the time his first novel appeared, Gault had served a long apprenticeship in the pulp magazines, beginning with sports stories before branching out into mysteries. The action of the Edgar-winning Don’t Cry for Me (1952) takes place around Christmas 1950 in Southern California. First-person hero Pete Worden is the playboy black sheep of a wealthy family, a former USC quarterback whose relationship with intellectual beauty Ellen Gallegher is a typical male-female pairing in Gault’s world. When Pete decks one of suave gangster Nick Arnold’s more dangerous party guests, the thoughtful host provides Pete with a bodyguard, an offbeat character who left the Communist Party because you have to change your mind too much. The angry guest turns up dead in Pete’s apartment with steak knife in his throat, making Pete the major suspect. Apart from the murder investigation, Pete has a major ethical conflict: will he or won’t he accept a job offer from Arnold?

GaultDontCryForMeFThe book has a bittersweet quality, conveying the loneliness of the holiday season for the unattached and harshly satirizing the commercialized Christmas celebration that goes on while Americans are cold and dying in Korea. The finishing confrontation between Pete and a surprising but believable killer is matched by an unexpected but appropriate ending to the romantic story. Gault’s local color and pervasive literary references sometimes seem extraneous rather than organic, and the social commentary would be better integrated with the story in later books. Still, Don’t Cry for Me remains a remarkable debut.

Through the early ’50s, Gault produced detective novels without continuing characters, each in a fresh, vividly realized background. Later he would opine that his non-series books represented his best work. In The Bloody Bokhara (1952), the only Gault novel set in Milwaukee, a rare Persian rug is sought by a cast of colorful characters, including a beautiful, enigmatic woman who falls in love with the rug-dealer hero. The novel is much more original than most with Maltese Falcon-like plots.

The Canvas Coffin (1953) is one of the finest boxing mysteries ever written. The narrator, middleweight champion Luke Pilgrim, has a typical Gaultian relationship (rough-but-literate jock and artistic, sophisticated woman) with a Chicago commercial artist. Gault’s well-chosen details capture the L.A. of the ’50s: the seal tank outside a restaurant on the Pacific Coast Highway, TV coverage of wrestling, the blue bakery windmill, tacky Lincoln Boulevard, pervasive used car lots. The question of who will win the upcoming title fight piques the reader’s curiosity as much as who committed the murder, though the brutal fight scene will win few fans for boxing. Another good sports mystery, Fair Prey (1956), written under the name Will Duke, follows its main character’s adventures on the pro golf tour.

Run, Killer, Run (1954), a rare third-person Gault novel, illuminates his political stance: Republican, socially concerned, anti-McCarthyite, a consistent voice for non-simplistic morality. While the finish is exciting, the padding (usually the lead character’s repetitious introspection) renders it one of the author’s weakest efforts of the decade.

GaultBloodyBokhara1951Gault’s best-known series hero makes his debut in Ring Around Rosa (1956). Beverly Hills private eye Brock (the Rock) Callahan, who had three years in the wartime OSS before playing guard for the Los Angeles Rams, is the son of a San Diego policeman killed in the line of duty. He knows all the LAPD’s Rams fans but gradually finds himself losing his cop friends. Brock’s doubts about his abilities as an investigator will assail him periodically throughout the series. In a variation on Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely, boxer Juan Miro (a little client, in contrast to Chandler’s massive Moose Malloy) wants Callahan to find his missing fiancée, the nightclub stripper Rosa. Brock meets interior decorator Jan Bonnet, launching a prickly but strong relationship that will continue throughout the series. The novel ends satisfactorily with one of private eye fiction’s standard least-suspected-person solutions, well executed with genuine clues.

Day of the Ram (1956), opening at a Rams/Bears game and concerning the murder of promising Ram quarterback Johnny Quirk, ranks with The Canvas Coffin and Fair Prey as one of Gault’s best adult sports stories. The Convertible Hearse (1957) has the most appropriate possible background for a ’50s L.A. mystery: the machinations of the used-car business. Come Die With Me (1959) concerns the murder of a jockey and allows Brock to vent his negative feelings about horse racing, a sports background not presented as extensively as football, boxing, and golf in earlier books. In Vein of Violence (1962), about the murder of a silent-picture actress, Brock says of an old movie star’s TV comeback, “He had been a star in a medium run by fools and now he was trying to get a new start in a medium run by thieves.”

County Kill (1962), one of the best in the series, is the first to employ as a locale San Valdesto, a fictionalized version of Santa Barbara, where Gault lived in the last few decades of his life. The novel features one of the most memorable of Gault’s many strong female characters: Mexican bar proprietor Juanita Rico, who altruistically if illegally practices British-style drug addict maintenance to keep the Anglo pushers from getting rich and thus prevent the creation of new addicts.

GaultDayOfTheRamFGault’s other ’50s private eye, Joe Puma, shares many superficial characteristics with Brock Callahan: a big guy, more confident about his muscle than his intellect, operating out of Beverly Hills. But while the reader knows Brock will always do the right thing, Joe threatens to spin out of control. For all his talk about honesty, surrounded by temptations he moralistically resists, he seems to protest too much. He is obsessed with the idea of marrying a rich woman. One senses Joe has his price, albeit a high one. Where Brock values male bonding and is an integral part of the old-player network, Joe is a man who much prefers the company of women and has contempt for the immaturity of perpetual jocks.

Though Joe Puma appeared third-person in at least one early magazine story (“And Murder Makes Four,” Detective Tales, March 1951) and in Shakedown (1953; written as Roney Scott), his series proper begins with End of a Call Girl (1958). Asked by a madam to find a missing prostitute, Joe gets $100 a day and expenses, the girls the same price but no expenses. In a strong windup to a satisfactorily complicated plot, Puma confronts an interesting killer. A homophobia typical of the times is shared by all the straight characters, who use the kind of words for gays that a Gault character would surely abhor if applied to ethnic groups.

At one point in Night Lady (1958), set in a professional wrestling background, Joe has a fight with a “policeman,” the wrestler charged with keeping in line any colleagues who seek to climb the ladder by legitimately beating people. The description of the fight shows Joe can be a ruthless bastard in a way foreign to Brock Callahan. Becoming increasingly twisted in The Wayward Widow (1959), Puma loses his girl at the end to a Neapolitan and calls him a “lousy wop,” shocking conduct indeed for a Gault hero. Sweet Wild Wench (1959), a book-length version of the non-Puma magazine novelette “But the Prophet Died” (Dell Mystery Novels, January 1955), finds Joe investigating the Children of Proton, whose religion is based on electricity and the atomic structure. Of the crazy cults that turn up in Southern California private-eye fiction, this is one of the more interesting because of the extensive description of its theology.

GaultEndOfCallGirlFThrough most of the ’50s, Gault continued to write short stories for the mystery digests, the pulps having virtually disappeared. The Joe Puma stories, usually of novelette length and as fully plotted as the novels, would be collected with some early non-series work in the posthumous collection Marksman and Other Stories (2002).

After his final Puma and Callahan books of the ’60s, The Hundred Dollar Girl (1961) and Dead Hero (1963) respectively, Gault left the mystery for nearly 20 years, concentrating on his sports juveniles. With that market weakening in the late ’70s, he reentered the field with a new series of cases for Brock Callahan novels, now married to Jan and living in San Valdesto. While the new books lacked the snap and energy of Gault’s ’50s peak, their characterization, social observation, and underlying humanity were notable. In The CANA Diversion (1980), Jan goes to jail for demonstrating against the building of a nuclear power plant in San Valdesto, and Ellen Puma, a previously unsuspected wife of Joe, asks Brock to find her missing husband. Brock’s police contact calls Puma “a real shady operator,” and Brock counters that he’s “no angel, I’ll grant you, but I’ve known a dozen cops who were worse!” When the murdered Joe Puma proves to have been severely bent, Brock makes up an alternate scenario to keep the truth from Ellen and their law-school-bound son.

The Dead Seed (1985) introduces an unusual twist on the religious cult: its leader is working in cahoots with a deprogrammer to soak rich parents. The courtroom climax attempts a statement about legal justice vs. vigilante justice. Death in Donegal Bay (1984) has an interesting villain in Cyrus Reed Allingham, a moral-majority supporter whose castle refuge includes a mined moat.

GaultNightLady1958In his last years, Gault contributed columns to Mystery Scene and letters to Mystery and Detective Monthly, was elected president of Private Eye Writers of America and given its lifetime achievement award, and saw two final novels published, both with appreciative introductions by Bill Pronzini: the last Callahan case, Dead Pigeon (1992), and the non-mystery Hollywood novel Man Alive (1995), written in 1957 and admiringly rejected for commercial reasons by his publishers.

Gault was one of the strongest voices in genre fiction for ethical behavior and racial and political tolerance. His voice was so distinctive, few fans would fail to recognize it in a blind test. Artificial distinctions of genre aside, he was a serious writer, as concerned with social issues and non-simplistic morality as with telling a fast-moving story. Quite a few writers could plot, pace, and people a mystery as well as Gault, but not many could reach a reader as deeply on a gut level.

WILLIAM CAMPBELL GAULT: A SELECTED READING LIST

Joe Puma Novels
Shakedown, 1953; written as Roney Scott
End of a Call Girl, 1958; aka Don't Call Tonight
Night Lady, 1958
Sweet Wild Wench, 1959
The Wayward Widow, 1959
Million Dollar Tramp, 1960
The Hundred Dollar Girl, 1961

Brock Callahan Novels
Ring Around Rosa, 1955, aka Murder in the Raw
Day of the Ram, 1956
The Convertible Hearse, 1957
Come Die With Me, 1959
Vein of Violence, 1961
County Kill, 1962
Dead Hero, 1963
The Bad Samaritan, 1980
The CANA Diversion, 1980; with Joe Puma
Death in Donegal Bay, 1984
The Dead Seed, 1985
The Chicano War, 1986
Cat and Mouse, 1988
Dead Pigeon, 1992

Other Novels
Don't Cry for Me, 1952
The Bloody Bokhara, 1952; aka The Bloodstained Bokhara
The Canvas Coffin, 1953
Blood on the Boards, 1953
Run, Killer, Run, 1954 aka Sweet Blonde Trap
Square in the Middle, 1956
Fair Prey, 1956; written as Will Duke
Death out of Focus, 1959
The Sweet Blonde Trap, 1959
Man Alone, 1995

Collections
Marksman and Other Stories, 2002; edited by Bill Pronzini

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Winter Issue #103.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 07 May 2014 05:05

GaultDontCryForMeFWilliam Campbell Gault was a serious writer, as concerned with social issues and non-simplistic morality as with telling an entertaining, fast-moving story. (Warning! This article contains plot spoilers.)

At the Scene, Spring Issue #134
Kate Stine

134cover_250Hi Everyone,

Hi everyone, Everything old is new again. Veronica Mars, the smarter-than-average TV show about a teenager solving mysteries in high school and, later, college, was cancelled after three seasons. But the show’s creator, Rob Thomas, found a way to revive the show, as a Kickstarter.comfunded movie. Kevin Burton Smith revisits the show and reviews the new movie in this issue.

It seems we never want to give up on our old favorites. Laura Miller takes a look at the new novels featuring James Bond, Philip Marlowe, and Jeeves this year, and finds them enormously enjoyable.

Reaching back in time even further than those three icons, we find E. Phillips Oppenheim. Read Michael Mallory’s “The Prince of Storytellers” to learn about this prolific thriller writer, who published over 100 novels between 1887 and 1943. He, too, is being revived thanks to ebook technology.

If you’re looking for a more modern take on the thriller, check out the work of Owen Laukkanen. How does a jet-setting poker journalist and part-time lobster boat fisherman become a thriller writer? Oline Cogdill explains all.

Sharp-eyed critic and crime fiction scholar Jon L. Breen points out that not all technology trends are good for readers. Those of you interested in reference works will want to read about a cost-saving shortcut publishers are using that, Breen argues, reduces the value of the books. Enjoy!

Kate Stine
Editor-in-chief

Teri Duerr
Friday, 04 March 2011 11:03

134cover_250Veronica Mars, Owen Laukkanen, E. Phillips Oppenheim, and more

Spring Issue #134 Contents
Mystery Scene

134cover 250

 
 

Features

 

E. Phillips Oppenheim: The Prince of Storytellers

This justly celebrated author was a master at characterization, and his fast-paced, twisty plots are still enjoyable today.
by Michael Mallory

Gormania

Forgotten Books: Leigh Brackett’s Stranger at Home; Laura Lippman and the Intentional Career; Margaret Maron Pulls Off the Gloves
by Ed Gorman

Veronica Mars

A decade after the demise of the cult TV show, the favorite ’tec of the millennial generation makes a welcome return in a Kickstarter-funded movie.
by Kevin Burton Smith

Recalled to Life: Bond, Jeeves & Marlowe

Three new novels resurrect classic characters with interesting results.
by Laura Miller

The Case of the Missing Endnotes

This eminent critic takes issue with a new trend in publishing.
by Jon L. Breen

Owen Laukkanen

This rising young author has a keen eye for how the Great Recession has affected crime.
by Oline H. Cogdill

Book Addiction: Do You Have a Problem?

Warning signs to watch out for.
by Nevada Barr

“A Brave Talent” Crossword

by Verna Suit

 
 

Departments

 

At the Scene

by Kate Stine

Mystery Miscellany

by Louis Phillips

The Hook

First lines that caught our attention

Hints & Allegations

2014 Thriller Award nominations; Derringer Awards for Short Fiction, Left Coast Crime Awards; IMBA Dilys Award to Kent Krueger

New Books

A Canadian Cop Far From Home
by Vicki Delany

Reviews

Small Press Reviews: Covering the Independents

by Betty Webb & Sharon Magee

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed

by Lynne Maxwell & Hank Wagner

What About Murder? Reference Books Reviewed

by Jon L. Breen

Sounds of Suspense: Audiobooks Reviewed

by Dick Lochte

Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered

by Bill Crider

Mystery Scene Reviews

Miscellaneous

The Docket

Letters

Our Readers Recommend

Advertiser Info

Admin
Monday, 05 April 2010 10:04

134cover 250

 
 

Features

 

E. Phillips Oppenheim: The Prince of Storytellers

This justly celebrated author was a master at characterization, and his fast-paced, twisty plots are still enjoyable today.
by Michael Mallory

Gormania

Forgotten Books: Leigh Brackett’s Stranger at Home; Laura Lippman and the Intentional Career; Margaret Maron Pulls Off the Gloves
by Ed Gorman

Veronica Mars

A decade after the demise of the cult TV show, the favorite ’tec of the millennial generation makes a welcome return in a Kickstarter-funded movie.
by Kevin Burton Smith

Recalled to Life: Bond, Jeeves & Marlowe

Three new novels resurrect classic characters with interesting results.
by Laura Miller

The Case of the Missing Endnotes

This eminent critic takes issue with a new trend in publishing.
by Jon L. Breen

Owen Laukkanen

This rising young author has a keen eye for how the Great Recession has affected crime.
by Oline H. Cogdill

Book Addiction: Do You Have a Problem?

Warning signs to watch out for.
by Nevada Barr

“A Brave Talent” Crossword

by Verna Suit

 
 

Departments

 

At the Scene

by Kate Stine

Mystery Miscellany

by Louis Phillips

The Hook

First lines that caught our attention

Hints & Allegations

2014 Thriller Award nominations; Derringer Awards for Short Fiction, Left Coast Crime Awards; IMBA Dilys Award to Kent Krueger

New Books

A Canadian Cop Far From Home
by Vicki Delany

Reviews

Small Press Reviews: Covering the Independents

by Betty Webb & Sharon Magee

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed

by Lynne Maxwell & Hank Wagner

What About Murder? Reference Books Reviewed

by Jon L. Breen

Sounds of Suspense: Audiobooks Reviewed

by Dick Lochte

 

Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered

 

by Bill Crider

 

Mystery Scene Reviews

Miscellaneous

The Docket

Letters

Our Readers Recommend

Advertiser Info

Beckett and a Pimp Named Prudent
Teri Duerr
Sunday, 28 March 2010 07:03

Beckett and a Pimp Named Prudent


Samuel Beckett on the pimp named Prudent who attacked him in Paris, after Beckett refused him a loan in exchange for a woman:

"There is no more popular prisoner in the [Prison de la] Sante. His mail is enormous. His poules shower gifts upon him. Next time he stabs someone they will promote him to the Legion of Honor. My presence in Paris has not been altogether fruitless."
—From a letter to Arland Ussher, April 6, 1938