WAM does not venture to evaluate recipes, but the following are some of the more intriguing dishes on offer: Glue Hawaii Sandwich (Daniel Klein), Watson's Favorite Peanut Butter Oatmeal Dog Biscuits (Patricia Guiver), Jesse Ascencio's Cultural Assimilation Cheeseburger (Kent Braithwaite), Eintopfgericht Von Ratteriesse (Richard A. Lupoff), Aunt Maggie's Three-Secret Steak and Kidney Pudding (Pip Granger), Justinian's Minimalist Egg Curry (Mary Reed and Eric Mayer), Mma Ramotswe's Boiled Pumpkin with Botswana Ostrich (Alexander McCall Smith), and Invasion of the Body Snatchers Chocolate Pod Cake (Lou Allin). A crossword puzzle accompanies Nero Blanc's recipe for Deviled Eggs. Among the bigger names contributing are Elizabeth Peters, John Harvey, Elizabeth George, George Pelecanos, Robert Barnard, and Dick Francis. A few non-contemporaries turn up, including mixed drink instructions by James Bond and Philip Marlowe and a breakfast sequence from David Dodge's Bullets for the Bridegroom (1944).
The only index is to the authors. A portion of the royalties go to a charity called From the Wholesaler to the Hungry.
Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light.
New York: ReganBooks/HarperCollins, 2003. 850p. Illus., bibl., index. $39.95
This is the largest and most detailed biography of the famed director of suspense films and should rank as the standard life for years to come. McGilligan frequently draws on earlier sources: notably the major previous biographies, John Russell Taylor's authorized Hitch (1978) and Donald Spoto's The Dark Side of Genius (1983); Francois Truffaut's book length interview Hitchcock (1967); and David Freeman's account of the director's final unfinished project, The Last Days of Alfred Hitchcock (1984): but much of the book is based on original research in primary sources, including interviews with those who knew and worked with Hitchcock. The result is a full professional and personal portrait that will probably only enhance most readers' admiration for the subject, without ignoring his occasional petulance and usually (but not always) benign kinkiness. Many may not have realized that this archetypal cinematic auteur was a writer as well as a director, demonstrated in the playful short-short stories he contributed to an advertising house organ in 1919 and 1920. Though he never took a writing credit on his films after the first few years, he was the guiding force behind the development of his scripts and often did some of the actual writing.
Among the biographer's most laudable attributes from the mystery buff's point of view is his knowledge of and respect for the writers, from Mrs. Belloc Lowndes and Ethel Lina White to Robert Bloch and Victor Canning, who provided Hitch his rich source material.
A section of plates includes photos from Hitchcock's life and career, some but not most familiar from other sources. The last hundred pages include a 35-page annotated filmography; four pages of TV credits, listing only those episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour directed by the man himself; six pages of sources and acknowledgements; 20 pages of notes; two pages of reprint permissions; and a 32-page index.
One minor complaint: Brigitte Aubert, in her memorable role in To Catch a Thief, spoke perfectly grammatical, understandable, and proper English, albeit with a pronounced French accent, and was no more guilty of "pidgin English" than Charlie Chan.
Layman, Richard, ed.
Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon: A Documentary Volume. (Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 280.)
Detroit: Gale, 2003. xxv, 429p. Illus., bibl., index. $270
This large-format reference source gathers in one convenient place a remarkable amount of material: book excerpts, periodical articles and reviews, letters: on Hammett, his most famous book, and its various media adaptations and spin-offs. Every relevant biographical detail and critical viewpoint is here, together with copious illustrations. Among the writers represented are Pinkerton historian James D. Horan, daughter Jo Hammett, biographer William F. Nolan, Black Mask editor Joseph T. Shaw, crime writer Joe Gores, and numerous scholars, critics, and reviewers.
One of the best features for the general mystery buff is the sampling of Hammett's often caustic, sometimes indulgent, usually good-humored reviews of crime fiction. In a 1927 issue of The Saturday Review of Literature, he couples his often-quoted demolition of S.S. Van Dine's The Benson Murder Case with sarcastic dismissal of Sydney Horler's False Face and faint praise for J.S. Fletcher's Sea Fog. Later that year, he ridicules two slightly remembered writers (Carolyn Wells and William LeQueux) but praises novels by two utterly forgotten ones: Allen Upward's The House of Sin and Foster Johns's The Victory Murders. Writing in the New York Evening Post in 1930, Hammett found Mary Roberts Rinehart's The Door implausible but readable, Philip MacDonald's The Noose " the neatest plot I have seen in months," and Earl Derr Biggers's Charlie Chan Carries On unfinishable: he laid it aside before Chan, whose "laborious quaintness" he had previously blamed for his "inability ever to finish one of Mr. Biggers's products," had even appeared.
The list of selected publications of The Maltese Falcon includes dozens of U.S. editions plus foreign editions in about 30 countries, followed by a four-page secondary bibliography.
The actual text ends on page 346, the rest of the volume consisting of a cumulative index to Dictionary of Literary Biography and its related series.
Peters, Elizabeth, and Kristen Whitbread, eds.
Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium.
New York: Morrow, 2003. 335p. Illus., bibl. $29.95
The series about Amelia Peabody, her husband Radcliffe Emerson, and their family now occupies 15 volumes, from the classic Crocodile on the Sandbank (1975) to Children of the Storm (2003), and so far covers 35 years (1884 to 1919) in the lives of its characters. This coffee-table book, with copious black and white illustrations appropriate to the period, should delight fans of the series and other readers interested in Egyptology and the Victorian era. Beginning with an excerpt from Emerson's 1885 journal, the book takes a Sherlockian approach: that is, the Emerson family are treated as real people in an otherwise non-fictional history.
Editor Peters also contributes under her two other bylines: as Barbara Mertz, a chapter on Victorian attitudes to other cultures; and as Barbara Michaels, a sort of quiz on Victorian popular fiction referred to in the Peabody journals, as the series of novels are called throughout the text. (Question: Isn't Gargery, the Dickens character for whom the Emerson butler is named, a character in Great Expectations rather than David Copperfield?) Of the other essayists, Elizabeth Foxwell (on Amelia's relationship to the women's movement of her time) is the most likely to be familiar to mystery buffs.
Other articles discuss servants, fashions, childrearing, technology, and music of the Emersons' time. The volume also includes separate alphabetical sections identifying and defining references in the journals to people and animals, places, foreign words and phrases, Egyptological terms, and ancient Egyptians human and divine. The two-page bibliography is wholly non-fictional.
Swanson, Jean, and Dean James.
The Dick Francis Companion.
New York: Berkley, 2003. xv, 206p. Bibl. $14
A three-page biography of the jockey turned crime writer is followed by a 10-page interview conducted in 2002; synopses of about a page each of Francis's novels, arranged chronologically from Dead Cert (1962) to Shattered (2000), followed by brief summaries of the stories in Field of Thirteen (1998); a directory of human characters, the longest section at over 100 pages and of doubtful reference value (does anybody actually look up one-shot characters even in the work of an author as popular as Francis?); a "gazetteer" of locales; a one-page listing of websites on British horse racing; a 13-page directory of equine characters; a brief section of first lines and other quotations; and finally (and of greatest reference value) a 10-page bibliography, including the subject's books, film and video adaptations, awards, secondary books and articles, and a three-page listing of websites, some about crime fiction generally but most specifically related to Francis. It's all as efficiently done as one would expect from the authors of several earlier reference works, but I never find this sort of book as interesting or useful as a biography or critical study, both of which already exist on the subject. The authors hedge too much when they state in their introduction that many of the subject's books are involved with horse racing: in fact, all of them are, to a greater or lesser degree.
Jon L. Breen is the mystery critic for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and twice winner of the coveted Edgar Award. His most recent book is Kill the Umpire: The Calls of Ed Gorgon, a short story collection from Crippen & Landru.