Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Bullet Points: Thanksgiving Links Feast

• As part of its 2017 “New Talent November” celebration, Crime Fiction Lover identifies five women writers it predicts will become much better known over the coming year. Among them are Australia’s Jane Harper, whose debut novel, The Dry, won this year’s Gold Dagger award from the British Crime Writers’ Association; and American Hannah Tinti, who CFL says showed a “talent for almost old-fashioned, proper storytelling ... in her second novel, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley [2017].” To keep up with the “New Talent November” series, which will run through the end of this month, click here.

Deadline brings this news: “Carmen Ejogo is set to star opposite Mahershala Ali in the third season of Nic Pizzolatto’s HBO crime anthology series, True Detective. The new installment of True Detective tells the story of a macabre crime in the heart of the Ozarks and a mystery that deepens over decades and plays out in three separate time periods. Ejogo will play Amelia Reardon, an Arkansas schoolteacher with a connection to two missing children in 1980. Ali plays the lead role of Wayne Hays, a state police detective from Northwest Arkansas.” Sounds good.

There’s no shortage of Thanksgiving-related mysteries.

• You have to be of a certain age to understand what a big deal David Cassidy—who died this week at age 67—was in the early 1970s. The son of actor Jack Cassidy and the stepson of singer-vedette Shirley Jones, David Cassidy was the teen idol of the time. “With pretty-boy good looks and a long mane of dark hair, Cassidy was every girl’s favorite teen crush,” Variety wrote in its obituary of the New Jersey-born songster and guitarist. His featured role on the popular ABC-TV musical sitcom The Partridge Family (1970-1974), which had him playing opposite Shirley Jones, gave Cassidy immense public exposure, while songs such as “I Think I Love You” made him a chart-topping sensation in his own right. “During an era when the Big Three broadcast networks still had a monolithic hold on pop culture, Cassidy’s picture was suddenly everywhere—not just on the fronts of magazines and record albums, but on lunch boxes, posters, cereal boxes and toys,” recalls National Public Radio (NPR). “He sold out concert venues across the globe, from New York’s Madison Square Garden to stadiums in London and Melbourne.” Following Partridge’s cancellation, Cassidy expanded his acting résumé (which had previously included turns on Ironside and The Mod Squad), making guest appearances on The Love Boat, Matt Houston, and even CSI. His performance as an undercover officer, Dan Shay, in a 1978 episode of NBC’s Police Story titled “A Chance to Live,” scored Cassidy an Emmy Award nomination for Best Dramatic Actor and led to his reprising the Shay role in David Cassidy: Man Undercover (1978-1979), a Los Angeles-set show that lasted only 10 episodes. But all was not well in his personal life. His six-year marriage to actress Kay Lenz (Breezy, The Underground Man), ended in divorce in 1983; he would wed twice more over the years. “In the 2010s,” NPR recalls, “he had a string of arrests on drunk-driving charges in Florida, New York and California. In 2014 he told CNN, ‘I am most definitely an alcoholic.’ The following year, he declared bankruptcy and was charged with a hit-and-run in Fort Lauderdale.” Wikipedia adds: “On February 20, 2017, Cassidy announced that he was living with non-Alzheimer’s dementia, the condition that his mother suffered from at the end of her life. He retired from performing in early 2017 when the condition became noticeable during a performance in which he forgot lyrics and otherwise struggled.” After being hospitalized in Florida for several days, David Cassidy perished from liver failure on November 21.

Vox has more to say about Cassidy’s life and career.


(Above) The opening teaser and titles from “RX for Dying,” the December 2, 1978, episode of David Cassidy: Man Undercover.

• Lisa Levy looks at our modern “rape culture” and how it’s reflected in crime fiction. In a piece for Literary Hub, she writes:
[R]ape culture is everywhere in crime fiction. It is in every missing girl or woman. It is in every female cop protagonist who is slighted or doubted by her colleagues and her superiors. It’s in every P.I. novel with a woman at its center, as she negotiates a sexually hostile world to do her job. ... If crime fiction is a mirror of society that reveals our deepest and longest held fears, as I believe it is, then rape culture is one of those fears writ large in novels about men who violate women (sexually or otherwise). But it is also subtext in many, many other novels, where women are denigrated, pushed aside, ignored, hit on, groped, and verbally assaulted.

When I set out to look at rape culture in crime fiction, I found it everywhere. To take a very popular example, it’s no accident that the original title of
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in Swedish translates to The Man Who Hated Women. One of the hallmarks of that series is heroine Lisbeth Salander’s repeated victimization at the hands of men, including her father and her court-appointed guardian, who raped her repeatedly when she was institutionalized as a child.
• In the blog Criminal Element, Con Lehane writes about his decision to set his latest series at New York City’s iconic 42nd Street Library. His second Raymond Ambler mystery, Murder in the Manuscript Room, is out just this week from Minotaur Books.

• Had Anthony Horowitz not done such a convincing job of capturing the character of British spy James Bond in his 2015 novel, Trigger Mortis, we’d probably not now be hanging on every Twitter update of his work on its sequel. But we’re doing just that, with the latest mere morsel, the latest crumb, the latest speck of information being showcased in The Spy Command. I sure hope Horowitz’s finished work rewards all this anticipation.

• In February of next year, Dynamite Entertainment will premiere a 40-page, one-shot James Bond comic spin-off that “centers on the head of the [British] Secret Intelligence Service (better known as MI-6), Miles Messervy—we know him more famously as ‘M.’” As The Secret Agent Lair reports, “this incarnation of M is rather different from the source material as well as [from Ms] portrayed in the film franchise. Unlike the original Sir Miles Messervy, a full Anglo-Saxon, this version of M is British of African descent, much like Moneypenny herself in the comics as well as the rebooted 007 timeline of the movies.” The blog adds that the graphic novel, titled simply M, will “delve into [Messervy’s] past and his time in the field before his ascension to the head of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”

• This month marks 15 years since the release of Die Another Day, the 20th James Bond film—and the fourth and final one to feature Pierce Brosnan as Agent 007. Commemorating this occasion, The Secret Agent Lair revisits the poster campaign that promoted that film back in 1997, observing that its imagery was “too flashy for today’s standards, where most action movies get the minimalistic and desaturated artwork treatment—the Daniel Craig-era posters, where the protagonist is set to rather insipid backgrounds, look like a strange cousin in comparison to these pieces. Yet, it is a heartfelt testimony to the days where the 007 films let the drama [run] for a couple of hours, and a cocktail of Martinis, girls and guns were … the order of the day.”

• Speaking of milestones, it was 13 years ago in September that the paperback book line Hard Case Crime was launched, with Lawrence Block’s Grifter’s Game and Max Phillips’ Fade to Blonde being its initial pair of releases. In an interview with small-press publisher Paul Suntup, Hard Case editor Charles Ardai reflects on his company’s history, the process of adding new titles to its hard-boiled catalogue, and the works that helped make it successful. He also reveals why Hard Case’s logo looks the way it does. “Initially,” Ardai explains, “we were going to call the line ‘Kingpin,’ which is why the logo features a crown over the gun. But the day before we went to register the trademark, TV producer Aaron Spelling beat us to the punch, registering it for a TV mini-series about a drug kingpin. So we scrapped the name and came up with ‘Hard Case Crime’ instead. But the logo felt so good and so right that we kept it, even though the crown no longer made any sense.”

• Max Allan Collins gives us an update on the status of his next Nate Heller novel, Do No Harm, which finds the Chicago-based private eye working the 1954 Sam Sheppard homicide case:
The process with Heller has remained largely the same since True Detective back in the early ’80s. I select the historical incident—usually a crime, either unsolved or controversially solved—and approach it as if I’m researching the definitive book on the subject. I never have a firm opinion on the case before research proper begins, even if I’ve read a little about it or seen movies or documentaries on the subject, just as somebody interested in famous true crimes. …

This time I changed my mind about who murdered Marilyn Sheppard, oh, a dozen times. I in part selected the case because it was a more traditional murder mystery than the political subjects of the last four Heller novels—sort of back to basics, plus giving me something that would be a little easier to do, since I was coming out of some health problems and major surgeries.

But it’s turned out to be one of the trickiest Heller novels of all. Figuring out what happened here is very tough. There is no shortage of suspects, and no shortage of existing theories. In addition, a number of the players are still alive (Sam Sheppard’s brother Stephen is 97) and those who aren’t have grown children who are, none of whom would likely be thrilled with me should I lay a murder at the feet of their deceased parents.
• Fascinating. I didn’t know that a film noir had been made from Steve Fisher’s 1941 novel, I Wake Up Screaming. Or that said movie, which was eventually retitled Hot Spot, starred Betty Grable (in a rare dramatic role), along with Victor Mature and Carole Landis. Nor was I aware that Fisher scripted the picture together with Dwight Taylor. I was privy to none of this until I happened across an apparently “unreleased trailer” to I Wake Up Screaming in Elizabeth Foxwell’s blog, The Bunburyist. Now I have to go out and find the full flick. (By the way, this film was remade in 1953 as Vicki.)

• The Lineup selects35 gripping true-crime books from the last 55 year,” for those moments when you need creepiness in your life.

• Crime Fiction Lover briefs us on the Hull Noir festival, held this month in the Yorkshire town of Kingston Upon Hull (aka Hull).

• As I’ve made clear in a couple of previous “Bullet Points” posts (see here and here), I’m highly skeptical of plans to make a new film inspired by Ernest Tidyman’s succession of novels featuring 1970s-cool Manhattan private eye John Shaft. Nonetheless, Steve Aldous (whose 2015 book, The World of Shaft, is a must-have for fans of Tidyman’s yarns) keeps posting updates on the movie in his blog. Recently, for instance, he offered this synopsis of the picture’s plot: “Working for the FBI, estranged from his father and determined not to be anything like him, John Shaft Jr. reluctantly enlists his father’s help to find out who killed his best friend Karim and bring down a drug-trafficking/money-laundering operation in NYC.” Aldous adds that this film, presently titled Son of Shaft, is due to start production in December. Jessie T. Usher (Survivor’s Romance) has signed up to portray the aforementioned John Shaft Jr. … who is supposedly the child of Samuel L. Jackson’s John Shaft, from the awful 2000 film Shaft … who was, in turn, the nephew of Richard Roundtree’s original Shaft. Got all that?

• It was almost exactly two years ago that I reported on plans by Visual Entertainment Inc. (VEI), a Toronto-based home video/television distribution company, to produce a DVD collection of James Franciscus’ 1971-1972 detective series, Longstreet. Only now, however, is the Web site TV Shows on DVD finally announcing the release of that boxed set. Although Amazon doesn’t yet show Longstreet: The Complete Series as being available for advance purchase, the $29.99 compilation is scheduled to ship on December 1, and will “contain the pilot telefilm and all 23 regular weekly episodes.” (Click here to buy it directly from VEI.) For those of you who don’t remember Franciscus’ fourth small-screen series (following Mr. Novak, which is being prepared for its own DVD rollout this coming spring), here’s TV Shows on DVD’s short explanation of its concept:
Following a bomb blast that leaves him blind and a widower, New Orleans insurance detective Mike Longstreet (James Franciscus) refuses to quit the business. Together with the help of his dog Pax, assistant Nikki [Marlyn Mason] and friend Duke [Peter Mark Richman], Longstreet continues to investigate thefts, kidnappings, and murders. … Bruce Lee made four guest appearances as Longstreet’s martial arts teacher.
• There’s still no word from Netflix on a U.S. debut date for Babylon Berlin, the much-heralded German drama “set in the seamy, steamy, scheming underworld of 1920s and ’30s Berlin.” While Americans wait, though, The Killing Times has begun reviewing each of the eight Season 1 episodes, currently being shown in Britain. So if, like me, you must hold tight in expectation of this program based on Volker Kutscher’s detective novels, at least you can read a little about the series’ unfurling plot lines and characters.

• Another series to watch for: The Indian Detective. Deadline says this show casts Indian-descended Canadian comedian Russell Peters as “Doug D’Mello, a Toronto cop who unexpectedly finds himself investigating a murder in his parents’ Indian homeland. The investigation leads Doug to uncover a dangerous conspiracy involving David Marlowe (William Shatner), a billionaire property developer, while dealing with his own ambivalence toward a country where, despite his heritage, he is an outsider.” Netflix will launch The Indian Detective on Tuesday, December 19. Canada’s National Post >says there are four episodes in Season 1.

• Also from Deadline comes word that the creators of Columbo, the long-running TV mystery series, are suing Universal City Studios for “holding out on profits from the series.” In a 15-page complaint filed earlier this month in the Los Angeles Superior Court, screenwriter/short-story author William Link, together with the estate of the late Richard Levinson, insist they are owed 15 percent to 20 percent of the Columbo profits, and that Universal took four decades to acknowledge “that they were owed profit participation.”

• James Garner, star of The Rockford Files, Maverick, and an impressive catalogue of films, died during the summer of 2014, but only now have I come across a long, beautifully penned tribute to his work, composed by critic Clive James and published in The Atlantic in 2011, at the time the actor’s memoir, The Garner Files, reached bookstores. Here’s part of what James had to say:
Every sane person’s favorite modern male movie star, Garner might have done even better if he’d been less articulate. In his generation, three male TV stars made it big in the movies: Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, and Garner. All of them became stars in TV Westerns: McQueen in Wanted: Dead or Alive, Eastwood in Rawhide, and Garner in Maverick. The only one of them who looked and sounded as if he enjoyed communicating by means of the spoken word was Garner. McQueen never felt ready for a film role until he had figured out what the character should do with his hands: that scene-stealing bit in his breakout movie, The Magnificent Seven, in which he shakes the shotgun cartridges beside his ear, was McQueen’s equivalent of a Shakespearean soliloquy, or of a practice session for a postatomic future in which language had ceased to exist.

As for Eastwood, he puts all that effort into gritting his teeth, because his tongue is tied. …

Garner, a quick study who could learn and deliver speeches long enough to make his awed listeners hold their breath to the breaking point, was the only one who seemed to enjoy producing intelligible noise. But Garner, compared with the other two, never really caught on as a big-screen leading man. Though tall and handsome, he was never remote: he had an air of belonging down here with us. As a small-screen leading man, he had done too thorough a job with the 20 or 30 good lines in every episode of
Maverick or The Rockford Files to make an easy transition into a putatively larger medium that gave him many times more square feet of screen to inhabit, but many times less to say.
You can read James’ remarks in their entirety by clicking here.

• Finally, because the season is right for it, I want to give thanks to all of you who regularly read The Rap Sheet. You’ll never know how much your attention, loyalty, and comments mean to me.

3 comments:

TracyK said...

And I am thankful that you continue to provide all this coverage of crime fiction. It is a lot of work, I know.

Gram said...

Happy Turkey Day!

Gram Lynch said...

Having watched the 1st six episodes of "Babylon Berlin", I can tell you it's absolutely gorgeous to look at. It's as if you're really there in 1920's Berlin. That said, you really have to keep your wits about you to follow what is a multi-layered storyline. Luckily, I've read the 1st two of Volker Kutscher’s Gideon Rath novels, so I knew what to expect. Definitely one to watch, if only for the sumptuous cinematography and sample the heady atmosphere of Weimar Republic era Germany.