Sunday, August 20, 2017

8/20/87 Sherlock opens his last case

August 20, 1987,  Sherlock's Last Case opened on Broadway on this date.  It was Charles Marowitz's take on Conan Doyle.  From the Playbill summary: Dr. Watson gives us the truth about Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary detective Sherlock Holmes — he is a self-absorbed, egotistical tyrant in private, even as he is tested once again to solve the case of "the perfect murder."

Whatever you think of that it gave the world a chance to see Frank Langella as the Master.  It ran for 124 performances.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

8/19/1967 The Fugitive's final TV Guide cover

August 19, 1967.  This week's TV Guide celebrated the end of the line for one of the most popular escaped criminals in television history.  If I am counting correctly, this is the fifth time David Janssen made the cover of the media's main magazine in four years of The Fugitive.

This was probably the first series in TV history to be given the dignity of an actual ending, as opposed to merely vanishing forever between summer and fall. After 120 episodes of chasing and being chased Richard Kimball finally catches the guy who killed his wife.  And TV Guide was there to celebrate.  

Friday, August 18, 2017

8/18/1941 Cordially invited to meet death

August 18, 1941.  On this date Bess Huddleston, professional party organizer, came to Nero Wolfe, asking him to investigate letters her clients had received accusing her of misbehavior.  Although she had previously irritated him by asking him to play detective at a "murder party" he agrees to look into the matter.  Soon a particularly horrible death is also invited...

As World War II began Rex Stout spent more of his time on war-related activities and less time on writing, and that meant switching to short fiction.  This was his second novella (after "Black Orchids.")  It was published in American Magazine in April 1942, as "Invitation to Murder," but in the book Black Orchids, it is "Cordially Invited to Meet Death."

Thursday, August 17, 2017

8/17/1942 Marlowe looks out a high window

August 17, 1942.  This date saw the publication of The High Window, Raymond Chandler's third novel about L.A. private eye Philip Marlowe.   (Has anyone else pointed out that his novels arrange the same way chronologcally as alphabetically?  Just like Sue Grafton's sort of.)

And speaking of the alphabet, this story features characters named Marlowe,  Murdock (two of them), Magic, Merle, Morny, and Morningstar.  Why do authors do that sort of thing?  What's wrong with the other letters?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

8/16/1902 The mother of the historical romance is born

August 16, 1902.  You might say Georgette Heyer was born a century late.  Her most popular books were romances, set in the Regency period (early nineteenth century).

Naturally we are more concerned with her less popular books, the thrillers, the creation of which  she compared to solving crossword puzzles.  Sometimes the mechanical nature showed a little too much, as in the novel in which all the main characters names are alphabetical according to the order in which appear.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

8/15/1929 Roman hat trick

August 15, 1929.  This date saw the beginning of one of the longest and most distinguished careers in mystery fiction.  It saw the publication of The Roman Hat Mystery, the first mystery written by Ellery Queen, featuring, of course, the detective Ellery Queen.

Cousins Manfred Lee and Frederic Dannay wrote the book for a contest and won, but the sponsoring organization promptly went out of business.  Fortunately Frederick Stokes published it and the Queen career was on its way.

Monday, August 14, 2017

8/14/198? Sleeping Dogs awake

August 14, 198?.  On August 14th in an unspecified year an American who calls himself Michael Shaeffer meets a beautiful aristocratic woman in London.  Schaeffer is actually the Butcher's Boy, the Mafia's favorite hit man until a mobster tried to cheat him  That made our hero cranky and that made the cheater dead.  

The Butcher's Boy gets spotted in London and he decides he needs to go back to the States to teach a refresher course to those thugs who think they need to kill him.  All he has to do is stay out of the way of the mob, the cops, the FBI, and the Justice Department.  Piece of cake...

Sleeping Dogs is the second of (so far) three novels by Thomas Perry about the terrifyingly efficient Butcher's Boy.  They are worth reading, and in order.