Sunday, September 24, 2017

9/24/1986 A Rose gets Named

September 24, 1986.  Italian literary critic Umberto Eco made quite a sensation with his first novel, the medieval mystery The Name of the Rose.  On this date the movie came out, starring Sean Connery as the brilliant Brother William of Baskerville (one of many perfect names... I recall the blind librarian Jorge of Burgos).

Many thought the book would be impossible to film but it turned out quite well and was nominated for an Edgar.

My favorite bit of dialog, between Brother William and Dr. Watson - I mean Adso (Christian Slater).

     –Oh dear.
     –Why oh dear?
     –You ARE in love.
     –Is that bad?
     –For a monk, it does present certain problems.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

9/23/1935 The Saint takes over from Sam Spade, for spying, sort of

September 23, 1935.  Secret Agent X-9 was a comic strip, originally written by Dashiell Hammett and drawn by Alex Raymond (better known for Flash Gordon).  X-9 was the only spy in history who was addressed by his secret spy number instead of his name (huh?).  The agency he worked for was equally nameless.

X-9's adventures began in 1934 but on this date the authoring duties transferred from Hammett, the creator of Sam Spade, to Leslie Charteris, better known as the creator of the Saint. Seldom has so much talent been spent on so little a result.

Charteris left the strip a year later but it limped on with a  pseudonymous author (joining the agent and his agency in namelessness, I guess), until 1992.

Friday, September 22, 2017

9/22/1990 Caudwell catches Anthony

September 22, 1990.  Bouchercon was held in London this year and the Anthony Award for Best Mystery Novel went, appropriately enough, to an Englishwoman.  The Sirens Sang of Murder was Sarah Caudwell's third novel about Hilary Tamar, a professor of medieval law and unknown gender.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

9/21/1993 NYPD Blue comes in, swearing

September 21, 1993.  One of TV's best cop shows, and ABC's longest running drama, premiered on this night.  NYPD Blue courted controversy at the start with nudity and bad language.  Once they got everyone's attention they settled down to some excellent character-driven drama.

One of the oddities of the show was that it was intended as a star vehicle for David Caruso, but he left at the start of the second season.  While he was replaced by Jimmy Smits and a trail of other good-looking leading men, it became clear that the soul of the show was Andy Sipowicz, the bigoted, alcoholic older detective played by Dennis Franz.  Andy survived the loss of three partners, a son,  and a wife and somehow turned into a decent person along the way.

The show had behind the scene problems.  Caruso was allegedly very hard to work with.  And in a later season a producer was supposedly writing dialog while the actors stood on the set waiting for it.  But the show was a heck of a ride.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

9/20/1963 Burke's Law is in force

September 20, 1963.  There have been some TV shows with bizarre concepts.  My Mother the Car leaps to mind for some reason.

This day saw the premiere of Burke's Law, a show about Amos Burke, the chief of detectives of Los Angeles, who happens to be insanely rich and arrives at murder scenes in a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce.

Two years later when The Man From Uncle became hugely popular the show changed concepts and became Amos Burke, Secret Agent.  Why not?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

9/19/1990 Welcome the Goodfellas

September 19, 1990.  This day saw the premiere of the movie Goodfellas.  Based on the true story of a mafiosi, it starred Robert DeNiro, Ray Liotta, and Joe Pesci.   It was nominated for six Oscars and won three, including Best Picture.

"Jimmy was the kind of guy that rooted for bad guys in the movies..."

Monday, September 18, 2017

9/18/1886 Nick Carter bursts in

September 18, 1886.  Today's issue of New York Weekly featured the first of a 13-week serial called "The Old Detective's Pupil, or the Mysterious Crime of Madison Square," by Ormond G. Smith.  Catchy title, huh?  The story introduced detective Nick Carter whose popularity led to Nick Carter Weekly, which ran through 1915.  Carter returned as the star of a pulp magazine and a radio show, which went off the air in 1955.

But you can't keep a good character down, apparently.  In 1964 he changed his profession and became Nick Carter, Killmaster, in a series of almost 300 paperback thrillers.   Not bad for a septuagenarian.