Saturday, February 25, 2017

2/25/1981 EQMM is forty

February 25, 1981.  The issue of Elery Queen Mystery Magazine with this cover date celebrated the fortieth anniversary of that great institution.  It featured stories by Ruth Rendell, Simon Brett, Michael Gilbert, James Holding, and (of course) Edward D. Hoch, among others.  

Friday, February 24, 2017

2/24/1964 A Right to Die is claimed

February 24, 1964.  Rex Stout's A Right to Die begins on this date when an African-American anthropologist named Paul Whipple asks Nero Wolfe to prove his son did not commit a murder.  Obviously it was Stout's opportunity to comment on the civil rights movement, but some fans think it is one of his less successful books because of a tactical error the author made.

You see, Paul Whipple appeared in Too Many Cooks as a college student.  Decades later, here he is with a grown son, and Wolfe and Archie haven't aged a day.  Whipple should have demanded to search their attic for mysterious paintings.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

2/23/1993 Murder in Mellingham

February 23, 1993.  This date saw the release of Murder in Mellingham, the first novel in Susan Oleksiw's series about a small town on the New England coast.  Publishers' Weekly said "Oleksiw's mystery starts slowly, and her upper-class suspects are somewhat stodgy, but the ordinary citizens of Mellingham--the cops, the restaurant owners and lifeguards--are acutely, affectionately rendered."

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

2/22/1952 Five Fingers open

February 22, 1952.  On this day the movie Five Fingers premiered.  James Mason starred in a story of espionage in Turkey during World War II.  It was based on Operation Cicero, a book by Ludwig Carl Moyzisch, which told the true story of Elyesa Bazna, a Nazi spy who  worked as valet to the British ambassador.

It was nominated for two Oscars (Best Director and Best Screenplay).  The MWA gave it the Edgar for Best Motion Picture.  I've never seen it.  Have you?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

2/21/1864 Leonard Merrick appears

February 21, 1864.  You have probably never heard of Leonard Merrick, who was born on this date.  That fact would surprise his fellow Victorians, who greatly admired his work.  J.M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, called him a "novelist's novelist."

His first novel was a detective story, Mr. Bazalgette's Agent.  His other works included The Worldlings, a psychological crime novel.  His novels, stories, and plays have inspired more than ten movies.

Monday, February 20, 2017

2/20/1989 Gideon Oliver on TV

February 20, 1989.  ABC's Mystery Movie series had some great shows: Columbo and Kojak, for example.  Gideon Oliver, which premiered on this day, was none of them.

It was based, loosely, on Aaron Elkins' series of books about a physical anthropologist, i.e. the skeleton detective.  But TV's Oliver (played by a wasted Lou Gossett, Jr.) was more of a general anthropologist, dealing with cults and tongs.  The result was not good.

Here is part of what reviewer Richard Meyers said in The Armchair Detective:

"I can imagine Aaron [Elkins] visiting Hollywood, nudging his lovely wife Charlotte, and going, 'Isn't that Gideon Oliver's femur over there?  Isn't that his sternum?'
"Gideon Oliver  is dead.  Long live Gideon Oliver."

Sunday, February 19, 2017

2/19/1926 Ross Thomas hits the scene

February 19, 1926.  Ross Thomas was born on this day in Oklahoma City.  His The Cold War Swap won the Edgar for Best First Novel.  Thomas wrote about con men, spies, and borderline honest folks, and you couldn't usually tell the difference.

His best-loved characters included Artie Wu and Quincy Durant, definitely of the conman variety, but basically good guys. Also Mac and Padillo, past and maybe present agents. And under the name Oliver Bleeck he wrote about Philip St. Ives, who worked as a go-between between thieves and owners/insurers.