Tuesday, June 30, 2015

6/30/1933 Carolyn Keene enters Who's Who

June 30, 1933.  The Stratemeyer Syndicate, which created and sold to publishers, such highly successful series of children's books as the Hardy Boys and Bobbsey Twins, was  determined to maintain the illusion that each series had a single, real author.  That was never demonstrated more clearly than on this date when Helen Stratemeyer, daughter of Edward, the founder, wrote and submitted to Who's Who an entry for Carolyn Keene, the non-existant author of the Nancy Drew mysteries.  In reality most of the books were written by Mildred Wirt Benson, based on outlines written by the Stratemeyers.  Like all the authors, Benson was contractually committed to silence, but as Nancy would note, secrets have a way of being uncovered.

I learned about this in Melanie Rehak's Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women who Created Her.

Monday, June 29, 2015

6/29/1908 Bruno Fischer is born

June 29, 1908.  Bruno Fischer was born on this day in Germany.  His family moved to the U.S. in 1913.  He wrote paperbacks and stories for the pulp magazines, often in the gloomy style of Cornell Woolrich.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

6/28/2007 Burn Notice is delivered

June 28, 2007. Burn Notice, a spy series, premiered this day on the USA network.  Michael Westen (playe dby Jeffrey Donovan) is a secret agent who finds himself burned (or disavowed as they used to say on Mission Impossible) with no way to make a living at the threat of imprisonment if he leaves Miami.  He tries to find out who did this to him while working as a private investigator.. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

6/27/1930 Monsieur Gallet is late

June 27, 1930.  On this day Inspector Jules Maigret is assigned to investigate the death of  Emile Gallet, a traveling salesman.  But is that his real name and his real occupation?  Nothing can be taken for granted in The Late Monsieur Gallet, Georges Simenon's third novel about the great detective.  Originally published in France in 1931, it has also appeared in English as Maigret Stonewalled, and The Death of Monsieur Gallet.

Friday, June 26, 2015

6/26/21948 Shirley Jackson wins The Lottery

June 26, 1948.  The issue of The New Yorker with this cover date featured the first appearance there by Shirley Jackson.  The readership reacted more strongly to "The Lottery" than to any story the magazine had previously published.  Jackson said the responses fell into three categories: "bewilderment, speculation and plain old-fashioned abuse."  It is now generally considered one of the greatest American short stories.

Jackson wrote much more.  "The Possibility of Evil" is one of my favorite crime stories.  The Haunting of Hill House is a favorite horror novel of none other than Stephen King.  Life Among The Savages is a book of domestic humor in the vein of Jean Kerr and Erma Bombeck.

If you want to read the story that shocked the New Yorker subscribers, it is available on the web but I doubt it is copyright-compliant, so I am not linking to it.  You can read more about the reactions to the story (“I read it while soaking in the tub … and was tempted to put my head underwater and end it all,” ) here.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

6/25/1963 Created: The Destroyer is created

June 25, 1963.  On this date Warren Murphy and Richard Ben Sapir finished their first novel about a secret American operative named Remo Williams.  From then on, it was smooth-sailing.

No, I lie.  When they sent the manuscript (their only copy) to an agent the response was:

You wrote this like a series book and nobody published series books.  What you really ought to do is end this book on a big note by killing off your main character.  And the little (Asian ethic slur) too.

Eight years later Created: The Destroyer was published.  There are currently 145 books in the series, and a second movie is being made.  Murphy used to keep the letter from the agent hanging on the wall over his typewriter.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

6/24/2003 Black River starts to flow

June 24, 2003.  This date saw the publication of G.M. Ford's Black River.  It was his second novel about Frank Corso, disgraced reporter.  Like his author, Corso lives in Seattle.  This time he is covering the federal trial of a Russian hoodlum who caused the collapse of a hospital.  Bad stuff happens. 

Publisher's Weekly said that the characters "are all made so real so quickly that you might miss the considerable artistry involved.  Welcome back, Mr. Corso -- and Mr. Ford."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

6/23/1934 Dwight V. Babcock scores a Dime

June 23, 1934.  Dwight V. Babcock sold his first story in 1933, to Black Mask (it was published in January 1934).  But on this date he cracked the main competitor as well, selling "Pearls Without Publicity" to Dime Detective Weekly.  It appeared in the August 15, 1934 issue.  The story was 5,500 words long and he was paid $55, a penny a word.

Babcock is thought of one of Captain Shaw's "Black Mask Boys," but he also appeared in Private Detective Stories, Double Detective, Super Detective, and other journals with equally unimaginative titles.    His greatest success was three novels about Hannah van Doren and Joe Kirby, beginning with A Homicide For Hannah.

Traylor, James L. "Murder Up His Sleeve."  The Armchair Detective.  Winter 1990.

Monday, June 22, 2015

6/22/2008 Inspector Lewis comes to America

June 22, 2008.  On this date Inspector Lewis premiered in the United States.  It is the first of two (so far!) spin-offs from Inspector Morse, based on the novels by Colin Dexter.  So far there have been 33 episodes about the Oxford policeman.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

6/21/1905 Stuart Palmer is born

June 21, 1905.  What better birthplace for a writer of humorous crime than Baraboo, Wisconsin?  That's where Stuart Palmer arrived on this day, at any rate.  He was best known for his books about Hildegarde Withers, an older schoolteacher who was an amateur sleuth. The character was inspired by one of Palmer's own teachers, and by the actress Edna May Oliver, who played her in the first three movies based on the books. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

6/20/196? Dick Francis's Blood Sport opens

June 20, 196?.  Dick Francis's Blood Sport begins on this date when British spy Gene Hawkins wakes up on what is supposed to be the first day of his vacation with a phone call from his boss.  He gets sent all over the United States in search of a missing stallion.  He encounters beautiful women, horses, and people who make other people dead...

Friday, June 19, 2015

6/19/1863 Max Pemberton is born

June 19, 1863.  Max Pemberton was born on this day in London.  He grew up to write mostly adventure novels, most famously The Iron Pirate about a modern day vessel terrifying the seas. 

You can read "The Ripening Rubies," which some consider his best crime story, here.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

6/18/1939 Ellery Queen comes to the radio

June 18, 1939.  This date saw the premiere of The Adventures of Ellery Queen on CBS radio.  The first episdoes were written by Ellery Queen himself.  Uh, themselves.  Later Anthony Boucher (for whom the Bouchercon is named) took over the scripting.  Hugh Marlowe led the cast.  The show ended in 1940 but appeared on NBC in '42 and showed up on various networks through most of the decade.   You can hear some of the episodes here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

6/17/2003 Love for Sale for sale

June 17, 2003.  This day saw the publication of Jill Churchill's novel Love For Sale.  It is early 1933, with Roosevelt about to replace Hoover in the White House, and Lily Brewster has a corpse in her B-and-B.  This is the fourth book in the "Grace and Favor" series in which Lily and her brother Robert, newly poor, try to survive the Depression.

" Churchill really does pull all her subplots together, which is more than you can say for President Hoover." - Kirkus Reviews.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

6/16/1911 VIctor Canning is born

June 16, 1911.  Victor Canning was born on this day in Plymouth, England. He wrote more than sixty novels, many of them mysteries and thrillers.  Several of them were made into movies.  The Rainbird Pattern, which won the Crime Writers Association Silver Dagger and was nominated for an Edgar, also served as the basis for Alfred Hitchcock's last flick, Family Plot.

Monday, June 15, 2015

6/15/191? An assassination is scheduled

June 15, 191?.  In John Buchan's groundbreaking novel The Thirty-nine Steps, the McGuffin (the thing everyone except the reader is desperate to get/catch/accomplish/prevent) is a plan to assassinate a foreign leader on this date.  Can South African adventurer Richard Hannay save the day?  Do I need to issue a spoiler alert?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

6/14/192? S.S. Van Dine's first murder

June 14 192?   The Benson Murder Case begins on this date, with the death of the aforesaid Mr. Benson.  It is the first novel written by Willard Huntington Wright, under the name S.S. Van Dine.  Published in 1926, the book made Philo Vance one of the most popular series detectives of the era.  The novel was inspired by the real-life death of Joseph Elwell in 1920.  It was made into   a movie starring William Powell in 1930.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

6/13/1985 Prizzi's Honor premieres

June 13, 1985.  Prizzi's Honor premiered on this date.  John Huston directed from Richard Condon's novel.  Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner starred as a couple of mob hitpersons who fall in love.  It was nominated for eight Oscars and Angelica Huston won for Best Supporting Actress.

Friday, June 12, 2015

6/12/2012 Cop to Corpse

June 12, 2012.  This date saw the U.S. publication of Cop to Corpse, in which Peter Lovesey's English police detective Peter Diamond searches for someone who is killing cops in small towns in the West Country. 

“Nobody but Lovesey could thump out a gritty procedural yet instill Bath with so much charm and history that readers will have to put it on their bucket lists.” -Kirkus Reviews

Thursday, June 11, 2015

6/11/1923 George Baxt is born

June 11, 1923.  George Baxt was born on this date in Brooklyn.  After years as a screenwriter, he produced his first novel in 1966.  Talk about groundbreaking: his private eye, Pharaoh Love was gay and Black, either of which was pretty unusual in a mystery hero back then.  Anthony Boucher, in the New York Times, said "you must not miss it." 

Baxt wrote four more novels about Pharoah Love, and about twenty other books, many of them historical mysteries set around Hollywood.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

6/10/1935 Treasure of the Sierra Madre discovered in the U.S.

June 10, 1935.  The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was originally published in Germany, but it arrived in the United States on this date, thanks to the Alfred A Knopf Publishing Company.  The author was the mysterious B. Traven, who was probably a German named Ret Marut, but everything about him is in dispute.  The novel of gold-hunting in Mexico, arguably a meditation on wealth, greed, and capitalism, was a big success, and was made into a hit movie in 1948, directed by John Huston, and  starring Humphrey Bogart.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

6/9/1938 Playboy - read it now

June 9, 1938.  If you picked up the issue of Detective Fiction Weekly with this date on the cover, one of the stories you would have encountered was "Playboy," by Samuel Taylor.  I have no idea who he was (except presumably not Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who was not known for hardboiled stuff).

The playboy in question is Chick Carlson who, feeling a little bored one night, offers a taxi driver $25 for the privilege of driving his cab for the night.  This being DFW a gangster is soon involved...

You can read the story for yourself here.  The illustration on the left is not the right issue cover, by the way, but I do admire it.

Monday, June 8, 2015

6/8/2005 Barbara Fradkin goes home with Arthur Ellis

June 8, 2005.  On this date the Crime Writers of Canada gave the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel to Barbara Fradkin for Fifth Son.

Arthur Ellis, by the way, was the nom de corde of several of Canada's hangmen.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

6/7/1866 Raffles' creator breaks in

June 7, 1866.  E.W. Hornung was born in Middlesborough on this date.  He became a published writer at age twenty.  His great claim to fame was his invention of A.J. Raffles, "the amateur cracksman."  In other words, Raffles was a gentleman burglar, essentially the first hero-rogue in the mystery genre.  The stories were narrated by Bunny Manders, Raffles' faithful companion.

If that sound vaguely familiar, you're right.  The stories were a sort of parody or answer to the Sherlock Holmes stories created by Arthur Conan Doyle, who happened to be Hornung's borther-in-law.  Doyle admitted the tales were of high quality but, like many reviewers, found them morally abhorrent.

Like Doyle, Hornung killed his hero, having Raffles slain during the Second Boer War.  Unlike Holmes, Raffles stayed dead.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

6/6/1986 Taming A Seahorse

June 6, 1986.  On this date Robert B. Parker's thirteenth novel about Boston private eye Spenser was published.  Taming A Seahorse was the hero's second encounter with a prostitute named April Kyle. 

"Spenser's back and New York's got him...proficient with his gun and fists, not to mention his quick verbal shots." —Daily News

Friday, June 5, 2015

6/5/1939 Laurali Wright is born

June 5, 1939.  Laurali Rose Wright was born on this date in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  She was a journalist who started writing novels at mid-age.  Her first mystery, The Suspect, won the Edgar for Best Novel in 1986.  That book, like most of her mysteries, featured a cop named Karl Alberg.  By the way, in most of the world, except the U.S., she was published as L.R. Wright.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

6/4/2013 Steve King comes to Joyland

June 4, 2013.  MWA Grand Master Steven King released Joyland on this day, his second novel for Hard Case Crime.  It was nominated for the Edgar for best paperback original.  It's set in North Carolina in the 1970s and involves a carny, a murder, and a  dying child.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

6/3/2011 Penny takes Arthur Ellis home

June 3, 2011. The Arthur Ellis Award is given by the Crime Writers of Canada.  In 2011 the Best Novel Award went to Louise Penny for Bury Your Dead, the sixth book about Inspector Gamache of the Quebec police.  Publisher's Weekly said: “Few writers in any genre can match Penny’s ability to combine heartbreak and hope.”

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

6/2/1980 Howard's Edgar-winning "Horn Man" appears

June 2, 1980.  That was the date on the cover of the issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine  that featured Clark Howard's story "Horn Man."  The Mystery Writers of America gave it the Edgar Award for the best short story of the year.  If you want to judge for yourself, you can listen to the story for free at the EQMM podcast.

Monday, June 1, 2015

6/1/1968 The Prisoner premieres

June 1, 1968.  Let's not argue over whether The Prisoner was a spy show, or science fiction, or something else entirely.  It was stunning TV for it's time, and had enough ties to our genre to fit on this page.  It made its U.S. premiere in CBS on this date.

Patrick McGoohan, sick of starring in Secret Agent, created a show in which a man quits his job (presumably something to do with British Intelligence, but never specified) and wakes up the next day in The Village, a weird place in which everyone is known only a s a number and you can have anything you want - except escape -- if you cooperate with the authorities.  An action show that was clearly an allegory on - and protest against -- modern society.

McGoohan: "I wanted to have controversy, arguments, fights, discussions, people in anger – waving fists in my face. How dare you? Why don’t you do more Secret Agents that we can understand."

He got it.  Some people hated it.  Some people thought it was the first great TV show.  But it was hard to be neutral.