Friday, July 31, 2015

7/31/1930 What happened today? The Shadow knows...

July 31, 1930.  On this date the Detective Radio Hour, sponsored by pulp publisher Street and Smith, featured a mysterious narrator called The Shadow.  This became so popular that by the following spring The Shadow Magazine sprang forth, starring a much more fully developed character, designed and usually written by the prolific Walter Gibson.  By 1937 The Shadow radio show had the characteristics now so familiar: "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?  The Shadow Knows!"  He had "the power to cloud men's minds so they cannot see him."  And "The tree of crime bears bitter fruit."  So watch out.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

7/30/1973 Day of the Jackal released

July 30, 1973.  The Day of the Jackal was released this day.  Fred Zinnemann directed the film version of  Frederick Forsyth's first novel, about an attempt to assassinate Charles DeGaulle.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

7/29/1909 Chester Himes is born

July 29, 1909.  Chester Himes, arguably the first great African-American mystery writer, was born this day in Jefferson City, Missouri.  He started writing while in prison for armed robbery.  He is best remembered for the Harlem Detectives novels he wrote, featuring Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones, two Harlem police detectives.  Three of them were made into movies, starting with Cotton Comes To Harlem in 1970.

Ishmael Reed wrote that Himes "taught me the difference between a black detective and Sherlock Holmes."

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

8/28/1946 Burt Lancaster does Ernest Hemingway, sort of

August 28, 1946.  This day saw the release of The Killers, starring Edmond O'Brien  and Ava Gardner.  Other important roles were played by Burt Lancaster and William Conrad, in their film premieres. 

The first twenty minutes is an accurate filming of Ernest Hemingway's story of the same name, part of his Nick Adams cycle.  It describes hired killers coming to a small town to kill an ex-boxer called the Swede.  The rest of the flick, in which the crime is investigated,  is made up from scratch. 

It does offer an explanation of Swede's fatal mistake.  For a different take on that, read Leigh Lundin's surprising discovery.

7/28/2011 John Grisham wins Harper Lee

July 28, 2011.  On this date John Grisham's novel The Confession won the first Harper Lee Award for Legal Fiction.  The prize is named, of course, in honor of the author of To Kill A Mockingbird.  Grisham's book is about the trial of a man accused of murdering a cheerleader.

Monday, July 27, 2015

7/27/188? Australian mystery fiction begins

July 27,188?.  Fergus Hume's The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, published in 1886, is usually considered the first Australian mystery novel.  It begins on a smoky night in Melbourne, July 27, when a dead body is discovered in a hansom cab.  Hume self-published the book and sold 25,000 copies of the first edition.  Over a million copies were sold in Britain and the United States combined.  Not a bad start.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

7/26/1993 Doll's Eyes

July 26, 1993.  Bari Wood's novel Doll's Eyes was published on this date.  It's a psychological thriller about a person who kills people in the hope of feeling pity for them.  It was turned into the movie In Dreams, directed by Neil Jordan, starring Annette Bening.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

7/25/1980 Getting Dressed To Kill

July 25, 1980.  On this date in 1980 director Brian DePalma released his most Hitchcockian flick, Dressed To Kill.  A woman has an adulterous fling that turns into murder, and a call girl is the only witness.  And the next victim? 

Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, and Nancy Allen starred.

Friday, July 24, 2015

7/24/1775 Vidocq est né

July 24, 1775.  Eugene Francois Vidocq was born on this date in Arras, France.  He grew up to be a criminal, soldier, spy, and founder of the Sûreté.  He is considered the first private investigator,  and the first modern criminologist, as well.  His memoir is often thought of as early detective fiction, which I suppose is not a compliment.  But he certainly influenced crime writers for a century.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

7/23/1965 Black River Falls makes the national news

July 23, 1965.  On this day there was a near riot in Black River Falls, Iowa, resulting in the town's only appearance on the news with Walter Cronkite.  It seems that Cliffie Sykes, the dumb-as-dirt chief of police decided to arrest every teenage boy with long hair.

That is the fictional beginning of Ticket To Ride, Ed Gorman's eighth novel about Sam McCain, lawyer and private eye, coping with life in the fifites and sixties in a small town in the midwest.  Before long there will be violence at a peace rally, and Sam will be defending a man he loathes at the request of the man's girlfriend - who used to be Sam's. 

Publisher's Weekly said: "Besides getting the pop culture of the period right, Gorman captures the baffled frustration of provincial folk who don't want to believe that things are more complicated than they look, that it's sometimes a mistake to trust people in authority"

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

7/22/2010 One million dragon e-tattoos

July 22, 2010.  On this date the Daily Times reported that Stieg Larsson's novel The GIrl With The Dragon Tattoo had become the first volume to sell one million e-books. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

7/21/1923 Charles Goodrum checks in

July 21, 1923.  Charles A. Goodrum was born on this date.  He became the Director of Research at the Library of Congress's Congressional Research Service (the collection of experts that answered reference questions only for the members of Congress).  He wrote one of the first  series of mysteries with a library-background, whose titles were usually awful puns like Carnage of the Realm, The Best Cellar, and, well, see illustration.

Monday, July 20, 2015

7/20/1992 The Ice-House is open.

July 20, 1992.  This day saw the publication in the United States of Minette Walters' first novel, The Ice House.  A corpse is found in the ice house in an English village, and there are plenty of candidates for who might be the victim - and why.  Kirkus Reviews said: "Unholy passions seethe inches beneath a proper surface: a brutal, literate debut--especially welcome to fans of Ruth Rendell."  Crime Writers Association called it the debut of the year and gave it the JOhn Creasey Award. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

7/19/1944 William Marshall is born

July 19, 1944.  William L. Marshall was born this day in Australia.  He wrote an amazing series of police procedurals set in Hong Bay, an imaginary neighborhood in Hong Kong.  The cops of the Yellowthread Street station had to deal with some of the craziest cases imaginable. 

One example: a wooden raft floats into the harbor.  Lying on it is a skeleton, dead at least twenty years, and some fruit which, the narrator solemnly reports, the skeleton had apparently purchased that morning for breakfast.  Of course, there is a rational explanation, there always is, but before we get to it there will be a whole lot of crazy. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

7/18/1917 Agatha Christie's first murder

July 18, 1917.  On this date a woman is murdered at Styles, beginning Agatha Christie's long killing spree.  The Mysterious Affair at Styles, published in 1920, is the first of her 66 mystery novels.  Her books are estimated to have sold 4 billion copies.

Friday, July 17, 2015

7/17/2015 Greenfellas is published

July 17, 2015.  Today is the official publication date for Greenfellas, the new novel by Robert Lopresti.  And here is the first review:

**** Robert Lopresti, GREENFELLAS, Oak Tree Press, $17.95. If Carl Hiassen and Al Gore had collaborated on RESERVOIR DOGS, it might have come out something like GREENFELLAS. Then again, it probably wouldn't. Robert Lopresti, whose stories have appeared in EQMM, AHMM, and THE STRAND, among others, has penned a comic crime novel in which a New Jersey mobster with a bad comb-over decides to use his resources to save the environment for future generations. The dialogue is crisp and the situations darkly funny. - Steve Steinbock, "The Jury Box," ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, August,2015.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

7/16/1940 William G. Tapply is born

July 16, 1940.  On this date William G. Tapply was born in Waltham, Massachusetts.  His forty-plus books include a series starring Brady Coyne, a Boston attorney.    His first mystery, Death at Charity's Point, won the Scribner Crime Novel Award.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

7/15/2015 nEvermore!

July 15, 2015.  Today is the publication date for nEvermore!, a collection of new gothic stories inspired by Edgar Allan Poe.  Included is the last tale of the late great Tanith Lee, plus new works by Margaret Atwood, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Richard Christian Mathesen... and yours truly, among others.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

7/14/1992 Murder in the Red Room is discovered

July 14, 1992. Murder in the Red Room, the tenth mystery by Elliott Roosevelt, starring his mother Eleanor, was published on this date.  As FDR prepares his doomed court-packing plan, a gangster is found with his cut throat in the White House.  Ah well, politics can be messy.

Speaking of messy, William Harrington kept writing the books for ten years after Elliott died, so the authorship is, uh, problematic.

Publisher's Weekly called the book "a delightful romp through the seamy side of officaldom."

Monday, July 13, 2015

7/13/1934 Nate Heller encounters True Crime

July 13, 1934.  Max Allan Collins' novels about Nate Heller set the detective in the middle of 1930s Chicago, mixing with real and fictional villains.  In this case Heller is looking for gangster John Dillinger, who has supposedly been killed by the FBI's Melvin Purvis.  Along the way he meets Baby Face Nelson, Ma Barker, and a bunch of other naughty folk.

“Crackles with low-life meanness and cynical humor...enough perverse twists, gritty period color, and sheer violent momentum to keep crime buffs, ‘true’ or otherwise, eagerly turning the pages.”—New York Times Book Review

Sunday, July 12, 2015

7/12/2008 The Ghost is a winner

July 12, 2008.  On this date the International Thriller Writers gave their Best Novel Award to Robert Harris for The Ghost.  The title does not refer to supernatural events although there are certainly some spooks, i.e. spies, involved.  Harris offers a thinly disguised look at Prime Minister Tony Blair, with a nasty suggestion about why he really resigned from the Prime Ministership.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

7/11/1910 Justin Case...

July 11, 1910.  Hugh B. Cave was born in England on this date.  He moved to the U.S. at an early age and by age 20 he was writing for the pulp magazines.  He estimated that he published 800 stories in the 1930s alone - and he was still writing in the age of the World Wide Web.  His biggest successes were in the field of horror - some of his work was inspired by Lovecraft.  But he also wrote private eye stories, some under the name of, yes, Justin Case. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

7/10/2008 Frances Fyfield gets a dagger for Blood from Stone

July 10, 2008.  On this date the Crime Writers Association gave Frances Fyfield the Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award (Best Crime Novel)  for  Blood From Stone. 

A highly successful barrister wins another case and then kills herself.  Peter Friel investigates, leading to the revelation of terrible secrets...

"The kind of compelling, hypnotic read that can only come from the pen of a writer at the top of her game."  - Daily Record.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

7/9/1764 Ann Radcliffe enters the world

July 9, 1764.  We are going far back into the past of our field today.  Ann Radcliffe was one of the inventers of Gothic literature, and a big influence on Edgar Allan Poe, de Sade, and others.  Her books involved apparent supernatural elements which were always given rational explanations at the end. 

Although we know her birth and death dates, and who she was married to, and so on, she left so little record beyond that  - and beyond her works, of course - that potential biographers have been mostly frustrated.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

7/8/2001 Molly Bloom chases trouble

July 8, 2001.  It was the nightgown that hooked me: Sunday, July 8, 1:46 A.M.  Near Lookout Mountain and Laurel Canyon.  An unidentified woman in her mid to late twenties, wearing a nightgown, was the victim of a hit-and-run accident that left her unconscious.  There were no witnesses.

That's the opening for Blues in the Night, Rochelle Krich's first novel about freelance reporter Molly Bloom.  Molly is happily divorced but her high school sweetheart is back, and he's single.  And a rabbi...

"Krich shows that she really knows her stuff...Molly investigates with both thoroughness and compassion, making this new sleuth worth her salt." - New York Times Book Review 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

7/7/2006 Psych premieres

July 7, 2006.  Psych materialized on the USA network on this date.  The show starred James Roday as a guy whose heightened observational skills allowed him to convince the police he solved crimes through psychic powers.  He kept 'em fooled for 121 episodes.

Monday, July 6, 2015

7/6/1899 Mignon Eberhart is born

July 6, 1899.  Mignon G. Eberhart was born on this day in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Her career extended through seven decades.  Known as "America's Agatha Christie" she wrote almost sixty novels.  Most of her books are considered romantic suspense, and she was a pioneer in the use of female main characters.  The Mystery Writers of America declared her a Grand Master in 1971. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

7/5/1928 Charlie Chan's two fathers meet

July 5, 1928.  The first time Earl Derr Biggers visited Hawaii he was just a young man seeing the world.  By the time he returned in 1928 he was a famous author.  What happened in between was that on a visit to a public library he picked up a newspaper from Hawaii and read an article about the most famous officer on the Honolulu Police Force, a detective named Chang Apana. 

This inspired him to write The House Without A Key, starring Charlie Chan.  After decades of Asians being portrayed as sinister villains suddenly there was a Chinese detective who was smarter, braver, and more resourceful than the Caucasians around him. 

On this date Biggers got to meet and shake hands with Apana, who he acknowledged as the inspiration for Chan.  They both died in 1933.  Charlie Chan lived on for many years in movies, radio, and TV, but by the seventies changing standards made him unacceptable. 

Most of this information comes from Yunte Huang's Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendevous with American History.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

7/4/1976 Rozan's Absent Friends begins

July 4, 1976.  S.J. Rozan's first non-series mystery is all about the after-effects of 9/11 on the lives of New Yorkers, but it actually starts on Independence Day in the Bicentennial year, when her characters were just kids. 

“Rozan shifts among several narrators and between present and past in this riveting offering reminiscent of Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River.  An unforgettable elegy to the clear September morning that forever changed our lives.” –Booklist

Friday, July 3, 2015

7/3/1906. David Keith is born

July 3, 1906.  Francis Steegmuller was born on this date.  He won two National Book Awards for a biography of Jean Cocteau, and a translation of the letters of Gustave Flaubert.  But we, single-minded fanatics that we are, are mainly interested in the fact that, under the name, David Keith, he wrote several mysteries. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

7/2/1951 Anthony Boucher goes critical

July 2, 1951.  On this day William Anthony Parker White (doing business as Anthony Boucher)  began reviewing mysteries at the New York Times. He also wrote mysteries and science fiction and co-founded The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  Many people feel that Boucher's reviews raised the respect of the whole mystery field.  The annual world mystery convention was named Bouchercon in his honor, and the awards given out there are called the Anthonys.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

7/1/2005 Lopresti's Such A Killing Crime published

July 1, 2005.  Robert Lopresti's novel of murder during the folk music revival in Greenwich Village, 1963, is published.