Wednesday, September 30, 2015

9/30/1906 Michael Innes arrives

September 30, 1906.  J.I.M.Stewart was born on this date in Edinburgh, Scotland.  He wrote mainstream novels under his own name and crime  novels as Michael Innes.  He called those latter books - nore than forty of them - "entertainments."  His most famous invention was Detective Inspector Sir John Appleby.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

9/29/1971 McMillan & Wife

September 29, 1971.  McMillan & Wife premiered on this day.  It was one of three spokes of NBC Mystery Movie, along with Columbo and McCloud.  It starred Rock Hudson as the San Francisco police commissioner and Susan St. James as his wife.  Like all police commissioners, Mac wandered around solving crimes with his spouse.

Okay, maybe it wasn't very realistic, but it was good fun and gave steady work to the wonderful Nancy Walker and John Schuck.  Plus, they based a few episodes on some tales of Edward D. Hoch.  Huh, TV based on detective short stories.  What a great idea, he said, completely without personal motive.

Monday, September 28, 2015

9/28/1913 Ellis Peters is born

September 28, 1913.  Edith Pargeter was born on this date, in Horsehay, England.  She became much better known under the name Ellis Peters.  While she wrote dozens of books under at least five names (and I am particularly fond of Black is the Colour of my True Love's Heart, one of the few mysteries set in a folk festival) she is usually remembered as the creator of Brother Cadfael, a Welsh soldier turned monk/herbalist during the middle of the twelfth century. 

She won the Edgar Award in 1963 for Death and the Joyful Woman.  The British Crime Writers Association gave her the Silver Dagger in 1980 for Monk's Hood and the Diamond Dagger in 1993 for lifetime achievement.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

9/27/1906 Jim Thompson's first night in jail

September 27, 1906.  Jim Thompson, the great noir writer, used to brag that he was born in jail.  To be precise, he was born in a jailhouse.  His father, James Thompson, was the sheriff of Caddo County, Oklahoma, and like many lawmen of the time, his family got free living quarters over the jail, in return for merely providing 24/7 service to the prisoners.

It's worth noting that Thompson's books are full of violent, amoral, and downright crazy sheriffs.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

9/26/1990 Cop Rock starts singing

September 26, 1990.  On this day one of television's weirdest experiments began. Steven Bochco, creator of Hill Street Blues, convinced ABC to air a grim, gritty urban police show in which characters inexplicably burst into song several times each episode.  I remember wondering "What were they smoking when they dreamed this up?"  It lasted eleven weeks.  TV Guide ranked it as the 8th worst TV series of all time. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

9/25/41 EQMM dines at the Waldorf-Astoria

September 25, 1941.  On this date Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine was announced to the world at a banquet at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.  Only a handful of surviving American magazines have lasted longer than EQMM.  You can read a short history of it here.  More than forty Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners have graced its pages.  My favorite claim to fame: EQMM was the first American magazine to publish Jorge Luis Borges in English.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

9/24/1986 The Name of the Rose is revealed

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.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

9/23/1935 Secret Agent X-9 gets a new master

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, the inventor of the Saint. Sledom 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 authors (joining the agent and his agency in namelessness, I guess), until 1992.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

9/22/1990 Caudwell wins an 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.

Monday, September 21, 2015

9/21/1993 NYPD Blue

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 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 making up dialog while the actors stood on the set waiting for it.)  But the show was a heck of a ride.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

9/20/1950 Carr on Doyle wins Edgar

September 20, 1950.  On this date John Dickson Carr, mystery writer and future Grand Master, won a Special Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his biography on an earlier master, The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

9/19/2014 A Walk Among The Tombstones

September 19, 2014.  The best movie based on a Lawrence Block book (so far) opened on this date.  A Walk Among The Tombstones is the tenth novel about Matt Scudder, ex-cop, recovering alcoholic, and unlicensed P.I.  In this version, as played by Liam Neeson, he tires to help a drug lord figure out who kidnapped and brutally murdered his wife.  In Scudder novels there are no easy answers, no unsoiled lives, and our hero has to do a lot of things he regrets.  Sometimes the big difference between him and the bad guys  is that regret...

Friday, September 18, 2015

9/18/1886 Nick Carter breaks 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.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

9/17/2011 SleuthSayers launches

September 17, 2011.  Four years ago today the SleuthSayers blog began.  Fourteen mystery writers taking turns with occasional pushing and shoving.  No, we've gotten along wonderfully.  As for what follows, my apologies if I screw it up...

Some of us have stayed through the whole run (with an occasional sabbatical): Dale Andrews, John Floyd, Jan Grape, Dixon Hill, Robert Lopresti, and Leigh Lundin.

Among those who were here for a while and then saw the error of their ways:  David Dean, Deborah Elliott-Upton,  Terence Faherty,   Janice Law, R.T. Lawton, Fran Rizer, Stephen Ross, Susan Slater, Neil Schofield, Brian Thornton, Louis A. Willis, Jim Winter,  and Elizabeth Zelvin.  Some of them still make occasional guest appearances.

And these folks have joined and are still gracing the place with their presence:  Melodie Campbell, Susan Rogers Cooper, Eve Fisher, David Edgerley Gates, Barb Goffman,   Paul D. Marks, Art Taylor, B.K Stevens, and Melissa Yi.

Come on by.  We're open every day.