Friday, December 29, 2017

12/29/39 John Dickson Carr breaks into radio

December 29 1939.  Listeners to the BBC on this evening caught the first work in the medium by that most British of American mystery writers, John Dickson Carr.  "Who Killed Matthew Corbin?" appeared in three parts, running into January. It starred Gordon McLeod as Carr's sleuth Dr Gideon Fell.

Nu recordings are known to survive but Carr recycled the plot for "The Clock Strikes Eight," which you can listen to here.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

10/12/2017 Bouchercon commences today

October 12, 2017. Today is the start of Bouchercon, the international mystery convention.  It is getting underway at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto.  Guests of honor include Louise Penny, Megan Abbott, Christopher Brookmyre, Chris Grabenstein, and Margaret Cannon.  Toast masters will be Twist Phelan and Gary Phillips.   Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine will be honored.  John Buchan, former governor general of Canada and inventor of the good-guy-chased-by-the bad-guys-AND-police subgenre with The Thirty-nine Steps, will be honored as ghost of honor.

Sounds like a ball, doesn't it?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

This operation is suspended.

Hey folks, I am busy busy busy and will be updating this only occasionally.  Sorry.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

9/26/1990 Do cops rock?

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. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

9/25/1941 EQMM is announced

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.  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.

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.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

9/17/2011 SleuthSayers gets a clue

September 17, 2011.  Six years ago today the SleuthSayers blog began.  Fourteen mystery writers taking turns with occasional pushing and shoving.  No, we've gotten along wonderfully.

Among our members, some of whom have come to their senses and some who are still with us:
Dale Andrews, John Floyd, Jan Grape, Dixon Hill, Thomas Pluck, Leigh Lundin, David Dean, Angela Zeman, Deborah Elliott-Upton,  Terence Faherty,  Janice Law, R.T. Lawton,  O'Neil De Noux, Fran Rizer, Stephen Ross, Susan Slater, Neil Schofield, Brian Thornton, Louis A. Willis, Jim Winter, Elizabeth Zelvin, Robert Lopresti, Melodie Campbell, Susan Rogers Cooper, Eve Fisher, Steve Liskow, David Edgerley Gates, Barb Goffman, Paul D. Marks, Art Taylor, Melissa Yi, and newbie Mary Fernando.

Special notice of B.K. Stevens, who passed away this summer.  We still miss her.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

9/16/1966 T.H.E. Cat prowls

September 16, 1966.  T.H.E. Cat premiered on this date on NBC.  Am I the only one who remembers it?  Robert Loggia starred as Thomas Hewitt Edward Cat (and yes, I did remember those names without checking.  Don't ask me what I had for breakfast yesterday.) 

What was the show about?  Well, here was the intro:

"Out of the night comes a man who saves lives at the risk of his own. Once a circus performer, an aerialist who refused the net. Once a cat burglar, a master among jewel thieves. Now a professional bodyguard. Primitive... savage... in love with danger. The Cat!"

Friday, September 15, 2017

9/15/1939 Hello, Farewell

September 15, 1939.  On this date Raymond Chandler finished the first draft of Farewell, My Lovely, his second novel about L.A. private eye Phillip Marlowe. In my opinion, his masterpiece.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

9/14/1946 Dangerous Decoys

September 14, 1946.  We go deep into noir territory today, as Decoy premieres.  A dying female gangster explains how they rescued her boyfriend after he dies in the gas chamber, hoping to revive him.  Not out of love, but because he knows where the money is hidden.  What could possibly go wrong?  Oh yeah, she's fatally wounded...

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

9/13/1916 Roald Dahl arrives

September 13, 1913.  Ask any fan of Alfred hItchcock's TV show about their favorite episodes and they are very likely to recall "Lamb to the Slaughter," based on a short story by Roald Dahl. Another Dahl/Hitchcock  favorite was "The Man From the South," starring Peter Lorre as a gambler with a strnage obsession.

Today Dahl is best remembered for his children's books (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, etc. ) but he was a master of the suspenseful, sardonic short story.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

9/12/1938 When Archie met Lily

September 12, 1938.  This is a day that should be marked with honor on the calendar of all Rex Stout fans.  It is the day that Archie Goodwin met the love of his life, Lily Rowan. This happens in the first chapter of the sixth Nero Wolfe novel, Some Buried Caesar, and it is certainly one of the most memorable openings in that long series.

The fat sleuth is in upstate New York, heading to a flower show, when his car has an accident.  Wolfe and Archie take a short cut through a pasture, which turns out to have a bull in it.  Archie has to run and tumble over a fence, nearly getting mangled to death by an angry beast, and as he struggles to his feet he hears a woman applauding and  cheering as if he were a circus act.  And that, of course, is Lily Rowan.

But my favorite line in the book is from Wolfe: "If you regard it as a rational project to find a legitimate nocturnal pickwasher, go ahead."  You had to be there.

Monday, September 11, 2017

9/11/1862 O. Henry is sweet

September 11, 1862.  William Sydney Porter was born on this date in Greensboro, North Carolina. He spent five years in prison for embezzling $856 from the bank where he worked.

But he is remembered today as one of America's greatest short story artists, under the name O. Henry. His "Gift of the Magi" will apparently live forever.  But in our field he is revered for creating the legendary safe cracker Jimmy Valentine, who only appeared in  one story, "A Retrieved Reformation," as well as the much-copied "Ransom of Red Chief."

"The Caballero's Way," featured the Cisco Kid, but he was anything but the brave Mexican hero of TV and the movies.  Instead this Cisco was a vicious American outlaw.

Oh, and Henry coined the phrase "banana republic," when he was in Honduras, hiding out from the bank charges.  Quite a full life.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

9/10/1989 The icy clutches of Aaron Elkins

September 10, 1989.  On this day the action begins in Aaron Elkins' sixth novel about anthropologist and bone expert Gideon Oliver.  Icy Clutches involves three scientific researchers who died in an avalanche in the  1960s. Now their remains are coming out of the glacier, but there is something very odd about them...

Elkins once said that all the brilliant discoveries Oliver makes in his book have been made by other physical anthropologists.  Elkins just makes them all occur to our hero, and gives them a criminal twist.  Did I make that sound easy?  If it was then everybody would be writing books like this.  And they don't.

Gideon Oliver, that most engaging forensic anthropologist, solves a lulu here....Aaron Elkins is witty, and oh so clever with that final twist."
- New York Daily News

Saturday, September 9, 2017

9/9/1903 Phyllis A. Whitney arrives

September 9, 1903.  Phyllis A. Whitney was born on this date in Yokohama, Japan, of all places.  Not that there's anything wrong with Yokohama, but Whitney is thought of as an American author, which indeed she  was.  Her family spent her first few years in Asia.

Whitney was often described as an author of gothic novels, although she preferred the term romantic suspense.  Call it what you will, she was good at it.  Among her seventy novels were two Edgar winners for Best Juvenile Mysteries.  The MWA recognized her as a Grand Master in 1988.  She died at the ripe old age of 104. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

9/8/1999 American Beauty blooms

September 8, 1999.  This date saw the premiere of American Beauty,  a stunning movie about a suburban dad who becomes obsessed with a friend of his daughter. It won five Oscars, including the second for Kevin Spacey.  One of the most amazing things is that it begins by telling you the main character is murdered, and still manages a surprise ending.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

9/7/1976 Miss Marple's graceful exit

September 7, 1976.  This day saw the American publication of Sleeping Murder, which Agatha Christie wrote during the second World War and tucked away to be a posthumous curtain call for herself and Jane Marple, the beloved spinster from St Mary Mead.

A newlywed has an apparent deja-vu memory of a murder.  Is it ESP, or something more sinsiter.

Kirkus Review said: "This is Miss Marple at her noticing, unobtrusive, kindly best--a perfect envoi."

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

9/6/199? The strip tease begins

September 6, 199?.  This day saw the beginning of the action in Carl Hiassen's fifth comic crime novel, Strip Tease.  The plot involves a congressman who defends a stripper in a nude bar by clobbering a groper with a champagne bottle.  After that, and the murder that follows, things get messy.  As usual, one of Haissen's targets is the madness and corruption of Florida's politics.

The book was generally praised; the movie version (Striptease, with Demi Moore), not so much.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

9/5/2017 George Smiley returns

September 5, 1971. The very first sentence of the very first book John Le Carré published tells us that George Smiley's wife has left him.  Here it is, fifty years later and we are still reading about George and the faithless Lady Ann, among others.

Le Carré has written more than 20 books and this is the ninth loosely described as a George Smiley novel.  The master spy with the guilty conscience and a will of iron is only the main character in four or five of them (depending on whether you think the main character of The Honourable Schoolboy is, uh, the honourable schoolboy.

The narrator and protagonist of A Legacy of Spies,  is Peter Guillam, Smiley's protegé, dragged out of retirement to explain some old cases to a post-Cold War generation of interrogators.  And that reminds me.  I got my filthy hands on a pre-publication copy and I am halfway through it, but I am still trying to figure out when it is set.  INternal evidence says it has to be later than 2000.  In our present day Peter would be mid-eighties and Smiley, if he is still alive (that is under debate in the part I am reading) would be a decade older.  Those would be mighty old spies. 

In any case it is a great read.

Monday, September 4, 2017

9/4/1900 Cyril Hare comes up

September 4, 1900.  Alfred Gordon Clark was born on this date in Surrey, England.  He became a barrister and later a judge, but he interests us because, under the name Cyril Hare, he wrote some great mystery novels.  His most important character was Francis Pettigrew, also a barrister.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

9/3/1960 Maigret is uncovered in Holland

September 3, 1966.  On this date a statue of Inspector Maigret was revealed in  Delfzijl, Holland.  It was commissioned to honor the great detective's visit as reported in Georges Simenon's novel Maigret in Holland.  You can find pictures of the statue and more information about it here.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

9/2/2005 Sara Paretsky catches the eye

September 2, 2005.  On this day Sara Paretsky won the Eye Award, given by the Private Eye Writers of America for lifetime achievement.  Most of her twenty-something books star private investigator V.I. Warshawski.  She is one of the top authors to come out of the wave of female P.I. writers in the 1980s.  The MWA named her a Grand Master in 2011.

Friday, September 1, 2017

9/1/1994 Lee Child starts to write

September 1, 1994. August of 1994 was a bad month for Jim Grant. He was fired after almost 20 years at British Granada Television.  So on September first he sat down with $6 worth of paper and pencils and began to write a book.  It was published as Killing Floor under the pen name Lee Child.

The first Jack Reacher novel was so successful that Child starts each new book on September first.  Millions of readers are glad of it.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

8/31/1928 Three Penny Opera is coined

August 31, 1928Three Penny Opera, by Kurt Weill and Bertold Brecht, opened in Berlin on this date.  It was adapted from the 18th century Beggar's Opera, written by John Gay.

It tells the story of MacHeath, alias Mack the Knife, a notorious London criminal.  The show is dark, political, and brilliant.  The most famous song, best known as "Mack The Knife" has been a huge hit in the United States.  "Pirate Jenny," alias "The Black Freighter," has been recorded by many artists as well.

Here is a video of Alan Cummings and Cyndi Lauper performing "Ballad of the Pimp" at the 2006 Tony Awards.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

8/30/1889 A dinner party that made literary history

August 30, 1889.  A major literary event happened on this night, which had great import for the mystery field.  You see, when Arthur Conan Doyle introduced Sherlock Holmes to the world in A Study in Scarlet, the world couldn't have cared less.  But when he wrote a historical novel called Micah Clarke it became a best-seller.  Joseph M. Stoddard, the publisher of Lippincott's Magazine, had published Study in Scarlet in America.  He was visiting  England that summer, and noted the popularity of Clarke.  So he invited Doyle to a dinner at the Langhorn Hotel and suggested he give Holmes another shot.  This led to The Sign of Four, and eventually to the short stories that made Holmes a household word.   Oh, Stoddard invited another writer to the event, one who became immediate friends with Doyle - a very unlikely pair.  Stoddard suggested that other man write something for the magazine as well.  So Oscar Wilde produced The Portrait of Dorian Gray.

Must have been quite an evening.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

8/29/2005. The longest prison break begins

August 29, 2005. This night saw the premiere of Prison Break on FOX. The concept: an innocent man sis sentenced to death.  His brother, a brilliant engineer with a compulsion to fix things (think MacGyver with an obsessive conscience) gets himself thrown into prison in order to break him out.
The creators were hoping for a two year run: One season for the escape and one for the run out of the country.  But the show was so successful they had to come up with plots for two more years, which turned pretty silly.  Great ending, though.  Unfortunately, the network recently decided to revive it, even dragging a character out of the grave to do it. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

8/28/1946 The Killers arrive

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.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

8/27/1947 Hollywood gets the kiss of death

August 27, 1947.  On this date the movie Kiss of Death was released.  A film noir classic, it starred Victor Mature and gave Richard Widmark his first role in the flicks.  It scored two Academy Award nominations, one for Widmark.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

8/26/2004 Cleary gets Kelly

August 26, 2004.  On this day the Crime Writers Association of Australia gave the Ned Kelly Award for best mystery novel to Degrees of Separation.  It was the 20th and last novel Jon Cleary write about police inspector Scabie Malone. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

8/25/1911 Ed Lacy is born

August 25, 1911.  Ed Lacy was born on this day.  He wrote about fifty novels, mostly mysteries.  He won the Edgar Award for Best Mystery Novel for Room to Swing which introduced an African-American private eye named Toussaint "Touie" Marcus Moore.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

8/24/2012 Premium Rush is delivered

August 24, 2012 This date saw the premiere of Premium Rush, a lightweight but fun movie starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (that year he was almost as ubiquitous as Benedict Cumberbatch  soon became).  A New York bike messenger picks up an envelope and a dirty cop (MIchael Shannon) will do anything to stop him from delivering it.

"Yeah guys, I'll catch up with you.  I forgot my bullets."

I didn't know there were World Stunt Awards, but of course there are, and this movie received three nominations for the Hardest Hit Award.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

8/23/1991 Sleep of the Unjust

August 23, 1991.  This day saw the publication of E.X. Ferrars' Sleep of the Unjust.  Felix and Virginia Freers are invited to the wedding of the niece of their friends, but the unexpected arrival of a former love of the bride results in a mysterious death -- accompanied by several contradictory suicide notes.  Hmm...

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

8/22/1933 Babcock breaks in to Black Mask

August 22, 1933.  On this date Dwight V. Babcock made his first sale of  a short story.  Incredible as it may seem, he broke into Black Mask.  Sounds like starting out on top to me.  "At the Bottom of Every Mess" appeared in the January 1934 issue.  He got $100 for it; good money in the Depression.

Babcock went on to write many short stories and some popular humorous crime novels.  But let's get back to that first sale to Black Mask, home of Hammett, Chandler, Gardner, etc.  He only submitted there because Underworld Magazine, which I have never even heard of, lost the copy he sent them.  Wow.

My first sale was to Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.  Not quite so fancy.

This info came from James L. Traylor's article about Babcock in The Armchair Detective, volume 23, number 1.

Monday, August 21, 2017

8/21/1916 Jackson Gillis is born

August 21, 1916.  One of the great writers of TV crime was born on this date in Kalama, Washington.  In 1953 Jackson Gillis became the main writer for a syndicated cop show called I'm The Law, starring George Raft.  In the years that followed he wrote for Perry Mason, Mannix, Mod Squad, Cannon, Ironside, The Man From Uncle, Hawaii Five-O, and tons of other series.

He was also a key figure in Columbo, with a hand in at least fifteen episodes.  His first script there was "Framed For Murder" with Ross Martin as the guest murderer, and some of us fondly remember that one for the cleverest clue and the most audacious "reveal" in the whole series.  He was nominated for an Emmy for it, losing to his bosses, the show's creators Levinson and Link.

His last script was for Lois and Clark, based on a story he wrote for The Adventures of Superman forty-years earlier.

Most of this information comes from an excellent article by Michael Mallory in a recent issue (#149) of Mystery Scene magazine.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

8/20/87 Sherlock opens his last case

August 20, 1987,  Sherlock's Last Case opened on Broadway on this date.  It was Charles Marowitz's take on Conan Doyle.  From the Playbill summary: Dr. Watson gives us the truth about Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary detective Sherlock Holmes — he is a self-absorbed, egotistical tyrant in private, even as he is tested once again to solve the case of "the perfect murder."

Whatever you think of that it gave the world a chance to see Frank Langella as the Master.  It ran for 124 performances.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

8/19/1967 The Fugitive's final TV Guide cover

August 19, 1967.  This week's TV Guide celebrated the end of the line for one of the most popular escaped criminals in television history.  If I am counting correctly, this is the fifth time David Janssen made the cover of the media's main magazine in four years of The Fugitive.

This was probably the first series in TV history to be given the dignity of an actual ending, as opposed to merely vanishing forever between summer and fall. After 120 episodes of chasing and being chased Richard Kimball finally catches the guy who killed his wife.  And TV Guide was there to celebrate.  

Friday, August 18, 2017

8/18/1941 Cordially invited to meet death

August 18, 1941.  On this date Bess Huddleston, professional party organizer, came to Nero Wolfe, asking him to investigate letters her clients had received accusing her of misbehavior.  Although she had previously irritated him by asking him to play detective at a "murder party" he agrees to look into the matter.  Soon a particularly horrible death is also invited...

As World War II began Rex Stout spent more of his time on war-related activities and less time on writing, and that meant switching to short fiction.  This was his second novella (after "Black Orchids.")  It was published in American Magazine in April 1942, as "Invitation to Murder," but in the book Black Orchids, it is "Cordially Invited to Meet Death."

Thursday, August 17, 2017

8/17/1942 Marlowe looks out a high window

August 17, 1942.  This date saw the publication of The High Window, Raymond Chandler's third novel about L.A. private eye Philip Marlowe.   (Has anyone else pointed out that his novels arrange the same way chronologcally as alphabetically?  Just like Sue Grafton's sort of.)

And speaking of the alphabet, this story features characters named Marlowe,  Murdock (two of them), Magic, Merle, Morny, and Morningstar.  Why do authors do that sort of thing?  What's wrong with the other letters?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

8/16/1902 The mother of the historical romance is born

August 16, 1902.  You might say Georgette Heyer was born a century late.  Her most popular books were romances, set in the Regency period (early nineteenth century).

Naturally we are more concerned with her less popular books, the thrillers, the creation of which  she compared to solving crossword puzzles.  Sometimes the mechanical nature showed a little too much, as in the novel in which all the main characters names are alphabetical according to the order in which appear.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

8/15/1929 Roman hat trick

August 15, 1929.  This date saw the beginning of one of the longest and most distinguished careers in mystery fiction.  It saw the publication of The Roman Hat Mystery, the first mystery written by Ellery Queen, featuring, of course, the detective Ellery Queen.

Cousins Manfred Lee and Frederic Dannay wrote the book for a contest and won, but the sponsoring organization promptly went out of business.  Fortunately Frederick Stokes published it and the Queen career was on its way.

Monday, August 14, 2017

8/14/198? Sleeping Dogs awake

August 14, 198?.  On August 14th in an unspecified year an American who calls himself Michael Shaeffer meets a beautiful aristocratic woman in London.  Schaeffer is actually the Butcher's Boy, the Mafia's favorite hit man until a mobster tried to cheat him  That made our hero cranky and that made the cheater dead.  

The Butcher's Boy gets spotted in London and he decides he needs to go back to the States to teach a refresher course to those thugs who think they need to kill him.  All he has to do is stay out of the way of the mob, the cops, the FBI, and the Justice Department.  Piece of cake...

Sleeping Dogs is the second of (so far) three novels by Thomas Perry about the terrifyingly efficient Butcher's Boy.  They are worth reading, and in order.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

8/13/1899 The Master of Suspense is born

August 13, 1899. The last year of the nineteenth century saw the birth of one of the greatest film directors of the twentieth.  I don't imagine I need to tell you what Alfred Hitchcock contributed to the mystery field, but I'll mention a few.  He made masterpieces (Vertigo, Psycho). He experimented (Rope, The Wrong Man, Lifeboat). With The Birds he invented a genre that has seldom been done as well.   The Thirty-Nine Steps (based on John Buchan's novel) introduced the hero-chased-by-villains-AND-cops story which has been used thousands of times - including brilliant reworkings by the Master himself.

The plot of Vertigo  has more holes than a politician's alibi.  Don't care.  It's still my favorite movie.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

8/12/1992 Payday for sin

August 12, 1992.  On this date Andrew Greeley's novel Wages of Sin was published.  Greeley was the author of dozens of nonfiction books as well as many bestselling novels (for a while he was putting out two a year).  He was supposedly the bestselling priest in history, and made a lot of money, much of which he donated to the Catholic Church.

Wages of Sin features a commodities broker trying to solve murders that happened many years before.  Referring to the priest's controversial inclusion of sexual material Kirkus Reviews called the book "Safe sex for senior citizens."

Friday, August 11, 2017

8/11/2015 Publishing sees the last of Deborah Knott

August 11, 2015.
 This was the publication date for Long Upon the Land, the last novel in Margaret Maron's award-winning series about North Carolina judge Deborah Knott.  "When I started writing," Maron said, that year, "all the southern books were southern gothics, and the pigs ate mama."

The adventures of Judge Knott (oh, that pun) were somewhat more elevated.  The first of them Bootlegger's Daughter,won the Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity Awards.  The MWA named Maron a Grand Master in 2013.

Publisher's Weekly that the series' final entry "combines strong plotting, a superb cast of recurring characters, and a rare sense of place that transports readers to rural North Carolina."

Thursday, August 10, 2017

8/10/1992 Jimmy Buffett, meet Joe Merchant

August 10, 1992.  On this date Jimmy Buffett's first novel was published.  Where is Joe Merchant? is about a rock star, missing and possibly dead in the Caribbean, and the seaplane-flying Vietnam vet who goes looking for him.  Buffett is, of course, a pop star in his own right, and the king of Carib tourist music.  Kirkus Reviews called it "a relaxed and rambling novel... The unitiiated may be baffled; his fans will be enchanted."

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

8/9/1910 Robert Van Gulik is born

August 9, 1910.  Robert Van Gulik was born in the Zutphen in the Netherlands on this day.  While he was a diplomat, a musician, and man of other accomplishments, he is best remembered for his Judge Dee novels, inspired by an eighteenth century Chinese novel.  The real Judge Di lived in the seventh century, but the original novel (which Van Gulik translated) bumped him up to the Ming Dynasty, approximately a thousand years later.