Mignon And More In Mystery Scene

Mystery Scene 160 - 2019

I know there are no books by Mignon G. Eberhart on shelf at my local public library. I checked. But then, the list of well-known mystery/crime fiction writers missing from the shelves there would too long to start counting.

Another Mans Murder

The latest issue of Mystery Scene magazine is full of the usual features and excellent interviews and articles, and didn’t disappoint. But it rarely does. Michael Mallory’s article “Mystery’s Enigmatic Mistress – Mignon G. Eberhart” was a pretty in depth look at a woman who was a bit of mystery herself. Born Mignonette Good in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1899, Eberhart went on to write nearly 60 mystery novels along with numerous short stories and plays, beginning with the Sarah Keate medical mystery series in the 1920’s. By the time of her death at 97 in 1996, Eberhart was considered one of the highest paid mystery writers in the field, yet biographical information remains pretty sparse, with very few interviews ever conducted. Mallory’s excellent article provided just enough info to get me intrigued, and I’ve been digging up some of Mignon G. Eberhart’s mysteries since, some of which have been reprinted in multiple editions and are readily available.

On a more somber note, Nancy Bilyeau’s “Berlin Noir – Philip Kerr’s Novels Of The Third Reich And After” gives an overview of Kerr’s incredible Bernie Gunther series, in which the Chandler-esque Berlin homicide detective navigates the rise of Nazism, the horrors of WWII and its aftermath, and struggles to find a place in a postwar world through 14 always-entertaining but incredibly thought provoking novels. Philip Kerr, of course, sadly passed away in March of 2018. The publication of his 13thGunther novel Greeks Bearing Gifts just a month after his death was a bittersweet event for his ardent fans (count me among them), and presumed to be the final work from this master. But there was one more, Metropolis, published just this April, and surprisingly, a kind of origins story set in 1928 when the horrors to come were only glimpses of still unimaginable anomalies in Weimar Germany, where cynical Berlin cop Bernie Gunther was still working his beat, eager to please and, if a smart ass at heart, not yet the hardened world weary soul readers came to love across a dozen-plus novels.

So with one magazine’s issue, I learn about a prolific writer I never knew much about (but will, soon enough) and bid farewell to a writing hero whose work I’d grown to love. Can’t ask for more than that from a magazine.

A Second Row of Birthday Candles For Mrs. Peel, Please.

Diana Rigg 3

We’ll light another round of birthday candles, these for English actress Diana Rigg, born today on July 20th, and perhaps best known for playing Emma Peel in the 1965-1968 BBC series The Avengers with Patrick MacNee, a role she didn’t particularly like, with sudden celebrity status (and unexpected publicity as a sex symbol) she didn’t particularly welcome. Rigg auditioned on a whim after the original actress was dropped after only two episodes, and was shocked to discover by the first season’s end that while she was a co-star with (and frankly, much more popular than) Patrick MacNee, she was being paid less than some crew members and had a real fight on her hands to gain equal pay, eventually tripling her season one salary. But for U.S. audiences, Rigg’s Mrs. Peel was British Invasion Mod-Chic personified, gun and judo flips always ready for the bad guys, and always managed in sleek black catsuits and wild op-art mini-dresses. ABC broadcast The Avengers in the U.S. to replace the groundbreaking series Honey West with Anne Francis (‘G.G. Fickling’s 1950’s-60’s PBO ‘stiletto gumshoe’), once the network execs learned they could buy the British spy-flavored show for less than it cost to produce Honey West.

Diana Rigg 6The Avengers may be what Diana Rigg is most known for, but only a small part of her long acting resume, which is heavy on UK stage drama along with British and American television and film roles. She was also the host of the PBS Mystery series from 1989 through 2003 and even had  a recurring role in Game Of Thrones. Rigg was made a Commander Of The Order Of The British Empire (CBE) in 1988 and a Dame Commander Of The Order Of The British Empire (DCBE) in 1994, and thankfully, is still with us.

Diana Rigg 5

Milton Luros

Early Luros

Milton Luros was one of the ‘golden age’ pulp cover illustrators, his work often misattributed to Norman Saunders or Mort Kunstler. One of his cover paintings (a 1944 painting, shown below) was actually part of the inspiration for my ‘Stiletto Gumshoe’ series character (still in the works, alas) with a gun-toting bad guy bursting in on a woman processing incriminating photos in a dark room. I’ve had a file of that pic lurking in my computers’ image archives for ages.

1944

Milton Luros (1911-1999) was born Milton Louis Rosenblatt and grew up in Brooklyn, studying art at the Pratt Institute following high school. He got his start doing B&W interior spot illustrations for western pulps, and by the late 1930’s was earning a decent living as a freelance cover painter for numerous pulp magazine publishers and titles, doing everything from crime to cowboys, spicy’s to science fiction. After marrying his wife Beatrice, Luros set up a studio on West 67th Street, where his neighbors included Rafael DeSoto, George Gross and Norm Saunders…heady company, indeed! Serving as a Tech Sergeant for the Army Corps Of Engineers during WWII, Luros returned to freelance illustration work in the late 1940’s, eventually becoming the art director (and primary cover and interior illustrator) for Columbia Publications’ Famous Detective magazine. With the pulps in decline, Luros opened New York’s American Art Agency in 1955, but soon relocated to the west coast seeking more lucrative film studio poster work.

Crack Detective 1944

He soon took over the art director roles for two new men’s magazines, Adam and Knight, and eventually launched his own men’s magazine, Cocktail, which by 1959 expanded into a multi-title syndicate, Parliament News Distributors. However, ten years later, Luros and his firm became embroiled in obscenity charges, during which time he was depicted in the press as “the world’s richest pornographer”, which surely was a stretch. Ultimately, the charges were dropped, the initial convictions overturned on appeal, and Milton Luros continued to work both as a publisher and illustrator till his death in 1999. While certainly not as famous as some of his pre-WWII pulp marketplace counterparts, this artist is actually responsible for more of the classic pulp era’s memorable covers than we may realize.

THrilling Detective 1944

The Police Women’s Bureau

The Police Women's Bureau

Book reviews claim a novel is a ‘real page turner’ all the time, but I’m here to tell you that Edward Conlon’s The Policewomen’s Bureau is precisely that: A page turner. My proof? I started the book after work on Monday, and stayed up ridiculously late both Monday and Tuesday nights devouring this novel. Yes, a little groggy in the office Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, but it was worth it.

Edward Conlon’s a former New York City cop himself, and even after retiring was called back, currently the Director Of Executive Communications for the Police Commissioner. His own memoir Blue Blood was a bestseller and award finalist. The man can write, and he knows what’s what when it comes to being a cop and has an uncanny feel for effectively setting a scene — a hectic Italian family gathering, an authentic squad room, holding cell or gritty New York street scene.

Decoy 1957

I knew I’d like this book from the very beginning of the first page, which is a quote from the groundbreaking 1957 TV series Decoy (see link below for more about that), which starred Beverly Garland in the very first network crime drama led by a woman, the first filmed on location in New York, and told the story of Officer Casey Jones, an NYPD policewoman working different cases in each episode, sometimes undercover, sometimes in uniform. It’s a perfect choice to kick off Conlon’s novel, which is based on real life policewoman Marie Cirile’s own memoir and here tells the story of Marie Carrara, young wife, mother and member of a large and very traditional Italian family. Marie’s a cop, though policewomen are largely relegated to women’s wing jail matrons and occasional undercover assignments, enduring relentless taunts, hassles and worse  from their male counterparts, and institutional discrimination from the higher-ups. The book opens in 1958, spanning a ten-year-plus period through 1969 as Marie moves up the ranks, fighting superiors along with the crooks, while suffering through horrifying abuse from her ultra-traditional maximum-macho Italian husband (also a cop, and clearly a slightly crooked one), which goes beyond his flagrant infidelity, verbal abuse and routine physical violence, then culminates in a brutal rape. It’s grim stuff. But Marie perseveres, devoted to her kid and the job. Which is incredibly exciting stuff, tricking mobsters and working sympathetic snitches, trading blows with drug dealers and chasing junkies. Finally partnered up with two precinct oddballs, the threesome quickly grow into an unbeatable team with stellar arrest records, and form an unbreakable bond in the process.

The Policewomen’s Bureau is a terrific crime fiction novel, a maddening tale of how-things-were seventy years ago (enough so to dispel any warm nostalgia one might have for the ‘good old days’) and a truly moving saga of a quiet hero, a regular woman’s struggle against relentless injustice and discrimination. Do check it out, and give Beverly Garland a peek in 1957’s Decoy while you’re at it.

https://thestilettogumshoe.com/2019/02/06/decoy-retro-tvs-first-woman-with-a-badge/

 

Some Vintage ‘Stiletto Gumshoes’

Klassik Komix Holywood Detective Front

Mini-Komix’ (or is it Klassik Komix?) Hollywood Detective is a 100-page trade paperback combining several Dan Turner – Hollywood Detective stories (most of which I already had in other compilations or pulp reprints) with some relative rarities, including genuine ‘stiletto gumshoes’ from the 1940’s – 50’s. Now I’m no vintage crime comics historian, but I think the non-Dan Turner pieces aren’t from Dan Turner – Hollywood Detective magazines, but from the vintage crime pulp Speed Detective, which included (and actively promoted) a comics section in most issues, including Ray McClelland’s “Gail Ford – Girl Friday” and Gene Leslie’s “Queenie Starr – Glamour Girl Of Hollywood” along with Newt Alfred’s “Ray Hale – News Ace”.

3 Super Detectives

This book includes all of those, plus a “Betty Blake” four page shortie. H. L. Parkhurst’s Betty Blake was a contemporary of Alphonse Barreaux’ Sally The Sleuth, both launched in the Spring of 1934, though Betty only managed to survive for a half dozen appearances while Sally The Sleuth continued (in evolving forms) well into the 1950’s. Additionally, Betty, the daughter of a New York police inspector, somehow managed to keep her clothes on while solving crimes, unlike Sally The Sleuth. I’d tell you more, but Hollywood Detective includes no introduction, back matter, dates, details…nothing. There’s a write-up on this early female detective pulp/comics character from Kevin Burton Smith at the Thrilling Detective site. Check it out.

Gail Ford

For me, the real treats in this slim book are the Gail Ford – Girl Friday story, “Girl Snatchers” (a sample page shown above) and the three Queenie Starr – Glamour Girl Of Hollywood stories. I’d read little snippets here and there about these characters, perhaps seen some random panel art (typically unidentified or credited) at a Tumblr blog, Pinterest or elsewhere. But now I finally got to read a few complete pieces. If you’re into the roots of female detectives, cops, reporters and sundry snoops from the mid-twentieth century, they were a real find.

Queenie Starr

McClelland’s Gail Ford and Leslie’s Queenie Starr (Ms. Starr shown right above) have a bit of the era’s pervy peekaboo Good Girl Art feel to them, no question. Queenie Starr in particular, seems to spend a lot of time posing for cheesecake photos or sunning poolside in a bathing suit…reasonable enough, perhaps for a ‘Hollywood Glamour Girl’. But not unlike Barreaux’ Sally The Sleuth, she spends an inordinate amount of time getting dressed and undressed. Unfortunately for the various Hollywood crooks, schemers and murderers she gets mixed up with, prancing about in negligees or lingerie doesn’t seem to hinder her ability to solve Tinsel Town’s crimes. All in all, quirky retro stuff, but very interesting.

Super Detective May 1950

 

 

Another Writer’s Digest In The Mailbox

Writer's Digest Sept 2019

“Primarily I’m writing to entertain, right?” Karin Slaughter, bestselling author of a book a year since 2001, says just that in her interview with Ericka McIntyre in the September 2019 issue of Writer’s Digest magazine. “If I could change the world, with what I’m writing, then I would write very different books.” Still, she explains that there are things in her books that go beyond storytelling, issues she hopes readers will confront, things she’d like men to know about women, experiences she’d like to validate for female readers. But this is only a brief part of the three-page interview (with more online at writersdigest.com). Slaughter’s remarks on writing discipline and productivity are particularly worth noting, considering that her book-a-year output has added up to over 120 million copies sold in 37 languages.

I was pleased to see the new issue of Writers Digest magazine in my mailbox, keeping my fingers crossed that the financial woes which recently took down its parent company, F+W Media, are being resolved in a way that enables the magazine to continue publication. I’d really miss WD if it vanished. This September 2019 issue is “The Big Idea Issue”, with interesting articles on “Mastering High Concept”, how to effectively deploy subplots and more. My favorite this issue was Simon Van Body’s “Becoming A Multigenre Master”, with some guidance on how to work concurrently on multiple projects in completely different genres. I have no burning desire to pen a western or a steampunk romance, but there are times when I’d consider starting something outside my usual areas of interest, perhaps even something measurably ‘steamier’ than I’m what currently doing, even if only for fun or self-publication. “The many voices that make you up but which cannot be reconciled into one single voice all the time can most definitely be channeled into different ways of telling stories,” Van Body assures writers, sounding so certain in his article that I might just be tempted to give it a try.

Amber Blake

Amber Blake 1 Variant Cover

Headlines about billionaires engaged in sex trafficking and rampant abuse of underage girls make a comics series feel all too uncomfortably real. Case in point: IDW Publishing’s current Amber Blake series, written by Jade Lagardere and drawn by Butch Guice, with inking, coloring and lettering assistance by Mike Perkins, Christa Miesner, Robbie Robbins and Dan Brown.

Only a toddler, Amber’s left on a bleak orphanage’s doorstep. Several years later, she and bestie Amanda are given the chance to live in one of billionaire Arnav Aslam’s Cleverland institutions: Opulent, state of the art living and educational campuses located around the world and intended to gather together gifted youngsters in order to cultivate the next generation of leaders in the arts, sciences, business, government and technology. But even in Cleverland hallowed halls, Amber and Amanda are forced to endure the evil headmaster’s abuse, and after graduation, Amber vows to get her revenge. Three issues in, Amber Blake finds herself enlisted as an agent of a secret paramilitary/espionage organization, which she embraces in order to track the elusive headmaster, only to discover that she’s being used and that the head of the organization is none other than her presumed benefactor, Arnav Aslam, whose billions can buy more than power.

 

Amber Blake is another in an expanding number of magazine-sized comics series, blending some taut action sequences with a bit of suspense, a dash of romance and an overall thought provoking storyline that feels, in part, ripped right form current headlines (though obviously it was written months and months ago). Amber herself is determined and capable, tough but vulnerable, and definitely not a superhero, which is refreshing. I’m looking for to the next issues. Check it out.

 

This Is A Stickup.

A Half Interest In Murder 1960 raymond johnson cover copy

I’ve never been a victim of a crime. Not really. Not violent crime, at any rate.

Our home was broken into twice when I was a teenager, our garage on another occasion. Such is life in the city. Fresh out of college, my nifty new car was stolen, found two months later in a snowbank in rural Indiana, stripped and vandalized. A few years later, my workplace was broken into, once in the city with some professional camera gear stolen, and once again when out in the suburbs, some computer equipment taken and needless vandalism done, the crooks probably kids since they only stole whatever was closest to the door and left all the valuable stuff behind. That time the suburban police ‘invited’ everyone at work to be fingerprinted, which was actually pretty interesting. (They were investigating a string of break-ins in the area, but nothing ever came of it.) I’ve had SE European ID thieves whack both a company charge card and a personal credit card on separate occasions, with lots of charges rung up quickly, none of which I was responsible for.

But I’ve never had a gun pointed at me, never been mugged or assaulted, stalked or abused, thank God. The incidents listed above barely qualify me to claim that I’ve been a crime victim for a jury duty voir dire (though it did get me out of sitting on a jury once…whew).

So, this hardly qualifies as a ‘crime’, but…

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Check out Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog (link below) and his 7.11.19 post “Copyright Infringement, Again!”. The excellent “Reader-Writer-Resources-& More” blog featured a post from poet Kevin Morris’ K Morris – Poet blog (link below) about Kiss Library (kisslibrary.net). Morris occasionally browses online to see if his work has appeared anywhere or snagged a review, which I suspect many of us do. He was shocked to discover one of his titles for sale on Kiss Library — for which he never granted permission, listed the title, uploaded files, or will receive any payment. Browsing further about Kiss Library, he uncovered (not surprisingly) posts and articles which seemed to indicate that the site was, at best, questionable, accused of listing pirated eBooks and PDF downloads. Morris’ post provides a link to Sara F. Hawkins – Attorney At Law’s site (link below) and then Dale Cameron Lowry’s site (again, link below) for more info about Kiss Library, the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and the pretty complex process an author or publisher can pursue to attempt to get an ISP to remove illegally appropriated content. Follow the links, read up on it, but I’m sure you’ll agree: It ain’t easy.

K Morris - Poet Blog

I’ve read quite a bit lately about pirated content being sold on Amazon in particular, and the frustration authors and publishers – large and small alike—have with the online behemoth’s failure to police things better. We read about them so much because they’re so big. Clearly there may be others. Intrigued, I went to Kiss Library myself, and plugged in a prior pen name of mine.

Sure enough, two books popped up, both for sale as eBooks and downloadable PDF’s. I’d never even heard of Kiss Library, and definitely never listed any books there, authorized them to sell my work, or received a notice or payment from them. Basically, they were stolen, if not by the site, then by someone stealing the content and cover art images and listing them at Kiss Library.

Bottom line: Theft. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Dale Cameron Lowry

Sarah F Hawkins

“The Stiletto Gumshoe” — the first completed novel, its halfway completed sequel and a hoped-for noirishly hard-boiled P.I. series — are my current projects. But I’m not entirely new to writing or publishing, though hardly a seasoned pro. Working under a pen name, I’ve had a number of short stories published in chapbooks, zines, magazines and anthologies, each of which snagged darn good reviews along with payment commensurate with those kinds of venues. I’ve had three novels published by a small press. One sold out its first and second printing and was an award nominee. The other two sold out their print runs, and one of them sold foreign rights (though only for one country). All garnered excellent reviews which I’m still quite proud of. But like many small presses, that one disbanded. Nonetheless, I made respectable money, sold around 10,000 copies altogether, held onto my reviews, and some time later, put two of those novels out on my own, even able to access the original cover art files for one of the books, creating new art for the other. (Doesn’t hurt to work in the marcom profession for the day job and have all the proper software for building cover art, formatting text, etc.) Both books went up as eBooks and POD hard copy editions at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I don’t ‘market’ or promote them, had no expectations of selling many, but just didn’t want cherished early work that I was still proud of to simply vanish. So, every couple of months I get a direct deposit or two, enough to buy a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny’s or to feel less guilty when I splurge at a bookstore. And for me, that’s good enough.

As for Kiss Library? The two books listed there as of 7.11.19 were both the reformatted editions of my own, not the original small press publisher’s versions, selling for $5.97 and $5.86 US (the cheapskates). I read that Kiss Library is located in The Republic Of Belarus (formerly Byelorussia) sandwiched between Poland, Lithuania and Russia (Minsk is the capital, if that helps the geographically challenged). However, on its site, it lists its location in Canada. I screen-capped the page with my two books, so I have a record of that. But when I returned to the site on 7.13.19, they were gone, with no info appearing by title or author searches.

Think I should’ve ordered one of each to see what I actually would receive? Oh sure, like I’m going to hand over credit card info to what may be a questionable pirated content site. I’ll pass.

But the point of this lengthy link-filled post is this: Clearly some of the visitors and followers of this blog are writers. I’ll bet you periodically search your own work online (and if you say you don’t, I say you’re fibbing). Keep an eye out for Kiss Library. If you feel brave, pop over to see if your work appears there. And keep an eye out in general for pirated content everywhere.

Hopefully C. J. Thomas’ The Stiletto Gumshoe series will sell at some point (and soon, I say with fingers crossed) and not just to some micro-publisher. But who knows what may occur, or if I’ll find myself buried in Adobe Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat files again,  formatting my work for Amazon, B&N and elsewhere. But if I do, I’m sure as hell going to keep an eye out for crooks. And I do plan to revisit Kiss Library once in a while to see what’s up or if my titles mysteriously reappear.

Multiple links below…

Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog:

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/10519297/posts/2341125149

Kevin Morris’ kmorris – Poet Blog:

https://kmorrispoet.com/2019/07/11/copyright-infringement-again/

Sara F. Hawkins – Attorney At Law Blog (How To File A DMCA Take Down Notice):

https://sarafhawkins.com/how-to-file-dmca-takedown/

Dale Cameron Lowry’s Blog:

https://www.dalecameronlowry.com/piracy-alert-seller-stealing-books-kisslibrary-com/

Illustration at the top: Raymond Johnson’s illustration for A Half Interest in Murder, 1960

 

Cruel Summer

criminal number six cover

Issue number five of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ always magnificent Criminal commences a new storyline called “Cruel Summer, apparently planned from the very beginning of the Criminal series. It opens here with private investigator Dan Farraday’s pickup lines rebuffed by an attractive single woman in a hotel lounge. When she cautiously relents, we discover that this ‘Jane Hanson’ is actually Marina Kelly, the very woman Farraday’s been hired to locate. Things don’t go precisely as planned with the hotel bar pickup, any more than Farraday’s investigation did, but then this is an Ed Brubaker story, so of course things don’t go precisely as planned. Evidently, issues six and seven will switch gears and zero in on other familiar Criminal characters, notably Teeg Lawless, before bringing things back full circle with Farraday and Marina. Phillips’ art is brilliant, as always. Brubaker’s script doesn’t exhibit one wasted word that I can see. Like every issue of Criminal before, I’m hungering for the next installment the moment I close the comic’s back cover. Phillips’ cover art for that issue – Issue Number Six – is shown above.

Like most (all?) issues of Criminal, this one includes excellent extras, here a roundtable discussion on crime fiction (and media) series characters with Ed Brubaker, Jason Starr, Alex Segura and Sara Gran. Heck, even if you didn’t care for crime comics, the issue’s worth buying for that alone.

criminal number 6

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