Delayed Gratification

Crime Fiction

Pestering local bookstore clerks is becoming a hobby. Maybe the owners are pleased, but I think the staff behind the register cringe when I start to pull out my notes, printouts and crumpled scraps of paper with lists of books I’m after. Hey, it’s not my fault they don’t – or won’t – have everything I want. Here’s a few of the mystery/crime fiction titles just ordered or reserved, whether they’ll be in-hand in a few days or, in some cases, not till January (!):

Crime Fiction – A Reader’s Guide (above) by Barry Forshaw, which has been teasing me from multiple blogs, sites and e-newsletters and will finally be on my bookshelves where it belongs. I special ordered the UK edition, since the US book won’t be out till Summer 2020, and I don’t think I can wait.

Under Occupation

Under Occupation by Alan Furst, whose books you can consider military fiction, espionage novels or WWII-era thrillers. Screw the categories. I’ve never missed one of his novels, and none have let me down.

Script For Scandal

Script For Scandal by Renee Patrick, the third Lilian Frost & Edith Head Mystery. ‘Renee Patrick’ is actually the husband and wife team of Vince and Rosemarie Keenan, Vince being the new editor of the Film Noir Foundation’s Noir City magazine.

The Sundown Motel

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James. What I’ve read online has me drooling. This is one of those books I’d surely impulse buy for the cover art alone, so I’m glad I read about it, just in case I never spotted it on shelf in a store.

Shamus Dust 2

Shamus Dust by Janet Roger…another beautiful cover that’s a real credit to the graphic designer (sometimes subtle is best). Oh, and a nod to the author for her handsome and chock-full-of-stuff website/blog at janetroger.com. That’s one heck of an author site! Check it out.

Janet Roger Com

We’ll skip the non-mystery/crime fiction books ordered or reserved. But I do read other things, y’know)

“A Dame And A Shamus”

By Tony Mangerie - Kidnapped Poster

“Yep, I’m a dame and a shamus, but I didn’t start this way…”

So begins the introduction to photographer Tony Mangerie’s 2014 film noir homage with model Ariel Arielita Fulmer, assisted by Gigi McMillan and Melissa Franklin. See all the photos for yourself, and read Mangerie’s accompanying text at the photographer’s site, tonymangerie.com.

By Tony Mangerie 1By Tony Mangerie 2By Tony Mangerie 3

EQMM: An October Anniversary

llery Queen Mystery Magazine May 1957

Not quite eighty yet, but damn close. Crime Reads’ 10.1.19 masthead notes that Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine’s first issue debuted 78 years ago this week on October 1, 1941. Technically it was titled Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine then, losing the ”’s” in 1991, I think.

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine January 1966

The pseudonymous writing team of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee who’d been publishing under the pen name “Ellery Queen” since 1929 had already tried and failed with one magazine in 1933: Mystery League. Still determined to give the reigning crime fiction pulps some high-quality competition, they gave it another go in 1941, and this time things clicked. That first issue with seven short stories, including pieces by Dashiell Hammett and Cornell Woolrich, sold 90,000 copies. Helmed primarily by Dannay, who continued as editor till his death in 1982, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine started out as a quarterly, then bi-monthly, and went monthly in 1946.

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine 2

I recently took a chance on an Ebay mixed lot of EQMM back issues, the buy-now price not much more than the big box’s postage. I’ve been burned and burned bad a couple times on Ebay, and yes, a few went in the trash, too demolished or mildewed to hold onto. But I still ended up with an assortment of issues from the 1950’s through the 1990’s, and will probably try my luck again soon. And I usually buy the current issues, edited by Janet Hutchings for almost thirty years now. Sure, I like some issues better than others, but I’ve never had one that disappointed, and consider nearly 200 digest-sized pages with that wonderfully tactile and nostalgic newsprint paper for a mere $7.99 a genuine bargain.

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine December 1951

From that first issue that sold for two-bits 78 years ago with Hammett and Woolrich, consider some of the talent that’s appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine over the years: Jorge Luis Borges, Agatha Christie, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Patricia Highsmith, Stephen King, W. Somerset Maugham, David Morrell, Manly Wade Wellman, P.G. Wodehouse…oh, and Phyllis Diller (seriously). To say nothing of how many incredible emerging talents who got their first major credit in EQMM. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine is now the longest running mystery fiction magazine, and has teamed up with Black Mask to include that publication’s material in each issue as well. I’ve never submitted, and doubt that I ever will, but you can call me a fan, ‘cuz I truly am. 78 years is quite a legacy.

Elery Queen Mystery Magazine

Grande’s Got A Gun

Ariana Grande Complex 1

I’d be fibbing if I claimed to know a lot about singer/songwriter/actress Ariana Grande, other than knowing she’s a major pop star, and had a long run playing endearing and quirky Cat Valentine on Nickelodeon’s Victorious and then on Sam & Cat before mega-stardom beckoned. Hey, I’m not pop culture-clueless, y’know.

But all it takes is a purse-sized pistol and trenchcoat to turn any celebrity – even the adorable ones – into a noir-ish femme fatale or ‘stiletto gumshoe’, and here’s Grande doing just that for Complex magazine (from 2013, I think).

Ariana Grande Complex 3Ariana Grande Complex 4Ariana Grande Complex 2Complex Magazine Cover

Reel Murders

The Big Book Of Reel Murders

I haven’t ordered mine yet (it’s pouring today and I’m not up to racing through rainstorms to get from my car to the bookstore) but I will on Monday, the book not out till late October anyway (seen online) or as late as November (per Publisher’s Weekly): The Big Book Of Reel MurdersStories That Inspired Great Crime Films by the master of all things mystery, Otto Penzler. It looks like another Vintage Crime/Black Lizard door-stopper from the maestro, at 1,200 pages and with over sixty mystery and crime fiction short stories that have been adapted to the big screen. From the descriptions, there are some of the usual suspects like Cornell Woolrich, Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dashiell Hammett and Robert Bloch, alongside some more surprising entries like Budd Schulberg’s 1954 “Murder On The Waterfront”, the inspiration for Elia Kazan’s On The Waterfront (Schulberg also wrote the screenplay). These jumbo Penzler anthologies are books you sort of live with for a while, diving into a few eager-to-read or re-read stories right away, then revisiting again and again over a few weeks till finished, which sounds to me like a darn good way to spend the late Autumn.

Not The Blue Dahlia Or The Black Dahlia: A White Orchid.

White Orchid 4

I don’t know if the Humphrey Bogart Estate sponsoring its debut at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, or even having Bogie’s son Stephen Bogart as one of the executive producers provides a new neo-noir film with some type of implicit ‘Noir Imprimatur’. But those credentials can’t hurt. Even so, writer/director Steve Anderson’s 2019 White Orchid, starring indie darling Olivia Thirlby, owes more to Otto Preminger’s Laura, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo or perhaps Brian DePalma’s Body Double and Dressed To Kill than it does to The Maltese Falcon or Dead Reckoning.

White Orchid might be considered a so-called ‘erotic thriller’, a 21stcentury take on that 1980’s-1990’s era direct-to-video/DVD/cable sub-genre. If so, the ‘erotic’ is more a matter of mood than explicit sex scenes. The film dials up the suspense, but does so without car chases, gunplay, explosions or bloodshed. It is sexy, but in a very intimate way, and aside from some brief dance floor grinding, a frenzied bit of groping in the back of a taxi and some intriguing business going on behind the closing credits, the effect is sensual more than sexual, all part of the film’s stylish atmosphere.

White Orchid 2

Always reliable freelance investigator Claire Decker (Olivia Thirlby) reluctantly accepts an unusual case from Social Services bureaucrat Jennifer Beals, for whom she normally ID’s the elderly who’ve died alone, or tracks down the deceased’s survivors so their estates can be settled. Claire’s really, really good at what she does, better than Beals’ own staff, in fact. But this time she’s assigned to investigate a high-profile murder, “The White Orchid”: A beautiful stranger whose body was found on sleepy waterfront resort town Morro Bay’s beach. Shot dead. Decapitated. Her hands and feet removed. The murder scene’s become a morbid shrine, rabid true crime enthusiasts lurk everywhere and local teens prank the victim’s house. There, all of her things remain, right down to the vases of white orchids. The local police resent Claire’s intrusion but grudgingly cooperate, even giving her unfettered access to the dead woman’s home.

White Orchid 7

No-nonsense Claire Decker favors sensible clothes, drives a sensible car and is unencumbered by anything that could be called a social life. Focused, patient and methodical, she quickly uncovers clues overlooked by the police. Convinced there was something more sinister than mere murder involved, Claire becomes increasingly intrigued by the victim herself. Bit by bit, intrigue turns into obsession, till Claire’s actually seduced by her subject, drawn to the White Orchid’s vintage roadster and plushly furnished seaside abode, the closets of designer apparel and drawers full of luxurious lingerie.

Oh, and a hidden stash of cash. A lot of cash. Clearly the murder victim had some secrets…if she even was who the police think she was.

White Orchid 1

Convinced she’s figured things out, Claire effectively becomes the White Orchid, telling herself it’s only to unmask a killer when she masquerades in the woman’s clothes and wigs. But in fact, she’s fully succumbed to this obsession with a dead woman…or with the woman who impersonated the victim. Or withwell, who knows? Frankly, we’re not certain. What is evident is that Claire’s antics put her in danger and get her in deep trouble with the local law. A climactic meeting between Claire and the stunning femme fatale behind it all is less an investigator interrogating a suspect and more of a mutual seduction that practically steams up the screen. But White Orchid still has one more trick up its sleeve with a nifty gotcha ending any savvy noir enthusiast should’ve seen coming.

Confession time: I didn’t.

White Orchid 3

I’m not saying White Orchid is Oscar material. There’s a bit of peekaboo voyeurism at play, even it’s there to tell the story. There are some red herrings and narrative threads left unresolved, but I’ll bet the original shooting script made things a bit clearer and some film ended up on the cutting room floor with bits and pieces that filled in various holes. That Claire Decker is a reserved, intellectual, non-social sort who’s intrigued by the flamboyant, sexually adventurous ‘White Orchid’ is one thing. That this sensible loner would play dress-up in the dead woman’s own things is another that could use some explaining. At least Thirlby’s Claire Decker learns that there’s much more to being a femme fatale than donning a costume. The makeup, wigs and saucy lingerie might seduce the mousy investigator into some risky behavior and make her feel like she’s someone else. But in the end, Claire’s still who she is, just as the real femme fatale is who she is. And she really is fatal. Both characters resume their appropriate roles by the film’s end.

White Orchid is the kind of dreamy neo-noir that’s content to play with the viewer a bit, and frankly, I didn’t mind at all, perfectly pleased to follow Olivia Thirlby’s well-acted transition from slightly nerdy loner to obsessive curiosity seeker to fetching femme fatale. I don’t know what path contemporary ‘erotic thrillers’ ought to take, or if that genre (if it even is one) still has a place in today’s culture. But if it does, White Orchid isn’t an entirely bad place to start to reinvent a particular subset of neo-noir.

 

Stumptown: And So It Begins.

Stumptown

And so it begins: A new Fall television season, this time with some real treats. Batwoman, the new Nancy Drew series, and ABC’s Stumptown for starters. It’d be easy to distrust a broadcast network to adapt a hard-boiled graphic novel properly, but any advance word I’ve noticed online about Stumptown sounds optimistic. I’m rarely watching television at 9:00 PM CST, much less a broadcast channel. But I’ll be there tonight to check this out, fingers crossed. Oline Cogdill weighs in on Stumptown at Mystery Scene magazine’s website (link below). As this piece says upfront, the show “has the kind of crime fiction pedigree that’s been missing from TV for several years”. I mean, it’s Greg Rucka, after all.

Rucka’s Dex Parios was a damn fine creation, flawed but heroic in her way. Cobie Smulders’ resume may be dominated by a sitcom, but I’m betting she’s going to be fine. Cogdill said, “Brash and often out of control, Dex is the kind of character seen more on cable shows than a mainstream network. I am looking forward to that edgy character and I have high hopes as Rucka’s source material is solid”. The few stills and set shots I’ve seen may look a little lighter than the dark, crooked Portland I’d envision, but again, lets see the show.

Fingers crossed…

https://mysteryscenemag.com/article/6594-greg-rucka-s-stumptown-comes-to-tv

Mystery Scene #161

mystery sceneAlways a treat to find the new Mystery Scene in my mailbox, even when the stack of books on my to-be-read end table is overflowing (and it really is). The issue offered up its always reliable mix of new, retro and unusual topics and didn’t disappoint…but, does it ever? Some highlights:

Bulldog drummond books

Michael Mallory’s Bulldog Drummond was a treat. News to me that there’d been around two dozen Bulldog Drummond films released between 1922 and 1969. I’ve only seen one, probably waking up on the couch in the wee hours with my hand on the remote tuned to some oddball channel. I can’t even remember for sure which one it was at that. Adventurer and investigator Bulldog Drummond was created by British Army officer Herman Cyril McNeile, who wrote under the pen name “Sapper” (British Army regulations prohibiting service members from using their real names for fiction publication) with ten Bulldog Drummond novels published between 1920 and 1937. Gerard Fairlie and then Henry Raymond continued the series from 1938 through 1969.

Ray Milland Bulldog Drummond 2

John B. Valeri’s piece on reporter turned writer Alex Segura and his Pete Fernandez private eye series was a real teaser, opening with a Segura quote, “I like to keep readers on their toes. I like to pull the rug out from under them…”, and then closing with something to keep fans alert. Segura may be following up his fifth Pete Fernandez private eye novel, Miami Midnight (2019) with something quite different and soon. “While he’s a bit cagey about the details, (Segura) does drop a few tantalizing clues as to what readers can expect: A non-PI female lead, a different time period and a murder. Beyond that, all bets are off.” Well, here’s betting I’ll be watching closely for something like this from Mr. Segura, and it can’t come to soon.

The most unusual piece was Craig Sisterson’s “Found In Translation” a five pager looking closely at mystery/crime fiction work translated to English and vice-versa, but more specifically, talking to the translators themselves. Though I’m currently hard at work – and more or less working from scratch — on launching a particular project (can you guess…”The Stiletto Gumshoe”), I’m not actually a newbie to the writing/publishing racket…more like reinventing myself. But under a prior pen name, my second novel sold the foreign rights. It was only one market, but hey, the check cashed just fine. I can’t write or speak a single word of that particular language, so I’ve always wondered how well they did with the slang and vernacular. Sisterson’s article drives home what an art quality translations really are.

 

Terry Beatty’s Ms. Tree

Deadly Beloved Art

Artist Terry Beatty’s work for Ms. Tree, the pioneering 1980’s woman detective character he co-created along with writer Max Allan Collins. Shown above, the cover illustration for Collins’ Hard Case Crime standalone 2007 Ms. Tree paperback novel Deadly Beloved.

 

 

 

 

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