Friday, February 28, 2014

New Department: Cribbed From Crider Mystery Scene #3

FFB: A Forgotten Magazine Issue -- Mystery Scene, Volume 1, Number 2

A few days ago I got an e-mail from someone who used to attend our writing workshops at Alvin Community College. She'd been going through some old magazines and had run across a copy of Mystery Scene Volume 1, Number 2,postmarked December, 1985.  She said she'd opened it up and seen my article on selling the first book in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series and wondered if I'd like to have the magazine.  You're durn tootin' I would.

I hadn't seen the magazine in years nearly 30 years.  My copy is in deep storage somewhere in the depths of the Cushing Library at Texas A&M University if they haven't given it away.  So naturally I jumped at the chance to see it again.  As soon as it dropped through the mail slot here at Casa de Crider, I tore open the envelope and started turning the pages.  Holy galloping nostalgia, Batman!  It was overwhelming.

For one thing, there's Ellen Nehr's "Murder Ad Lib" column, which includes an interview with Barbara Michaels and Ellen's reviews.  Ellen was a fan right down to the soles of her white tennis shoes and a unique personality. I feel a little sorry for the generations of mystery readers and fans who've come along since her passing and never known her (and her eccentric spelling, sadly absent in the column, thanks to the editors).  She also has a letter in the issue, informing executive editor Ed Gorman that quiche was served at the PWA luncheon at the Bouchercon (which was in San Francisco that year).  "Bill Pronzini was so embarrassed that he grabbed his passport and left for two weeks in England.  Can you blame him?"

William Campball Gault has a report on the Bouchercon, and he writes about running into pulpster and western writer Tommy Thompson in the lobby of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel.  Thompson had no idea that there was a convention in the hotel.  He was there with his wife to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary.  So, Gault says, he and Thompson "sat in the lobby and dreamed back, boats against the current. . . .  Someone has said recently that nostalgia ain't what it used to be; it is to old pulp writers."  To me, too, and I'm sorry I wasn't in on that conversation.  I was at the convention, and I did get to spend a good bit of time with Gault.  A great guy, and I'd have loved to meet Thompson.

There's a wonderful interview with Knox Burger conducted by Jon White (it first appeared in Paperback Forum, a publication that I also gave to Texas A&M).  Burger reminisces about his days as an editor at Gold Medal and Dell.  Great stuff, just great.  "There was another guy from that time, a wonderful guy, a madman, but very entertaining and a good writer, named William Campbell Gault.  He was a fiesty little guy."  Hmmm.  Where have I heard that name before?

Ed Gorman's article on Dean Koontz calls Koontz "America's most successful least-known-writer."  Geez, could 1985 have been that long ago?  It's hard even to imagine a time when Koontz could've been called a "least-known-writer."

Max Allan Collins has a movie column, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's readhis blog.  He was already and established writer, as the ad in the issue indicates. Barry Gifford writes about discovering Jim Thompson.  And there's a lot more.  Reading this issue was like opening a time capsule, and I wallowed in nostagia for . . . well, I guess I still am.  Wow.  Where are the snows of yesteryear?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Backlist Spotlight: The Georgia Davis PI Series Libby Fischer Hellman

Backlist Spotlight: The Georgia Davis PI Series

Backlist Spotlight: The Georgia Davis PI Series

Hi, again. In the third Ellie Foreman mystery, I introduced Georgia Davis, who at the time of that book, was a cop. She is as different from Ellie as you could get. While Ellie would love to go out for lunch and spill TMI, Georgia doesn’t want to go out to lunch with you. She’s reserved, cautious, and has a lot of baggage. Still, she’s strett-smart, brave, and has an incorruptible sense of justice, and I knew one day she was going to have her own novel. I just had to wait for the right story.

Easy Innocence, my fifth novel was that story. When we find Georgia, she is no longer a police officer (as you’ll discover in An Image of Death). She’s hung out her shingle as a PI, and in her first big case, she investigates the murder of a high school girl during a hazing incident. Along the way, she crosses xxx with a crooked real estate developer, but more importantly, she discovers just how far teen girls will go for approval from their peers. Easy Innocence won the Readers Choice Award for Best PI Novel.
In Doubleback, Georgia and Ellie team up after the kidnapping of a young girl triggers a series of deadly events. From the opening scene in an elevator, which some have called the “tensest first chapter ever,” to the explosive conclusion on the Arizona border, Doubleback is a combination mystery and thriller. The novel was the "Great Lakes Great Read" Autumn Pick in 2009.    
ToxiCity , the Georgia Davis prequel, takes place ten years before Easy Innocence, when Georgia was a rookie cop. Three bodies turn up in quick succession--all of them dumped in waste disposal dumpsters or landfills. Officer Georgia Davis, her boyfriend detective, and his partner team up to investigate and find much more than they bargained for.

The fourth Georgia Davis thriller should be out in late 2014 or early 2015.

A few reviews:

“Hellmann brings to life the reality of hazing and bullying among teenage girls in a story with enough twists and turns to keep you reading to the end. Highly recommended.”
—Library Journal (starred review)

“Just what’s needed in a mystery… Depth of characterization sets this new entry apart from a crowded field.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Libby Hellmann can get into the mind of a character, whether the character is a mentally ill man or a teenage girl. PI Georgia Davis, the no-nonsense heart of this tale… finds a darkness I didn’t see coming. This is good stuff, very good stuff.”
—Stuart M. Kaminsky, Grand Master, Mystery Writers of America

“There’s a new no-nonsense female private Detective in town: Georgia Davis, a former cop who is tough and smart enough to give even the legendary V.I. Warshawski a run for her money…”
 —Chicago Tribune

“Hellmann’s done her homework here and it shows: the writing is assured, the voices authentic…Davis’s arrival on the mean streets is long overdue.”
—Sara Paretsky, author of the V.I. Warshawski series

Click here for more reviews and excerpts.

an eloquent, moving tribute to harold ramis from the great ken levine


My thoughts on Harold Ramis

I wonder if he knew. Harold Ramis passed away yesterday and the internet tom toms are ablaze with tributes and an outpouring of love from his many fans. I wonder if he realized how beloved he was and how much his work meant to so many people. Our paths never crossed. I never met him. But the sense I get is that he didn’t.

Other names garnered way more attention. John Hughes. Judd Apatow. The Ferrelly Brothers. But in his quiet, unassuming way Harold Ramis was a giant who contributed to some of the finest screen comedy of the last half-century. From MEATBALLS to ANIMAL HOUSE to GHOSTBUSTERS to STRIPES to CADDYSHACK to one of the great romcoms of all-time, GROUNDHOG DAY – Ramis either co-wrote, directed, and acted in all of them. Wow. Even just one of those credits would be enough to lift someone up to the top of the comedy pantheon.

I always loved Harold Ramis comedies. He had this amazing ability to mix broad outlandish comedy with real emotional moments. No matter how absurd and extreme his scenarios could be, there was always an underlying layer of humanity. The goal was to make you laugh, not shock you. He was never mean-spirited.

His comedies were always smart, even when they were silly. And you got the sense he had great affection for his characters – all of his characters – even the gopher.

Screenwriters and directors of today’s screen comedies could take a lesson from Harold Ramis. When I compare them, the current crop don’t have the inspired lunacy, underlying themes, and playfulness of Ramis' fare. He had been sick for several years. I wondered what had happened to him. I’d see one of these current forced slapdash formula comedies and hope he’d someday make his return.

There was no one like him. And it’s our great loss.  When you want a classic new comedy, now who are you gonna call…?

RIP Harold Ramis.  If they remake GHOSTBUSTERS (and there is talk of that), I hope you'll play one of the ghosts.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 Death By Accident (Dan Rhodes Mysteries) eBook: Bill Crider: Kindle Store:

Finally Available as an e-Book!

 Death By Accident (Dan Rhodes Mysteries) eBook: Bill Crider: Kindle Store: Texas Sheriff Dan Rhodes' cases usually concern the bad boys of rural Blacklin County, or the slightly wacky citizens who are causing trouble that tends to be funny rather than criminal. But although at first the dead man floating in the old swimming pool at the edge of town seems to have been an accident victim — a staggering drunk tumbling into the water — Rhodes and his small but colorful staff soon uncover murder. It's the second strange death in two weeks (the other was that of John West, killed when he blew up carrying a gasoline can across a field). But where was the Cherokee wagon John was carrying the gas to? And why is his widow so jaunty? West was a solid citizen; Pep Yeldell, the swimming pool decedent, was a man with many enemies. In his quiet way, Rhodes goes about looking for a connection and a killer — a quest that takes Rhodes, no athlete now in spite of his wife's efforts to keep him on a diet of little meat and lots of greens, up a tree and puts him at the mercy of a vicious killer.

Forgotten Books: Stranger at Home by Leigh Brackett


Leigh Brackett

Way back in the Fifties I read one half of an Ace Double mystery novel called Stranger At Home. I really took to it. The writing was swift, dramatic, elegant. Supposedly it was written by the actor George Sanders. But even in my early teens, clueless as I was, I just assumed he hadn't written it. I'd read here and there about "ghosted" books.

The real writer turned out to be Leigh Brackett. I've mentioned this novel before because it's a fine whodunit set in the Hwood of the late Forties. For its time it's a blunt novel. Not even the protagonist Michael Vickers is much of a hero. The story centers on Vickers returning from the dead--one of his three friends (or maybe all of them) pushed him off the boat they were sailing on). Drunk, he nearly drowned. But he survived to return a few years later to find out what had happened to him that drunken night. He doesn't have amnesia, he just can't recall the moment he was pushed off the boat.

For years there were rumors that Brackett had farmed the book out but I don't think so. The writing is purely hers. Those sweeping sentences, those atmospherics, those bitter unhappy people. You find them in her science fantasy, her westerns, her mysteries. If there's an influence here it's Raymond Chandler, one of her idols. The difference is that Vickers, unlike Philip Marlowe, doesn't observe everything at one remove. He goes through the novel trying to find the culprit--and learning in the process what an arrogant ruthless bastard he was to those around him.

The book opens on a party scene that I'd out up against any party scene I've encountered in fiction short of Gatsby. Brackett must have known a lot of drunks because she gets them down just right.

This is a book that should be brought back and put on the Brackett shelf. It's one of her finest novels.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Interesting Take on One of The Greatest Noirs

Richard Widmark as Harry Fabian from Night and the City

Harry Fabian from Night and the City: Friend or Foe?

Richard Widmark as Harry Fabian from Night and the City: would you befriend this guy?
About my relationships with fake people:
I have good friends and bad friends.  And worse friends.   They fill different needs in my life – people to encourage me, people I’m glad to know but even gladder not to be, and people I end up not liking whatsoever.   These are all people I have some connection to, something in common with, even when they do something I would never do.  
When I watch crime, noir, or thriller movies, I often wonder if I would have found myself in the same situation as the protagonist.  Would I have made the same decisions—usually mistakes—as the protagonist?  Would I have believed the charismatic villain?  How much of a patsy am I?  Would this guy have been my friend?
Examine Harry Fabian in Jules Dassin’s 1950 noir, Night and the City, (based on novel by Gerald Kersh) played by Richard Widmark.  Here’s a guy who cheats and lies and steals. He hurts everyone around him. But he’s trying, always trying, even if it means failure.  And it always, always does.  There are hundreds of things I never follow through on for fear of failure, or a belief that it’s too complicated to pull off.  I have stacks of bar napkins with really good, beer-fueled ideas, but I do nothing with them.  Harry doesn’t have the same laziness.  Instead he’s mostly all talk, aggressively so. 
But dammit, I like the guy.  Here’s someone that exists among the scum of the city.  His cohorts are low-class swindlers, forgers, and frauds.  His enemies are well-groomed, powerful men with crisp British accents and sinister names like Kristo and Fergus Chilk.  And Fergus Chilk is just the bad guy’s lawyer!  But he never judges any of these people—not even the ones trying to kill him. Harry may act irresponsibly and rashly, but he’s always keenly aware of what the responsibilities of failure are.  And that’s pretty honorable, I have to say.   
for the rest go here: