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If You Don’t – This Happens!
Pardon the slide into politics, but… British man found guilty of trying to steal Magna Carta. Guess he needed the Senate behind him…
And photos of a library to make you drool: Inside the ‘Vibrant Intellectual Ecosystem’ of Larry McMurtry’s Home Library:
After a night at the cinema in 1986, Olof Palme was assassinated on Stockholm’s busiest street. The killer has never been found. Jan Stocklassa discusses whether novelist Stieg Larsson’s theory can provide any answers.
Words of the Month
ekphrastic: of poetry, words to describe a work of art. (thanks to Says You!, show 2101)
John Le Carre’s acceptance speech upon receiving the Olaf Palme (take the time to read this, it is worth it!)
Nominees for the 2020 Barry Awards have been announced. You can find them here. We don’t recall if they’ve done this before but, at the bottom, are the nominees for Best of the Decade.
Words of the Month
griffonage: illegible handwriting (thanks to Says You!, show 2101)
March 4: John Straley, Third Place/LFP, 7pm
March 6, John Straley, Powell’s, 7pm
March 6: J.P. Gritton, Third Place/Ravenna, 7pm
March 7: Phillip Margolin, Third Place/Ravenna, 6pm
March 8: Michael Christie, Powell’s, 7:30pm
March 12: Anne Bishop, Powell’s, 7pm
March 13: Emily Beyda, Powell’s, 7:30
March 14: Phillip Margolin, Everett Public Library, 2pm
March 16: Anne Bishop & Patricia Briggs, UBooks, 6:30pm
March 17: Matt Ruff, Elliott Bay, 7pm
March 17: Phillip Margolin, Powell’s, 7pm
March 19: Matt Ruff, Powell’s, 7:30pm
March 23: Jason Pintor, Third Place/Ravenna, 7pm
March 24: Matt Ruff, Third Place/LFP, 7pm
And a sample from the book: How Raymond Chandler and the Tate-LaBianca Murders Inspired the Making of Chinatown
See JB’s section for his review of the book
Other Forms of Fun
Mystery power house Otto Penzler gives his list of the 106 best crime films. You may have quibbles of his rankings as we did (The Fugitive is #54 yet Bullitt is #98?!?) but it’s a fun and informative list. Click on each title to get the skinny!
Words of the Month
foe (n): Old English gefea, gefa “foe, enemy, adversary in a blood feud” (the prefix denotes “mutuality”), from adjective fah “at feud, hostile,” also “guilty, criminal,” from Proto-Germanic *faihaz (source also of Old High German fehan “to hate,” Gothic faih “deception”), perhaps from the same Proto-Indo-European source that yielded Sanskrit pisunah “malicious,” picacah “demon;” Lithuanian piktas “wicked, angry,” peikti “to blame.” Weaker sense of “adversary” is first recorded c. 1600. (etymonline.com)
Links of Interest
February 13: Objects Made by Prisoners in the United States
February 14: The Lancashire hideaway of an Italian mafia boss
February 18: Neanderthal ‘skeleton’ is first found in a decade
February 19: Compassion fatigue is taking its toll on librarians.
February 19: Date night couple foil attempted armed robbery
February 19: The NYT Spelling Bee Gives Me L-I-F-E by Laura Lippman
February 20: How a stolen safe changed a burglar’s life
Kirk Douglas died at the age of 103 on February 5th. There will have been a yuge number of articles about him, his life, career, and personality. They’ll have written about Sparticus and on and on. We’d like to narrow our view to one timeless, classic performance – badman Whit in Jacques Tourneur’s 1947 film noir masterpiece Out of the Past. Along with Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer, the triangle at heart of this clash of love and power is the epitome of noir. If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and see it. ~ JB
February 8: Robert Conrad died at 84. We remember him for his 1959 TV show “Hawaiian Eye” and, with “West, James West”, bringing James Bond to “The Wild, Wild West” in 1965. Great theme song, great opening credits, great train full of gadgets.
February 18: True Grit author Charles Portis dies aged 86
February 23: Walter Satterthwait, dead at 73
February 24: Katherine Johnson: Nasa mathematician dies at 101
February 26: Clive Cussler: Dirk Pitt novels author dies aged 88
Words of the Month
fustigate (v.)”to cudgel, to beat,” 1650s, back-formation from Fustication (1560s) or from Latin fusticatus, past participle of fusticare “to cudgel” (to death), from fustis “cudgel, club, staff, stick of wood,” of unknown origin. De Vaan writes that “The most obvious connection would be with Latin -futare” “to beat,” but there are evolutionary difficulties.
What We’ve Been Up To
Finder of Lost Things
I’m working furiously and I’m nearly finished writing Season Two of Finder of Lost Things! Then comes editing and photography so I’m hoping it will be out in the next month or two! I’ll keep you guys posted.
Golden In Death – J.D. Robb
I’m not going to go into a synopsis of the mystery as this is quite literally the fiftieth installment in the ‘In Death’ series.
Suffice to say there’s a murder in New York and Eve’s on the case.
Despite hitting this landmark installment number, don’t look for this book to get mired in nostalgia for Eve and her crew. Golden In Death is a very mystery-centric story uncluttered by unnecessary parties, conflicts, and dramas (aside from the whole murder thing). All of our favorites Mavis, Leonardo, Trina, and Nadine (and her new rocker boyfriend), Peabody’s family – are all included – but in a nebulous and natural fashion. Giving us just a glimpse of what they’re up too, without losing the momentum of the case at hand.
Even better? The standard boilerplate descriptions of Eve and Roake have been rejiggered and reworked, so they feel fresher to the well-indoctrinated eyes of Eve Dallas fans!
I really enjoyed this book. The mystery is one that I found interesting and relevant to this milestone installment. (Which, truth be told, is the real reason why I didn’t write a synopsis – as I did not want to spoil a single twist in this book!) I thoroughly enjoyed reading each page and stayed up well past my bedtime in order to finish it – as once again – I couldn’t help myself.
BTW – if you haven’t started this series yet, because you’re intimidated by the sheer length and breadth of it, never fear. You can start with this book and be just fine. Though if you want to avoid spoilers and giveaways, I’d suggest going back, after finishing Golden In Death and start with Naked In Death. I know there’s a lot of books in between these two – but having read them all already – you have at least two hours* of fun ahead of you!
(*Which is only a rough estimate as I’ve no clue how long it would take to read this series – and I love you guys – but I’m not going to time myself to find out!)
And the mystery is solved! Do you know who did it?
We first met Stevie Bell in Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious, where we learned about the famous Ellingham Academy – what would you be accepted for? – and the troubles that happened there back in the 30’s. Stevie’s determined to solve the mystery of whatever happened to young Alice Ellingham, but trouble besets her in her current life.
In The Vanishing Stair, things get even more complicated. Stevie’s not even supposed to come back to Ellingham, but fate conspires in her favor. Still, now she has more mysteries to unravel.
Finally, in The Hand on the Wall, Stevie figures things out. But what’s the price? And does she really see a moose?
In this trilogy, Maureen Johnson has created a fabulous homage to the Golden Age mystery writers, especially Agatha Christie, but she’s put a decidedly modern twist on it, and it works perfectly. And of course the Dorothy Parker style poem adds flair! But it takes a special talent to combine the subtle clues and genteelly labyrinthine story with modern day complexities, and there’s no one quite like Maureen Johnson, who takes on this challenge and not only makes it work, but keeps it riveting and thought-provoking.
These are considered young-adult novels, but trust me, you don’t need to be a tween to enjoy this trilogy, and I promise you that you will!
My love of Chandler, my adoration of Chinatown, and my interest in history and true crime smash together in San Wasson’s The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood
The basics of the book are the story of the movie – the initial conception, the years of work to get it in filmable shape, filming, and its reception. But the book is jammed with so much more.
The story told contains the sense of LA at the time, the impact of the Manson murders on LA and Hollywood, where the various participants came from, and how they came together to make this remarkable movie. It then tells the story of the movie making and how each participant moved on from there. And, really, how this was the height of a creative period in Hollywood that was supplanted by the era of the blockbuster and the takeover of the studios by money people interested more in return than film making, than in “art”.
Overall, this is a melancholy book, itself a story that ends badly, like all noir must. There are Robert Towne’s battles to get the thing written and then seeing it overtaken by Polanski. There are Polanski’s experience of horrors – the loss of his mother in Auschwitz and the murder of his wife. There are Robert Evans’ battles with those above him who wanted something different, something better, out of the movies he was producing. There was Nicholson who was dealing with personal nightmares throughout the period and whose dream of a fabled trilogy of Gittes films never came to pass.
But it is a story of lightning in a bottle. That all of these figures came together at this time and managed to create this singular movie is a demonstration of the odds against such a thing happening at all.
Wasson’s book is well crafted and informative, and never fails to surprise and never fails to show the entire period with all of its faults, ugliness, astonishments, and creativity. And, like all true noir, no one leaves the story unmarred. In the end, we are all left with a stunning work of art, a movie that shows what can emerge out of human minds, out of human suffering.
Buy Local ~ Support Local
Okay, here we go. Are you ready?
I’m going to list a series of authors, and you have to match them to the titles of the short story they wrote. The only clue you get is that it all revolves around the band Steely Dan. The anthology is called Die Behind the Wheel, and it was edited by Brian Thornton.
Here we go:
David Corbett Black Cow
Nick Feldman Dirty Work
Bill Fitzhugh Do You Have a Dark Spot on Your Past?
Linda Joffe Hull Green Earrings
R. T. Lawton Haitian Divorce
Cornelia Read Harley Quinn is Dead
Stacy Robinson Home at Last
David Schlosser Josie
Brian Thornton On Your Knees Tomorrow
Sam Wiebe Pretzel Logic
Simon Wood Show Biz Kids
James W. Ziskin Your Gold Teeth
Plus there’s a forward and an introduction, which you really should read, although no one will blame you for jumping into the stories. And let’s face it, the music of Steely Dan just screams crime story, doesn’t it?
Except – and there will be another quiz later on – there’s a second anthology that deals with science fiction topics – A Beast Without A Name, again edited by the wonderful Brian Thornton. Wanna cheat on that one? Buy it now, and then you can smirk at knowing all the answers before the quiz!
And I don’t wanna hear the only refrain, “But I don’t like short stories.” You’ll like these, pinky swear!
Danny Caine on the Transparency and Responsibility of the World’s Largest Bookstore
The retailer once said it would sell “the good, the bad and the ugly.” Now it has banished objectionable volumes — and agreed to erasing the swastikas from a photo book about a Nazi takeover.
From the UK:
To read through our earlier posts on SPECTRE from our old blog, click on that link. The posts started on June 22, 2011 and went to June 21, 2017. Scroll down to the bottom and click on the tiny arrow to move backward through the earlier posts.
Booksellers! Apply for an International Bookselling Fellowship
See the World Through Bookselling Without Borders
Bookselling Without Borders is a global partnership of independent publishers that supports travel to international book fairs and residencies for booksellers. It is currently accepting applications for 2020 fellowships.
BWB connects booksellers to the international book community through all-expenses-paid trips to the world’s premier book fairs. This year, the program is expanding to include the Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair and the Bogotá International Book Fair, in addition to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, the Turin Book Fair, and the Frankfurt Book Fair. Participating booksellers will be treated to customized itineraries of specially developed panels, meetings, seminars, and receptions with publishers, authors, and other booksellers.
Booksellers interested in diverse and international literature and in fostering relationships with the international literary community are encouraged to apply. The application period ends February 16.
Mary Higgins Clark died on the evening of the last day of January, too late to be included in our February newzletter. But that’s ok. She deserves her own post.
Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins was born on Christmas Eve, 1927, in The Bronx. Her father owned an Irish pub and things got tighter as the Depression ground on. Things got far harder when her father died in his sleep when she was 12.
She began writing stories in grammar school and was encourage by the adults around her. She submitted her first story to a magazine at 16. It was rejected. Her first job was as a secretary but she was known for her beauty as well and did modeling – once with a young Grace Kelly. She was recommended to Pan Am and took the job as flight attendant because it paid more than modeling. She was introduced to Warren Clark at the night of her farewell dinner before she took off. She had known of him and he was immediately smitten with her and told her they’d marry in a year. She flew international routes for 1949 but did give it up to marry Clark two days after her 22 birthday.
She went back to writing to occupy herself, she studied at NYU, joined a writer’s group and learned to look through the newspapers for ideas. Finally, in 1956, after 40 rejections in 6 years, she sold a story to a magazine. In that time she also had 4 children and, after that first story sold, she began to regularly sell her fiction.
Starting in 1959, Warren Clark began to have health problems. A series of heart attacks left him unable to work by 1964. To be able to support the six of them, Mary asked a friend to get her work writing scripts for radio. On the day she was given her first job, her husband suffered a fatal heart attack. Her mother-in-law, upon finding him dead, herself dropped dead.
She kept writing though the short story market had nearly vanished. She kept writing for the radio. She turned her radio scripts – about George and Martha Washington – into a novel. It sold for a very modest amount and was, as she later joked, immediately remaindered. Soon after it was published, her own mother died. She kept working. She kept pressing her children to work at their education to ensure their financial health. She decided to show them by example. In 1971 she entered Fordham and, in 1979, graduated summa cum laude with a BA in philosophy.
This was a woman who could not be stopped.
Through more heartache and death and school, she kept writing and, finally, in the Spring of ’74, Simon & Schuster bought her novel Where are the Children? for $3,000. Three months later the paperback rights sold for $100,000. Her financial worries were over. Two years later, her second novel sold for $1.5 million.
We’re not even going to try to list her novels or even count them. There are the novels, the short fiction, the Holiday stories. And then there were the accolades. From wikipedia:
“Higgins Clark won numerous awards for her writing. In addition to those previously referenced, she won the Horatio Alger Award (1997) and the Passionists’ Ethics in Literature Award (2002), as well as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University Spirit of Achievement Award (1994) and the National Arts Club‘s Gold Medal in Education (1994). She was awarded eighteen honorary doctorates, including one from her alma mater, Fordham University. Her success was also recognized by groups representing her heritage. The American Irish Historical Society granted her the Gold Medal of Honor in 1993, and in 2001 she won the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. She was named a Bronx Legend (1999).
Mary Higgins Clark served as the Chairman of the International Crime Congress in 1988 and was the 1987 president of the Mystery Writers of America. For many years she served on the board of directors of the Mystery Writers of America. Simon & Schuster, which have published all of Higgins Clark’s novels and in the late 1990s signed her to a $64-million, four-book contract, have funded the Mary Higgins Clark Award, given by the Mystery Writers of America to authors of suspense fiction. The announcement that an award would be given in her honor was made at the 55th Annual Edgar Allan Poe Awards, where Higgins Clark was inducted as a Grand Master.
Higgins Clark was made a Dame of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, and was honored as a Dame of Malta and a Dame of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. The Franciscan Friars gave her a Graymoor Award (1999) and she was awarded a Christopher Life Achievement Award. She served as a board member for the Catholic Communal Fund and as a member of the Board of Governors at Hackensack Hospital.
In 1981, by happenstance, she was in DC the day President Reagan was shot. Again, from wikipedia, “Because she had a press pass she was able to join the media waiting to hear the President’s prognosis. When the doctor finally arrived to start the press conference, Higgins Clark was one of the few people chosen to ask a question.”
In 1996, she married John J. Conheeney, a retired CEO from the financial industry, and they lived in a number of homes her books afforded her to own. She died at one of them in Naples, FL. She was 92
Her website gives more details, as well as a number of videos.
Alas, she was one of the authors we never had the honor of hosting for a signing. We did get to have her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark, back in the early 2000s.
R.I.P. Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins Clark Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins Conheeney