Obituaries / Deaths Noted


Mike Resnick, who died yesterday or early today, was primarily known as a science fiction and fantasy author, editor and publisher, accumulating many significant awards over the years, but he wrote in many other categories as well, including mystery fiction.

   Here is his entry in the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin:

RESNICK, MIKE [i.e., Michael Diamond Resnick] (1942-2019)

Eros at Zenith (n.) Phantasia 1984 [Future]
Santiago (n.) Tor 1986 [Future]
Stalking the Unicorn (n.) Tor 1987
Neutral Ground (ss) The Further Adventures of Batman, ed. Martin H. Greenberg, Bantam 1989 [Batman]
Origins (ss) Dick Tracy: The Secret Files, Max Allan Collins & Martin H. Greenberg, Tor 1990 [Dick Tracy]
Second Contact (n.) Easton 1990 [2065]
Museum Piece (ss) The Further Adventures of the Joker, ed. Martin H. Greenberg, Bantam 1990 [Batman]
Dog in the Manger (n.) Alexander 1995 [Cincinnati, OH]
Sherlock Holmes in Orbit [ed. with Martin H. Greenberg] (oa) DAW 1995 [Sherlock Holmes]
The Adventure of the Pearly Gates (ss) Sherlock Holmes in Orbit, ed. Mike Resnick & Martin H. Greenberg, DAW 1995 [Sherlock Holmes]
-The Widowmaker (n.) Bantam 1996 [Future; Jefferson Nighthawk (The Widowmaker)]
Mrs. Vamberry Takes a Trip (Vamberry the Wine Merchant) (ascribed to J. Thorne Smith) (ss) Resurrected Holmes, ed. Marvin Kaye, St. Martin’s 1996 [Sherlock Holmes]
-The Widowmaker Reborn (n.) Bantam 1997 [Future; Jefferson Nighthawk (The Widowmaker)]
-The Widowmaker Unleashed (n.) Bantam 1998 [Future; Jefferson Nighthawk (The Widowmaker)]

   The dash indicates perhaps only marginal criminous content, but for completeness, there was one additional Widowmaker story:

4. A Gathering Of Widowmakers (2006)

   From the Fantastic Fiction website:

   “The Widowmaker, the consummate bounty hunter-has been frozen for a century in order to defeat a deadly disease. Only now the cost of his care has risen, so the Widowmaker is called out of retirement for one special commission…”

    And two additional private eye Eli Paxton mysteries:

1. Dog in the Manger (1997)
2. The Trojan Colt (2013)
3. Cat on a Cold Tin Roof (2014)

   The following may qualify as criminous in nature:

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
1. The Amulet of Power (2003)

   Anthologies he edited of possible interest to mystery readers include:

Whatdunits (1992)
More Whatdunits (1993)
Alternate Outlaws (1994)
Sherlock Holmes in Orbit (1995) (with Martin H Greenberg)
Down These Dark Spaceways (2005)
Alien Crimes (2007)

   If you’re more familiar with Resnick’s many other novels, anthologies and collections than I, and know of others that qualify as crime or mystery fiction, please tell us about them in the comments.

From Wikipedia:

   Marion Gibbons (née Chesney; 10 June 1936 -30 December 2019) was a Scottish writer of romance and mystery novels since 1979. She wrote numerous successful historical romance novels under a form of her maiden name, Marion Chesney, including the Travelling Matchmaker and Daughters of Mannerling series.

   Using the pseudonym M. C. Beaton, she also wrote many popular mystery novels, most notably the Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth mystery series. Both of these book series have been adapted for TV. She also wrote romance novels under the pseudonyms Ann Fairfax, Jennie Tremaine, Helen Crampton, Charlotte Ward, and Sarah Chester.

   In addition to the books below (courtesy of the Fantastic Fiction website), many of her romance novels may have considerable mystery content:


       The Hamish Macbeth Mysteries —

1. Death of a Gossip (1985)

2. Death of a Cad (1987)
3. Death of an Outsider (1988)
4. Death of a Perfect Wife (1989)
5. Death of a Hussy (1990)
6. Death of a Snob (1991)
7. Death of a Prankster (1992)
8. Death of a Glutton (1993)
aka Death of a Greedy Woman
9. Death of a Travelling Man (1993)

10. Death of a Charming Man (1994)
11. Death of a Nag (1995)
12. Death of a Macho Man (1995)
13. Death of a Dentist (1997)
14. Death of a Scriptwriter (1998)
15. Death of an Addict (1999)
15.5. A Highland Christmas (1999)
16. Death of a Dustman (2001)
17. Death of a Celebrity (2001)
18. Death of a Village (2001)
19. Death of a Poison Pen (2004)

20. Death of a Bore (2005)
21. Death of a Dreamer (2006)
22. Death of a Maid (2007)
23. Death of a Gentle Lady (2008)
24. Death of a Witch (2009)
25. Death of a Valentine (2009)
26. Death of a Chimney Sweep (2011)
aka Death of a Sweep
27. Death of a Kingfisher (2012)
28. Death of Yesterday (2013)
29. Death of a Policeman (2012)
30. Death of a Liar (2015)
30.5. Knock, Knock, You’re Dead! (2016)
31. Death of a Nurse (2016)
32. Death of a Ghost (2017)
33. Death of an Honest Man (2018)
34. Death of a Love (2020)


       The Agatha Raisin Mysteries —

1. The Quiche of Death (1992)

2. The Vicious Vet (1993)
3. The Potted Gardener (1994)
4. The Walkers of Dembley (1995)
5. The Murderous Marriage (1996)
6. The Terrible Tourist (1997)
7. The Wellspring of Death (1998)
8. The Wizard of Evesham (1999)
9. The Witch of Wyckhadden (1999)
10. The Fairies of Fryfam (2000)
11. The Love from Hell (2001)

12. The Day the Floods Came (2001)
13. The Case of the Curious Curate (2001)
14. The Haunted House (2003)
15. The Deadly Dance (2004)
16. The Perfect Paragon (2005)
17. Love, Lies and Liquor (2006)
18. Kissing Christmas Goodbye (2007)
19. Agatha Raisin and a Spoonful of Poison (2006)
20. There Goes The Bride (2009)
21. Busy Body (2010)

22. As the Pig Turns (2011)
23. Hiss and Hers (2012)
24. Something Borrowed, Someone Dead (2013)
25. The Blood of an Englishman (2014)
26. Dishing the Dirt (2015)
27. Pushing up Daisies (2016)
28. The Witches’ Tree (2017)
29. The Dead Ringer (2018)
30. Beating About the Bush (2019)
31. Hot to Trot (2020)

   Novellas —

Agatha Raisin and the Christmas Crumble (2012)
Hell’s Bells (2013)
Agatha’s First Case (2015)


       The Edwardian Murder Mysteries —

1. Snobbery with Violence (2003)

2. Hasty Death (2004)
3. Sick of Shadows (2005)
4. Our Lady of Pain (2006

   Gothic romance author Jeanne Hines was born 29 July 1922 and died 23 August 2014, but her death has not been known to Al Hubin, author of the Revised Crime Fiction IV, until now.

   Under her own name, Hines wrote the following as paperback originals. All are presumed to be Gothic romances, which were extremely popular in the late 1960s through the 1970s.

The Slashed Portrait (n.) Dell 1973 [U.S. South]
Tidehawks (n.) Popular Library 1974
Talons of the Hawk (n.) Dell 1975 [Mexico]
Bride of Terror (n.) Popular Library 1976
The Keys to Queenscourt (n.) Popular Library 1976
The Legend of Witchwynd (n.) Popular Library 1976 [New Orleans, LA]

Scarecrow House (n.) Popular Library 1976

The Third Wife (n.) Popular Library 1977 [Mexico]

   According to her Wikipedia page, she also wrote seventeen romance novels as Valerie Sherwood and one as by Rosamond Royal.

   From the obituary pages of The Guardian:

    “The writer Margaret Hinxman, who has died aged 94, was one of the influential band of female critics who did much to encourage film in postwar Britain. She enjoyed a long and productive career on numerous magazines, including the influential Picturegoer, two national newspapers, the Sunday Telegraph and Daily Mail, and as a writer of fiction.”

   Only one of her mysteries has been published in the US. From Hubin’s Revised Crime Fiction IV:

End of a Good Woman (n.) Collins 1976 [Ralph Brand]
One-Way Cemetery (n.) Collins 1977 [Ralph Brand]
The Telephone Never Tells (n.) Collins 1982 [England; Ralph Brand]
The Corpse Now Arriving (n.) Collins 1983 [England]
The Night They Murdered Chelsea (n.) Collins 1984 [England] Dodd 1985
The Boy from Nowhere (n.) Collins 1985 [London]
The Sound of Murder (n.) Collins 1986 [Austria; Ralph Brand]
A Suitable Day for Dying (n.) Collins 1989
Nightmare in Dreamland (n.) Collins 1991 [Los Angeles, CA]

   A plot summary for The Night They Murdered Chelsea reads thusly:

    “As the much-hated matriarch of the television series ‘Wild Fortune’ receives her dramatic comeuppance and is strangled before millions of viewers, Dame Charlotte Saint-Clair, the actress who plays Chelsea Fortune, is herself strangled, and retired Detective Inspector Ralph Brand investigates.”

   Margaret Hinxman was born 08 October 1924 and died 16 October 2018, but her passing has not been known to the mystery community until now.

GEORGE (Adam) HERMAN (Jr.), born April 12, 1928; died in Portland, Oregon, on June 22, 2019.

   GEORGE HERMAN has played many roles in his long career, including published poet and short- story writer, professional actor and director, theater critic and columnist, university professor, and award- winning playwright. His play, “Pious Nine Is Falling Down,” was awarded second place in the Beverly Hills Theatre Guild’s Julie Harris Playwright Competition.

From Goodreads:

      The Leonardo da Vinci and Niccolo da Pavia series —

The series stars, as amateur sleuths, the unlikely duo of Leonardo da Vinci and a young dwarf, Niccolo da Pavia.

A Comedy of Murders (Carroll & Graf, 1994)
The Tears of the Madonna (Carroll & Graf, 1996)
The Florentine Mourners (iUniverse, 2000)
The Toys of War (iUniverse, 2001))
Necromancer (iUniverse, 2003)
The Arno Serpent (iUniverse, 2007).

Also by George Herman: Carnival of Saints (Ballantine, 1994).

FIRST YOU READ, THEN YOU WRITE
by Francis M. Nevins


   The timing couldn’t have been worse. If I had learned of his death a few weeks sooner I would have made him the subject of last month’s column, which was centered on the year 1930. The year he was born.

***

   Donald A. Yates’ birthplace was Ayer, Massachusetts. In 1936 his family moved to Michigan and he spent his formative years in Ann Arbor, where in his teens he met and became close friends with local detective novelist H. C. Branson, to whom someday I must devote a column. He entered the University of Michigan in 1947, choosing pre-law as his major because he “had consumed dozens of Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason novels and was entranced by the prospect of becoming myself a crackerjack courtroom lawyer.”

   But after finding one of his courses “so cut and dried, dusty and lacking in drama and emotion” and learning that most of the courses he’d need to take were of the same ilk, he switched his major to Spanish and graduated in 1951. After two years in the Army he returned to academia and earned his M.A. and Ph.D., the subject of his doctoral dissertation being Argentine detective fiction. He joined the Michigan State faculty in 1956 and remained a professor until 1982 when he took early retirement.

***

   I first met Don in the late 1960s when he was teaching Spanish and Latin American literature at Michigan State and I was fresh out of law school. He had been a professor for more than ten years and had made a name for himself as a translator of the now internationally renowned Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), who was little known outside his native Argentina until the early 1960s.

   Like Poe, Borges wrote all sorts of literary works: poetry, essays, fantasies, and some landmark detective-crime stories that were like no others ever written before or since. It was one of these, “The Garden of Forking Paths,” translated by Anthony Boucher and published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (August 1948), which first introduced Borges to a wide English-language audience.

   But he remained relatively obscure until a few years after Don had begun his career at Michigan State. He had become interested in Borges while studying for his doctorate, and LABYRINTHS (New Directions, 1962), edited by Don and another young professor named James E. Irby, was one of the first collections of the Argentine’s work to appear in English, published almost simultaneously with FICCIONES (Grove Press, 1962), with which Don was not connected.

   Together the two volumes established Borges’ reputation as a titan of international literature. Among the now classic crime stories collected in LABYRINTHS with Don serving as translator were “The Garden of Forking Paths” (why Boucher’s translation wasn’t used remains a mystery) and “Emma Zunz,” which today has been rendered politically incorrect almost to the point of unrevivability by time, feminism and the Holocaust.

   Don’s LABYRINTHS translation of another now world-famous Borges detective story, “Death and the Compass,” originally appeared in the Mystery Writers of America anthology TALES FOR A RAINY NIGHT, edited by David Alexander (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1961). Fred Dannay was offered the translation first but, for reasons that remain unclear, turned it down.

   Don was under the impression that Fred thought it “too far above the heads of the magazine’s readers” but, unless my aging memory has deceived me, Fred told me that the Borges story, which had first been translated several years before, had struck him as too similar to the plot of the Queen novel THE PLAYER ON THE OTHER SIDE, which he was either working on at the time or had recently completed. “Death and the Compass” appeared in EQMM for August 2008, long after Fred’s death.

   During the decades following the Sixties, Don’s translations of various Latin American crime stories appeared in EQMM and elsewhere. Among the authors whose appearances in English were to his credit are Augusto Mario Delfino, Marco Denevi, Alfonso Ferrari Amores, Antonio Hel_, Maria de Montserrat, Manuel Peyrou, Hernando Tell_z and Rodolfo J. Walsh.

   In the early 1970s the Catholic religious publisher Herder & Herder was bought by McGraw-Hill and expanded into several new areas. It was for Herder that Don edited LATIN BLOOD (1972), an anthology of mystery tales from Central and South America, which includes three stories by Borges: the by now much reprinted masterpieces “The Garden of Forking Paths” and “Death and the Compass” plus the unfamiliar, rousingly Chestertonian “The Twelve Figures of the World” (co-authored by Borges’ longtime friend Adolfo Bioy Casares).

   Don also translated for the same publisher Manuel Peyrou’s THUNDER OF THE ROSES (1972), a murky and labyrinthine political thriller with detective overtones, set in an imagined variant of the Third Reich and heavily indebted for its plot elements to Borges. The morning after dictator Cuno Gesenius has been murdered, a tormented intellectual named Felix Greitz publicly assassinates Gesenius’ double. Did Greitz think he was killing Gesenius? Was he trying to protect his own wife, a member of the anti-Gesenius underground who disappeared shortly before the dictator’s death? Did he kill Gesenius and then shoot the double to convince the authorities he didn’t know the dictator was already dead?

   Police inspector Hans Buhle saves Greitz from execution on condition that he work inside the underground to expose Gesenius’ murderer. Whether he or Buhle or we ever find out or are meant to find out the truth is debatable. That seems to be the purpose of Peyrou’s Borgesian labyrinth: to make us perpetually uncertain.

   In his introduction Borges compared Peyrou with Dostoevski and praised the novel’s “shrewd interrogations and treacherous dialogues; the spheres of the search and of what is sought are interwoven and become confused. We experience the melancholy that is the attribute of any dictatorship, the systematic oppression of stupidity, but also mockery and courage. I do not hesitate to declare that Manuel Peyrou is one of the first storytellers of Hispanic letters.”

   In 1969, when Borges was in the States on a lecture tour, Don invited me to have lunch with the great Argentine and his then wife. Knowing very little about Borges at that early stage of my life and my relationship with Don, I can recall nothing of what we said over the meal. I do remember that while we were eating a man with a camera came to our table and requested permission to take a picture. Borges agreed. The man told him to say Cheese. “Might I say Chesterton instead?” Borges asked. As I hinted above, GKC was always one of his favorites.

***

   Over the decades Don wrote several detective short stories of his own. One of his earliest, written during his time in the military, was “The Wounded Tyrolean,” which was based on a cryptic reference in Ellery Queen’s THE SPANISH CAPE MYSTERY (1935) to a case the great sleuth was unable to solve. The tale, which has no connection with EQ except that its title comes from an allusion in a Queen novel, wasn’t published until well over half a century later when it appeared in the Fall 2012 Michigan Quarterly Review.

   Don’s earliest published story that I’m aware of is “Inspector’s Lunch,” which appeared in something called the Birmingham Town Hall Magazine back in 1955 and was reprinted in The Saint Mystery Magazine for May 1959; the most recent (except for the Wounded Tyrolean tale) is the Sherlockian “A Study in Scarlatti” (EQMM, February 2011).

   Don was an enthusiastic Baker Street Irregular, being invested as “Mr. Melas” (The Greek Interpreter) back in 1960 and founding a Napa Valley branch of the Irregulars after he retired from Michigan State and moved to California’s wine country. Well into his final years he’d fly into New York for the annual BSI dinner whenever his failing health permitted.

***

   As the Wounded Tyrolean anecdote suggests, Don was a devotee of Ellery Queen from an early age. When he was 16 he took a bus from Massachusetts to Manhattan and visited with Ellery’s co-creator Fred Dannay, the beginning of a friendship that lasted until 1982 when Fred died. In 1979, during an elaborate dinner at New York’s Lotos Club celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of the first Queen novel, THE ROMAN HAT MYSTERY, Don paid two heartfelt tributes to EQ. One was what he called an acrostic sonnet, with the first letters of each of the fourteen lines spelling out the name FREDERIC DANNAY. The second, on a more lighthearted note, was a song to be sung to the tune of the Mickey Mouse Club theme, with the last line, where Mickey’s name is spelled out, being replaced with E-L-L-E-R-Y Q-U-E-E-N. Both Fred and I heard Don sing that song. I wish I had a copy.

***

   For most of the world the great author with whom Don was associated was Borges, but personally I was more interested in another writer with an international reputation: Cornell Woolrich, the Hitchcock of the written word. Don first met Woolrich at the Mystery Writers of America awards dinner in 1961. What followed, Don wrote, was “a long and glorious evening, the first of many…that I would spend doing the nightspots with him, with this lonely writer who would never let you say goodbye until daylight was in the street.”

   On his frequent trips from East Lansing to South America and back on various Fulbright grants Don often stopped off in Manhattan and spent time with Woolrich, getting to know that haunted recluse as well as he allowed himself to be known. Woolrich died in September 1968, and I believe it was on the visit the following year during which Don introduced me to Borges that he read to me from a memoir he had written about the master of suspense. Many years later I included excerpts from it with his permission in my Woolrich book FIRST YOU DREAM, THEN YOU DIE (1988). The final version of his memoir can be found in THE BIG BOOK OF NOIR, edited by Ed Gorman, Lee Server and Martin H. Greenberg (Carroll & Graf, 1998).

***

   He died at his home in St. Helena on October 17, 2017, with his wife Joanne and their beloved dogs at his side. The cause was aplastic anemia, a condition which develops as a result of bone marrow damage. As most readers will remember, October was the time when the Napa Valley wine country was plagued by wildfires. I became concerned about Don and called him. His house was still intact, he told me, but he and Joanne had packed their bags and, with their dogs, were ready to leave on a moment’s notice.

   I never heard from him again. It must have been soon after our conversation that he died. In his final years he was working on a memoir of Borges which, so Joanne tells me, remains unfinished. If she can turn the raw material into a book, it will be a tribute to one of the most fascinating people I knew during much of my adult lifetime. And to another fascinating man I only met once.

FIRST YOU READ, THEN YOU WRITE
by Francis M. Nevins


   Last month I talked about some of the correspondence between Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of Perry Mason, and Harry Stephen Keeler, creator of the craziest characters — not to mention the books that housed them! — ever conjured up on land or sea. But I had no space to say anything about the one Keeler book in which ESG is mentioned. THE GALLOWS WAITS, MY LORD! was written in 1953, the year Harry’s last novel to appear in English in his lifetime came out, and was published nowhere, not even in Spain, which continued to put out books of his until shortly before his death in 1967.

   Thanks to that rogue publisher Ramble House, GALLOWS has been available in Keeler’s native tongue — which is not to be confused with English! — since 2003, and it can still be found on the Web. The setting is the mythical banana republic of San do Mar and the plot has to do with the frantic attempts of a Yank who bears the un-Yankish name Kedrick Merijohn to escape hanging, by order of Presidente Doctor Don Carlos Foxardo — whose crack-brained treatise is the required text in every hospital in the country, not to mention its med school! — for the poisoning murder of a stranger while the stranger was trying to poison him. It doesn’t help Merijohn’s case that he inexplicably changed shoes with the corpse after the fatal incident.

   Very late in the book we join British diplomat Sir Clyde Kenwoody in Hollywood where he meets Detective Sergeant Pete O’Swin, who’s wearing a purple derby and a rainbow-hued plaid jacket.

   “Hope you’ll pardon these here sartorical accoutryments, Sir Clyde, but when I got the call from my own chief to report instantly to you here, I’d just finished, over at Metric-Golden-Meier, a walk-on part in one of their new who-done-its — Th’ Case o’ the Dizzy Dipplodoccus by Erle Stanley Gardner, in case you’re int’rusted — yeah, I do a little histrionicals, y’know? — and they not only insisted … on my fetchin’ along a standard dick’s derby — but a purple one! — and bringin’ this screaming mimi of a jacket for a coat. Techn’color ‘twas in, see? And 3-D.”

   This paragraph, which no one else living or dead could have written, not only reveals how HSK made use of ESG — and why whenever I write about our Harry I tend to insert clauses like this one, which invariably end with an exclamation point! — but perhaps will explain to readers who have been spared any acquaintanceship with his immortal works why I call him the wackiest wackadoodle who ever wore out a typewriter ribbon.

***

   Keeler sometimes played the wack for the game’s sake, sometimes to make a point, and occasionally he did both at once, as witness a passage one chapter later when the same O’Swin expounds on one of Harry’s loony laws while also reminding us that his creator was something of a Socialist.

   “Well, Mr. Larson, in this gre-e-at and glor-i-ous Land of the Free an’ the Home o’ the Brave — this Garden Spot of a Utipio run and opyrated for th’ human Serf and countless serfs yet unborned, by th’ National Amer’can Association of Malefact — skip it—Manufacturers, there is a unwrit pervision ‘at a lug took into custardy gets his rap cut in half later if he’s made a sing to them as took him in. A sing bein’ a squawk. A squawk bein’ a co’fession ….”

   When the issue is raised that perhaps the actions of O’Swin and Sir Clyde are unconstitutional, the diplomat points out that “if you’re taken over there [to the police station], and start to set forth your constitutional rights and prerogatives, you’ll only wake up a few hours later lying on a cold cement floor of an isolated cell, with an aching — more probably broken — jaw….” To which O’Swin adds: “Well … we have evoluted certain interestin’ methods t’ cope with the Bill o’ Rights and the Constitution.” This is precisely how matters stood until a number of years later when the Supreme Court began applying federal Bill of Rights protections to criminal defendants in state courts.

***

   In another recent column I devoted an item to the strange case of Georges Simenon’s stand-alone crime novel STRANGERS IN THE HOUSE, which was published in Nazi-occupied France in 1940 as LES INCONNUS DANS LA MAISON and made into a French movie of the same name the following year but wasn’t translated into English until after World War II. The translation, by Geoffrey Sainsbury, appeared in England in 1951 and in the U.S. three years later.

   It’s the same translation both times, right? Wrong!!! In the English version as reprinted in 2006 by the New York Review of Books with a new introduction by P.D. James, we find on page 70 a passage where the protagonist Hector Loursat ponders whether there are any similarities between him and any of the strangers in his house. “Yet there was no connection. Not even a resemblance. He hadn’t been poor like Emile Manu or a Jew like Luska….”

   In the American version this becomes: “There was no connection. No resemblance. He hadn’t been poor like Manu, or an Armenian like Luska….” Incidentally, Manu’s first name in the American version is Robert, not Emile. The first alteration is understandable, and exactly what Anthony Boucher had done several years before when translating for EQMM a Simenon story with a Jewish villain. But why the second change? And, if we were to compare the two versions line by line, how many more alterations would we discover?

***

   It’s not connected with anything else in this column, but I feel compelled to bring up a recent death. Colin Dexter, creator of the immortal Inspector Morse, died on March 21, age 86. I met him once, when he was on a book tour with a St. Louis stop, and was smart enough to bring with me the only Morse novel I then had in first edition, LAST SEEN WEARING (1976), which he signed for me.

   The earliest entries among his thirteen novels didn’t make much of an impression, but once the Morse TV movie series was launched, John Thaw’s superb performance as the brilliant but flawed Oxford sleuth caused Dexter’s sales to climb into the stratosphere. The series lasted for 33 episodes, each approximately two hours long. Ten of them, including my favorites — “The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn” and “Service of All the Dead” — are based on his novels.

   The other three novels — THE RIDDLE OF THE THIRD MILE (1983), THE SECRET OF ANNEXE 3 (1986) and THE JEWEL THAT WAS OURS (1991) — were never officially filmed. Three early episodes were based on ideas or other material by Dexter, and when he turned them into the novels above, they were not remade. (The respective telefilm titles for the trio are “The Last Enemy,” “The Secret of Bay 5B” and “The Wolvercote Tongue.”)

   In Dexter’s final novel, THE REMORSEFUL DAY (2000), which was also the source of the last Morse TV movie, the Inspector dies — not at the hands of a murderer but because, as Dexter explained, he drank too much, smoked too much and almost never exercised. Well, he may have died physically, but I strongly suspect he and his creator will live on for many decades to come.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by George Kelley


WILLIAM HJORTSBERG – Falling Angel. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, hardcover, 1978. Fawcett, paperback, 1982; Warner Books, paperback, 1986; St. Martin’s, paperback, 1996. Millipede Press, trade paperback, 2006. Film: Tri-Star, 1987, as Angel Heart (with Mickey Rourke as Harry Angel).

   William Hjortsberg is a highly unconventional writer who delights in mixing genres and breaking molds. His first novel, Alp (1969), blends pornography and mountain climbng; his science-fiction novel, Gray Matters (1971) features a Utopia run by incredible cybernetic machines dedicated to human transcendence while humans rebel against the perfect society. Other experimental works include Symbiography (1973) and Toro! Toro! Toro! (1975).

   In Falling Angel, Hjortsberg combines 1940s private-eye fiction with the occult. PI Harry Angel, a specialist in finding missing persons, is hired to track down a famous Forties singer, Johnny Favorite. The trail leads to Central Park, voodoo ceremonies, a black mass in an abandoned subway station, Coney Island fortune-tellers, and bizarre murders. Harry Angel finds he’s involved in a satanic plot, and he might not be able to escape alive.

   Fallen Angel is William Hjortsberg’s most successful book; descriptions of New York City in the post-World War II era are clever and accurate. A condensed version of Falling Angel was published in Playboy and proved very popular. In trying to describe Falling Angel, Stephen King said, “I’ve never read anything remotely like it. Trying to imagine what might have happened if Raymond Chandler had written The Exorcist is as close as I can come.”

         ———
   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.


WILLIAM HJORTSBERG, R. I. P.   Quoting from The Rap Sheet earlier this week:

    “The New York City-born Montana novelist who gave us private investigator Harry Angel (in 1978’s Falling Angel), the lively detective pairing of Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini (in 1994’s Nevermore), and a drug-fueled nightmare excursion through 1960s Mexico (in 2015’s Mañana) passed away this last Saturday night of pancreatic cancer. Author William Hjortsberg, who was known to friends simply as ‘Gatz,’ was 76 years old.”

REVIEWED BY JONATHAN LEWIS:


THE GANG THAT COULDN’T SHOOT STRAIGHT. GM, 1971. Jerry Orbach, Leigh Taylor-Young, Jo Van Fleet, Lionel Stander, Robert De Niro. Based on the novel by Jimmy Breslin. Director: James Goldstone.

   Thanks to director James Goldstone’s frenetic pacing, there’s not a lot of down time in The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight. In this comedy film, that’s not necessarily such a bad thing. Despite a fairly thin plot, this off-kilter satire of Brooklyn’s mafia wars moves from scene to scene at a rapid clip, not giving the viewer much time to digest what happened. Most of the time, it works well and distracts the viewer from the fact that there’s not whole much depth to the proceedings.

   But who needs much depth when you’ve got Jerry Orbach portraying Kid Sally, a low-rent South Brooklyn enforcer and Robert DeNiro portraying a character named Mario, an Italian bicycle racer turned con man? Both are such fine actors that it’s difficult to not get lost in their respective characters various schemes and machinations.

   Then there’s veteran character actor Lionel Stander, whose career was among the most effected by the Hollywood blacklist. He portrays Baccala, a crude, tough talking mafia don who utilizes his wife to start the ignition on his car. You know. Just in case.

   The plot follows two parallel tracks. Kid Sally’s attempts to rub out Baccala, and Kid Sally’s sister, Angela’s (Leigh Taylor-Young) budding romance with Mario. Eventually these tracks merge in Kid Sally’s hilariously incompetent attempt to kill Baccala in an Italian restaurant. In this scene, as in many others, the humor isn’t exactly subtle. But it’s not childish and infantile, either. The comedic talent on display makes The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight an enjoyable enough movie, but not necessarily one that necessitates a second viewing.



Editorial Note:   As coincidences go, this is a sad one. This review was scheduled yesterday for today. This morning Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jimmy Breslin’s death was reported. He was 88.

FIRST YOU READ, THEN YOU WRITE
by Francis M. Nevins


   No sooner did I send off my November column than I learned of another death in October. Norman Sherry, who devoted almost thirty years of his life to researching and writing a 3-volume, 2250-page biography of Graham Greene, died on October 19 at age 91. For Volume One (1989) he received an Edgar from MWA. The New York Review of Books chose Volume Two (1994) as one of the eleven best books of its year. If I have a special fondness for Volume Three (2004), perhaps it’s because I contributed to it a little.

   The story of how he came to be Greene’s biographer has been often told. In 1974, the year he turned 70, the man who was perhaps the finest English novelist of the 20th century — and certainly one of the finest crime and espionage novelists ever — was in the market for a biographer and became interested in Sherry, whose previous life of Joseph Conrad Greene had much admired.

   The two met for lunch at London’s Savile Club but apparently nothing was decided. They met again and, walking across a busy street, Greene was knocked down by a taxi. “You almost lost your subject,” he said to Sherry. “Not half so bad as losing your biographer,” Sherry replied. That bit of quick wit got him the job. It was the beginning of a decades-long hunt with Sherry the literary detective tracking Greene through Mexico, Cuba, Liberia, Vietnam, Haiti, most if not all of the Third World places in which his quarry had set novels.

   The quest was ruinous to Sherry’s health — dysentery, gangrene that cost him fifteen feet of his intestines, the list seems endless — but he carried on. After Greene’s death in 1991 he found himself at odds with his subject’s closest relations, many of whom despise his three volumes. You can find what Greene’s son Francis thought of the books by googling “Graham Greene Norman Sherry,” such as this article from the New York Times, and there are similar critiques elsewhere on the Web.

   But there are also extravagant, near-idolatrous comments by others. My own view is that if you want to understand, or at least come as close as humanly possible to understanding, the brilliant, profoundly devious, sex-obsessed alcoholic who wrote like a dark angel and gave us THIS GUN FOR HIRE, BRIGHTON ROCK, THE CONFIDENTIAL AGENT, THE MINISTRY OF FEAR and so many other novels that have nothing to do with crime or espionage, you can’t do without Sherry’s epic biography.

   But perhaps I’m biased since, as I said above, I contributed a morsel to Volume Three. After such a buildup I’d be a toad if I didn’t share that morsel here with those who haven’t read the biography, so here goes. Back in 1984 and purely by accident I discovered that James Atlee Phillips, better known as Philip Atlee, author of the Joe Gall espionage novels, had moved to St. Louis County where I lived. Jim was reputed to be an interview-shunning curmudgeon but I took a chance, called him and, to my flabbergastment, was invited to come out to his place for dinner.

   After the meal we adjourned to his basement office, and I taped an hour-long conversation with him which was published in Espionage magazine (November 1985). That interview went so well that arrangements were made for me to follow up by interviewing Jim’s younger brother, David Atlee Phillips.

   David, who lived in Bethesda, Maryland, had written a novel and one or two nonfiction books but until his retirement a few years before our meeting most of his time had been spent working for the Central Intelligence Agency in Guatemala, Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Venezuela, rising through the ranks to become one of the foremost practitioners of what is euphemistically called covert action.

   The next time I was on the East Coast I took the Amtrak Metroliner from New York to Washington, D.C.’s Union Station where David met me. We had an excellent lunch at La Mirabelle, a restaurant in McLean, Virginia that was favored by people in the CIA. Over our meal he told me a story which was so good, I insisted on his repeating it when we got to his house and I had my cassette recorder running.

   In the late 1950s, soon after Cuba had become a Communist country under Fidel Castro, David was sent to Havana in deep cover. He was there when Graham Greene came to work with director Carol Reed on the movie OUR MAN IN HAVANA, starring Alec Guinness and based on Greene’s novel of the same name. Much of the picture was shot on the streets of Havana, with David shadowing Greene as they filmed.

   “And at one point Greene said to the director, ‘All right, we should change this line and have him say the following.’ And Alec Guinness said: ‘Fine.’ But then a comandante, a man with a star on his shoulder, a military censor, walked up and said: ‘No, you can’t change that line.’ I’ll never forget the look on Graham Greene’s face when he realized for the first time that there might be some flaws in the new Cuban society,…when his work was suddenly subject to censorship.”

   My interview with David was also published in Espionage (July 1987) and, like my conversation with his brother, can be found in my book CORNUCOPIA OF CRIME (2010), but you won’t find the anecdote I just quoted in the magazine version. Not wanting to see that incident permanently on the cutting room floor, I shared it with Norman Sherry, who included it in Volume Three of the Greene biography. That’s the tidbit I contributed to Norman’s massive project. I still think it was worth saving.

***

   I haven’t read Peter Ackroyd’s ALFRED HITCHCOCK: A BRIEF LIFE but recently read a review in the Times with a passage I particularly liked: “[T]he world of menace [Hitchcock] conjured embodies our deepest, most existential fears. Fears (especially resonant today) that the universe is irrational, that evil lives around the corner, that ordinary life can be ripped apart at any moment by some random unforeseen event.”

    Let’s play Jeopardy! for a minute, shall we? Answer: The author whose work and world are described by those words equally as well as Hitchcock’s. Question: Who is Cornell Woolrich? Second answer: Same as the first but with “composer” substituted for “author.” Question: Who is Bernard Herrmann?

   Hitchcock, Woolrich, Herrmann, so much like Jules and Jim and Catherine in Truffaut’s film: round and round, together bound. When I first started calling Woolrich the Hitchcock of the written word, that was a moment of inspiration if I ever had one.

***

   I received an interesting email recently from a man who had been reading some of the early Woolrich stories collected in my DARKNESS AT DAWN (1985) and had a question about one of them, the 1934 “Walls That Hear You.” That tale, in case you’ve forgotten it, is about a man who discovers that his younger brother has been found with all ten fingers cut off and his tongue severed at the roots.

   Later, in the hospital, we are told that he “shook hands hard” with his brother. How is this possible, my reader asked, when the younger brother’s fingers have been cut off? Could Woolrich have been writing at such white heat that he forgot this? The best reply I could come up with was that we’re supposed to imagine the narrator embracing his kid brother’s fingerless and bandaged hands between his own. Can anyone reading this column come up with anything better?

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