May 2013


REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:


DEE HARKEY Mean As Hell

DEE HARKEY – Mean As Hell. University of New Mexico, hardcover, 1948. Signet, #856, paperback, 1951. Ancient City Press, trade paperback, 1989.

   I don’t have much to say about Dee Harkey’s Mean As Hell except that it deserves to be better known. Harkey’s account of his work as a Peace Officer in the old west, from the 1870s until 1911 is a work of interest, excitement and considerable charm.

   His naïve (in the best sense) style and easy narration of his life and times — from being besieged on the prairie as a child by “110 Indians” (I love that touch!) to the escape of a local badman by Flying Machine — lend a unique charm to his tales of rustlin’, shootin, fightin’ and all the assorted mayhem one reads a Western in search of.

   Find a copy of this somewhere and enjoy it!

THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


ROBERT FINNEGAN Dan Banion

ROBERT FINNEGAN – The Lying Ladies. Simon and Schuster, hardcover, 1946. Bantam #351, paperback, May 1948.

   Ah, the investigative reporter, out to report news in the hinterland, discovers a case of justice likely to go wrong. In this novel, the first by Finnegan (pseudonym of Paul William Ryan) featuring Dan Banion, Banion reveals corruption in government and the press, gets beaten about a bit, and finds out who murdered the maid of the wealthy Hibleys.

   You’ve read the same thing many times, but there’s nothing wrong with reading it again since Finnegan writes well and amusingly and creates some interesting characters. After you have read it, perhaps you can tell me why Finnegan used the pre-World War II time period in which to set the novel.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 13, No. 1, Winter 1991.


The Dan Banion series —

   The Lying Ladies. Simon & Schuster, 1946.
   The Bandaged Nude. Simon & Schuster, 1946.

ROBERT FINNEGAN Dan Banion

   Many a Monster. Simon & Schuster, 1948.

ROBERT FINNEGAN Dan Banion

KELLEY ROOS – Ghost of a Chance. Dell #266, mapback edition, no date [1948]. Originally published by A. A. Wyn, hardcover, 1947. Hardcover reprint: Detective Book Club, 3-in-1 edition.

   When it comes to married couples who solve detective mysteries in crime fiction, if you’re like me, the first ones to come to mind are Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man, 1934), but once I thought about it some more, I decided that Agatha Christie’s Tuppence and Tommy might have come earlier, and I was right: The Secret Adversary (1922).

KELLEY ROOS Ghost of a Chance

   I suspect, as it always happens whenever you try to come up with the first of anything when it comes to mystery fiction, that there were earlier ones, but if there are, I’m willing to wager that they are all obscure. Jeff and Haila Troy, the detective of record in ten entries in Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV (including one collection and one novella published separately), came along much later, starting with Made Up to Kill in 1940, and would probably fit very nicely in the obscure category, if the good folks at Rue Morgue Press hadn’t published a few of them in recent years.

   Contemporaneous with the Troys would be Mr. and Mrs. North, whose adventures were written up by Frances and Richard Lockridge. At the time, the Norths were much better known, but I suspect they’re also falling into obscurity, if they haven’t already, sad to say.

   This is the first of the Troys’ adventures that I’ve read, and while I enjoyed it and will read any others that happen to fall into my hands, as a mystery, it’s tame enough that I can see why the Troys were really never rivals to the Norths in terms of popularity, even at the time.

   I may have been told in Ghost of a Chance what either or both of the Troys do for a living, but if so, I’m sorry to say that I missed it. (And I did. The Dell mapback I have in my hands has a descriptive list of the characters on the very first page. Jeff Troy is a photographer. It does not say what Haila does, but from a quick search on the Internet, it appears that she is an actress, or that she was at one time.)

KELLEY ROOS Ghost of a Chance

   Ghost of a Chance is told in a decidedly breezy style, one that does its best, but doesn’t quite succeed, in disguising the fact that there really isn’t a lot of substance to it, but breezy enough that you don’t quite realize it while you’re reading. Only when you’re done do you (or did I) realize how flimsy the plot really was.

   Which involves Jeff and Haila trying their best to prevent a murder from happening, one that an old man does his best to tell them about before he dies unexpectedly in a gruesome subway accident. Only problem is, while they know when the murder is going to happen, they don’t know who the victim is going to be, nor why. (That the old man’s death is no accident, they assume right away.)

   This is where the detection comes in, which is satisfactory, but the case quickly becomes a thriller more than a puzzle novel, which is where my disappointment if not discontent set in. But the locale — here and there and up and down the island of Manhattan in the middle of a vicious snow storm before adjourning briefly to a small vacation town in upstate New York — is both finely described and highly enjoyable.

   As for current married couples who solve mystery cases together, is Beckett going to say yes to Castle’s proposal in last week’s end of season finale? Tune in next fall and find out.

REEL MURDERS:
Movie Reviews by Walter Albert

  Note: This column first appeared in The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 7, No. 3, May-June 1983.

   The University of Pittsburgh recently hosted the annual meeting of the Society for Cinema Studies and more than 150 scholars spent four very busy days delivering and listening to papers, attending film showings, and socializing. There were twenty-nine panels, each of them consisting of the reading of three or four papers, followed by discussions, and there was a variety of screenings, highlighted by Robert Altman’s 1982 film, Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, which the director attended for a post-screening session at which he responded to questions from a large and very sympathetic audience,

   The general topic of the convention was film genre, and the often sparsely attended screenings — film scholars seem to prefer to talk and be talked at rather than cluster anonymously in improvised screening rooms — featured a series of films “on, in, and beyond the genre.”

   Since the films were scheduled at the same time as the panels, I was constantly faced with agonizing decisions. However, I was able to reconcile most of my warring interests and managed to spend several hours in the dark watching Frank Borzage’s Mannequin (1938), a “melodrama of fashion and fetishism with Joan Crawford”; Dario Argento’s stylish horror film, Suspiria (1977); Robert Altman’s very individual and probably unclassifiable comedy drama, Brewster McCloud (1970); and Max Ophuls’ 1949 movie, The Reckless Moment, in addition to the festival screening of Altman’s Jimmy Dean film.

   Since I had already seen DeMille’s Unconquered (1947), Cassavetes’ Gloria (1980), and William Richert’s Winter Kills (1979), I managed a fairly comprehensive coverage of the convention films.

   One of the things that was clear from several of the panels I attended was that there is increasing recognition of the fact that the sub-genres (musical, western, science-fiction, film noir) are not aIways “pure” and there is a fair amount of “bleeding” among the various types, with, for example, elements of the crime film or film noir turning up in westerns or in musicals.

   Since writers on film have traditionally had difficulty defining film noir, establishing firm chronologies, and identifying those films which are undeniably noir, this makes it possible to examine a wide range of films in a number of different categories. Anyone who has looked very closely at the two major books on film noir, the Silver/Ward Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style (Overlook Press, 1980) and Foster Hirsch’s work, The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir (A. S. Barnes, 1981), will have been struck by the lack of agreement on the basic body of films thought to constitute the official canon.

   There is, thus, under way what could be a very fruitful re-examination of the subject , and I would expect that over the next few years there will be major reformulations that will both define more precisely noir elements and refine their applications to particular films.

THE RECKLESS MOMENT James Mason

   While both Silver/Ward and Hirsch list Max Ophuls’ Reckless Moment in their filmographies, Silver/Ward point out the anomaly of casting a woman as the potentially doomed victim, rather than, as is usually the case in noir films, the tracked male. The casting is also ironic in that the woman is played by Joan Bennett, who was the destructive femme fatale in Fritz Lang’s Woman in the Window, here playing an upper middle-class housewife who embarks upon a sequence of lies and deceptions to protect her daughter whom she mistakenly believes to be responsible for the death of her blackmailing lover.

   The film is based on a story by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, “The Blank Wall,” and has all the elements of standard woman-in-peril magazine fiction but reshaped by the superb direction of Ophuls into a subtle study of middle-class morality threatened by a seductive outsider (Shepperd Strudwick) who is “removed” and then replaced by an even more potentially dangerous threat (a blackmailer, James Mason, working with a totally unprincipled partner).

   The strength of the film is not only in the fluid, accomplished camera work which tracks Bennett in her increasingly more frantic quest for salvation and liberation, but in the bond which develops between Mason and Bennett, the rootless outsider, the black sheep, as he tells her, of his family, and the mother whose only concern is to protect her daughter from the consequences of her folly and keep the stain from contaminating the house and the other members of the family.

THE RECKLESS MOMENT James Mason

   The film is at its most intense and claustrophobic (she is, after all, walled in by her fears and assumptions) in its handling of the interior spaces of the Harper house. Bennett paces incessantly through the house, nervously chain-smoking, trying to hide her machinations from her family, as if she were turning in a cage.

   In the foreground, the camera is most obsessive about Bennett’s every move, but it is also recording, in the background, the routine of the family, so that the spectator is bound by a sense of a precarious balance between the two levels and of the constant threat of the possibility of the rupturing of the fragile membrane that separates the two.

   Bennett plays the role with a dark distraction in which she see ms always to be just a bit to one side of the on-screen action, plotting her next move. She is frequently interrupted, never really alone — even when she is driving with Donnelly, the character played by Mason, at a traffic light someone leans from the next car to talk to her.

   She is always tracked by the camera, but this is symptomatic of a larger trajectory at which her every movement seems to coincide with an intersection. There is no one moment in the film that is in itself irretrievably reckless. It is rather the narrative, restlessly exploring the implications of movements, that is reckless.

THE RECKLESS MOMENT James Mason

   Lucia Harper (Bennett) can only be saved by the intervention of an outside agency, initially threatening, finally converted into something benign and protective, a member of her extended family taking from her the role she cannot herself carry off successfully and restoring her as manager of the household and bearer of the telephone message to a no longer threatening exterior world, “Everything’s fine.”

   There are some of the recognizable features of film noir in the depiction of the doomed character (here uncharacteristically rescued), in the menacing shadows and reflections, and in the atmospheric — and sometimes sordid — milieux that we associate with the genre. But The Reckless Moment is no more to be restricted by a characterization of genre than any other film that uses form not for constriction but for expansion and elaboration.

   This is probably not a film of the same distinction as Ophuls’ Pleasure, The Earrings of Madame X, and Lola Montes, but it is a film of uncommon intelligence and taste, transforming its materials into something at once imperious and elusive, a perfect demonstration of Ophuls’ belief that, in art, “the most insignificant, the most unobtrusive among [details] are often the most evocative, characteristic and even decisive. Exact details, an artful little nothing, make art.”

THE RECKLESS MOMENT. Columbia, 1949. James Mason, Joan Bennett, Geraldine Brooks, Henry O’Neill, Shepperd Strudwick, David Bair, Roy Roberts. Based on the novel The Blank Wall (Simon & Schuster, 1947) by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding. Director: Max Ophüls.

THE RECKLESS MOMENT James Mason

A REVIEW BY DOUG GREENE:
   

R. T. CAMPBELL John Stubbs

R. T. CAMPBELL (Ruthven Todd) – Bodies in a Bookshop. John Westhouse, UK, hardcover, 1946. Dover, US, softcover, 1984.

   For bibliophiles, Bodies in a Bookshop is pure enjoyment. The first chapter is full of love for books, and later chapters have insights into book- and print-selling and collecting. The story is well-structured, often amusing, and fairly clued.

   What is most interesting to me, however, is the amateur detective, Professor John Stubbs. He is an imitation of Carr’s Sir Henry Merrivale, with a bit of Dr. Gideon Fell thrown in. Stubbs is called “the old man”; he drinks copious quantities of beer; he resembles “a caricature of G. K. Chesterton trying to look like Buddha”; and, like Fell, he has a “mop of gray hair” which falls over his forehead. When he is concentrating he “frowns at the point of his cigar.” If Stubbs’ appearance combines Merrivale and Fell, his speech and attitude are pure H. M.:

    “Look’ee here, son.”

    “I got the simple mind I have.”

    “The shockin’ cussedness of luck.”

    “Oi,” the old man sounded and looked furious, “What d’ye mean by goin’ round arrestin’ people wi’out consultin’ me?”

    “Look here,” he roared indignantly, “me, I got the scientific mind… Ye thunderin’ well know ye’re wrong.”

    “What do I get? ” He looked round at us with an expression that he was the worst treated man in the world. “Do I get any thanks? No! All they say is that I’ve tried all the possible answers and I’ve found the right one. They say I got luck. I say I got brains. Bah!”

   Even the “large and bland” Chief Inspector is a Carrian character. None of this works quite as well as Carr at his best, but I am busily trying to locate more adventures of Professor Stubbs.

— Reprinted from The Poisoned Pen, Vol. 6, No. 2, Winter 1984/85.

      The Prof. John Stubbs series —

Unholy Dying. Westhouse, 1945.

R. T. CAMPBELL John Stubbs

Adventure with a Goat. Westhouse, 1946.
Bodies in a Bookshop. Westhouse, 1946.
The Death Cap. Westhouse, 1946.
Death for Madame. Westhouse, 1946.
Swing Low, Swing Death. Westhouse, 1946.
Take Thee a Sharp Knife. Westhouse, 1946.

   Only the first and third of these have been published in the US, both in paperback by Dover Books. Campbell also wrote one non-Stubbs mystery: Apollo Wore a Wig (Westhouse, 1946). Other than the two reprinted in the US, Campbell’s detective fiction appears to be nearly impossible to obtain.

REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:


PLAYGIRL AFTER DARK Jayne Mansfield

TOO HOT TO HANDLE. MGM, UK, 1960. Also released as Playgirl After Dark, US, 1962. Jayne Mansfield, Leo Genn, Carl Boehm, Christopher Lee, Danik Patisson, Patrick Holt. Director: Terence Young.

   Too Hot to Handle proves an unexpectedly classy affair despite its tawdry background and leering attitude. Set in a seedy Soho strip club run by Jayne Mansfield and Leo Genn, it takes a diverse and mostly well-realized cast of characters through a tale of extortion, killing, and the odd permutations of love, pausing every three minutes or so for some young lady or another to remove most of her clothes and parade around a bit — who could want more?

   Well in fact, there’s a great deal more, starting with a fine cast of players you’ve mostly never heard of except for Christopher Lee, two years after he achieved horror-star status, here playing a duplicitous emcee in the pay of a rival strip-club owner (Sheldon Lawrence, a nasty to the manner born) and not above pimping for the patrons, including Martin Boddey who comes off truly creepy as an old letch trying to look “mod.”

PLAYGIRL AFTER DARK Jayne Mansfield

   There are other able players about, including Carl Boehm, but the film basically belongs to Genn and Mansfield, eking out their emotional needs with each other, keeping the girls in line, fighting goons and trying to keep up a passable front (obvious Jayne Mansfield joke omitted here) while moving the plot along. They do quite well with it, thanks to able writing and fluid direction from Terrence Young, who would soon kick off the Bond series, and here shows a fine sensibility for violence and titillation.

   Ah yes, the titillation. Well it ain’t much by today’s standards, and the strip acts sometimes look more like overblown numbers from Al Jolson’s Wonder Bar than anything in a Soho strip club, with elaborate orchestrations, lighting, wind effects and even rain. Despite that, there is one surprisingly simple and steamy number that will appeal to the arrested adolescent in all of us. Look for it.

   You can also look for an ending you won’t expect. As the plot grows more violent, the characters surprisingly grow more mature, leading to a conclusion that some may think disappointing, but one I found convincing and downbeat, the perfect climax to a film of surprising intelligence.

PLAYGIRL AFTER DARK Jayne Mansfield

TERRY SHAMES – A Killing at Cotton Hill. Prometheus Books/Seventh Street Books, trade paperback, July 2013.

TERRY SHAMES A Killing at Cotton Hill

   Former chief of police Samuel Craddock may be in his sixties, and he may have been forcibly retired from his job in the small Texas town of Jarrett Creek, but he’s still a lot sharper and on the ball than the present man in the position, a good-ol’-boy political appointee named Rodell Skinner.

   The death by stabbing of a long time lady friend is also personal, and when Rodell seems all too willing to pin the murder on the woman’s grandson for no other reason than that he’s handy, Craddock decides to un-retire himself, totally unofficially, and see if he can’t make sure justice is done.

   A first novel, I believe, and from the first page onward, one that catches your attention and holds it all the way through. While you probably read books like this one for the mystery, and Craddock is by no means a slouch as a detective, if you’re as fond of good writing as I am, it will be the characters in Cotton Hill that will keep the pages turning until late in the evening, or maybe even early into the morning.

   Each and every one of the people in this book is a human being, as perfect and as flawed as you or I, starting with Craddock himself, who kicks himself in the butt – hard – for failing to act on the dead woman’s call to him for help the night before her death. As a widower, Craddock has the attention of several ladies (one in particular), and while he’s aware of it, he’s still filled with the memories of his dead wife, and he tactfully manages to avoid further complications in that regard.

   The grandson, he discovers, has a great artistic talent, but not so much in the way of social skills. The lady attorney whom he hires to defend the lad he has had issues with in the past, but Craddock soon has to admit that she has more than one arrow in her bow. The other would-be heirs? Well, that’s where the bulk of the suspect pool lies.

   The ending, the solution to the mystery, seemed a little rushed to me, but maybe that’s because I was reading faster than I should have. It happens, once in a while, and once again it did this time.

PostScript: I hadn’t decided to mention it until now, but for better or worse, I’ve just decided to. The book is told in first person, present tense, from Craddock’s point of view, and I didn’t discover that the author is female (thanks to the blurb on the back cover of the Advance Reading Copy I read) until 100 pages into the book. Upon a few seconds of reflection, I concluded that I really wasn’t surprised after all.

THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


SAM S. TAYLOR – Sleep No More. E. P. Dutton, hardcover, 1949. Signet #821, reprint paperback, October 1950.

Sam S. Taylor

   In Blood in Their Ink, Sutherland Scott gave high marks to this novel. Oh, sure, Scott himself wasn’t much of a writer, to give him praise beyond his due, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have good taste. Gee, if we went by the theory that it takes one to know one, readers struggling through one of my reviews might question my judgments.

   To make a short story long, Scott put me on to a good thing here. While it breaks no new ground, it does employ the best from the hard-boiled genre. Though not invariably excellent, the obligatory metaphors and similes are at least very good.

   Recently released from the Army, Neal Cotten has established his very own detective agency in Los Angeles, where it would seem from the literature there must have been a P.I. office in every block. Business is slow until Cotten gets a client who, suspecting blackmail, wants her daughter’s spending habits investigated.

   Before Cotten can turn up much information, the client’s daughter commits suicide, or so the official theory has it. With his ’35 Buick no longer fit for speed or hills, Cotten, who is in somewhat better shape, starts on the trail.

   An interesting character in Cotten and an engrossing picture of early postwar Los Angeles make me forgive the appearance of a silenced revolver.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 13, No. 1, Winter 1991.


       The Neal Cotten series —

Sleep No More. Dutton, 1949.
No Head for Her Pillow. Dutton, 1952.
So Cold, My Bed. Dutton, 1953.

   For much more about both Sam S. Taylor and his PI character, Neal Cotten, check out “The Compleat Sam S. Taylor,” posted on this blog back in 2007.

IT IS PURELY MY OPINION
Reviews by L. J. Roberts


LOUISE PENNY – The Beautiful Mystery. St. Martin’s/Minotaur Books, hardcover, August 2012; trade paperback, July 2013.

LOUISE PENNY The Beautiful Mystery

Genre:   Police procedural. Leading character:   Chief Inspector Gamache, 8th in series. Setting:   Canada.

First Sentence:   In the early nineteenth century, the Catholic Church realized it had a problem.

   The cloistered monks of Quebec’s self-contained Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups monastery focus their lives on prayer and the simplicity of Gregorian Chants. The murder of their prior and choirmaster, Frère Mathieu, has forced open their doors to Inspector Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec

   Penny’s writing is simply superb. Her prose is more than mere words telling a story, her phrases are stories in themselves:

   Gamache couldn’t yet see the blows that led up to the final, catastrophic crushing of this man’s skull. But he’d find them. This sort of thing never came out of the blue. There’d be a trail of small wounds, bruises, hurt feelings, insults and exclusions.

   Penny wonderfully and accurately describes the way in which music can transport the soul. Her analogies are highly evocative:

   The monk examined Gamache. “… We don’t just sing, we are the song.” Gamache could see he believed it. The Chief has a vision of the halls of the monastery filled not with monks in black robes, but with musical notes. Black notes bobbing through the halls. Waiting to come together in sacred song.

   The inclusion of humor adds levity, yet there is anger and pain as well. Her words are thoughtful and thought-provoking. There are contrasts such as describing one particularly dour monk as “The Eeyore of the monastery.”, while having a doctor describe how “People die in bits and pieces.” Her writing causes you to stop and consider the concepts behind the words and can compel one to share passages with others. I’ve been known to call friends at odd hours insisting that they “Listen to this.”

   Penny’s descriptions bring places and people to life, placing you at the scene and causing you to see, hear and know the things and people around you. Among Penny’s many strengths is her ability to create characters about whom you want to know more.

   This is finally, I feel, the first time we see Gamache truly at his strength in his role. At the same time, we are made painfully aware that although he has a very close relationship, both to its credit and detriment, with his second, Jean-Guy, there are others who would do anything to discredit him.

   There is a wonderful segment where we learn of the same information but from two separate perspectives. Rather than being redundant, it truly exposes the differences in the personalities of Gamache and Jean-Guy. We also learn the details of the enmity between Gamache and his superior in whom she has created a distinct type of evil; a character who truly excels at manipulation and cruelty.

   The story is very well constructed with plots and sub-plots each as interesting as the next. Lest you think this is a cozy, it is not. It is a traditional police procedural solved by investigating and following the clues. It is also a story of relationships and strong emotions, and there is nothing cozy about them.

   Staying up most of the night reading is not something one would normally recommend. Staying up most of the night with a new book by Louise Penny is almost unavoidable.

   A reader begins every book with the hope of finding something wonderful. The Beautiful Mystery is the realization of that hope. It is an excellent, beautifully written book that stays with you long after closing the cover yet leaves you wanting to demand the next book immediately. It is also only the latest in excellent series I recommend reading in order from the beginning.

Rating:   Excellent.

MAKE A LIST: YOUR PERFECT DAY PRIME TIME SCHEDULE – MYSTERY
by Michael Shonk


   The question reportedly began at TVGuide.com. If you could program one night of prime time using any television series you wish, what would your schedule look like?

   For this “make a list” post I am more interested in opinions than who is correct. The question is an impossible one to answer for reasons beyond the obvious. A prime time schedule is more than just scheduling the best programs. But we can still have fun. There is only one rule. You are limited to three hours.

   Below I have three different schedules using only mystery series (for those who wish to play, a mystery series is whatever you say is a mystery series). Feel free to make your own lists and post them in comments. Be nice to others but feel free to say whatever you please about my “perfect” schedules. My schedules feature “Forgotten Mysteries,” “Today’s Mysteries,” and “All Time Mysteries.” Some suggestions for other schedules include traditional, hardboiled, crime, thrillers, noir, PIs, cops, comedies, docudramas, and mysteries with actors named Fred; whatever you want.

         FORGOTTEN TELEVISION

   My favorite. TV mysteries no one remembers and few ever watched.

8 to 9pm: DELPHI BUREAU

ABC, 1972-73 – http://mysteryfile.com/blog/?p=13963

9 to 9:30pm: T.H.E. CAT

NBC, 1966-67 – http://mysteryfile.com/blog/?p=11133

9:30 to 10pm: DANTE

NBC, 1960-61 – http://mysteryfile.com/blog/?p=21369

10 to 10:30pm EYES

ABC, 2005 –

   Judd Risk Management was a gadget happy PI agency run by a man with the morals of Sam Spade and the looks of Tim Daly. Cases were rarely standard TV plots and the twists actually surprised. In one case they were hired to find the client’s kidnapped mistress before the wife found out.

   SPOILER: An example of the series’ typical clever twists occurred in the kidnap episode. They convince the kidnapper to turn over the girl by giving him the money he wanted, plus they volunteered to forge a passport and give him a plane ticket to escape the country. What they didn’t tell the kidnapper was his new ID was for a Most Wanted terrorist on the no fly list.

   Series that almost made my schedule: RAINES (http://mysteryfile.com/blog/?p=7791) I prefer the fun of EYES instead of the depressing endings of RAINES.

         TODAY’S TELEVISION

   The 2012-13 season has featured over seventy five different mystery series including CASTLE (ABC), NCIS (CBS), BONES (FOX), THE AMERICANS (FX), HANNIBAL (NBC), NIKITA (CW), WHITE COLLAR (USA), SOUTHLAND (TNT), CONTINUUM (SYFY) RIPPER STREET (BBCA), MASTERPIECE MYSTERY (PBS), BOARDWALK EMPIRE (HBO), HOMELAND (Showtime), STRIKE BACK (Cinemax), BOSS (Starz), THORNE (Encore), HOUSE OF CARDS (Netflix), ROGUE (DirecTV), RECTIFY (Sundance), and BRAQUO (Hulu). There should be enough good mysteries for everyone to find three hours worth watching.

8 to 9pm: ZERO HOUR

ABC, 2013, returning in June to “burn” off the remaining 10 episodes –

   Yes, there are better series than this personal guilty pleasure, but none of them hooked me like this train wreck. Publisher of a skeptic magazine with unlimited funds, Hank has to weekly choose between trying to save his kidnapped wife or the world. From Christian mystics hiding a map in twelve clocks to the “new apostle Thomas” being an old woman who hasn’t sat down for seventy years, from a mysterious Nazi baby to the hero finding a dead Nazi on a WWII Nazi sub at the North Pole who is his exact double, this series is non-stop weird with lol over the top mysteries.

9 to 10pm:PERSON OF INTEREST

CBS, Thursday at 9pm – http://www.cbs.com/shows/person_of_interest

   The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of all TV series, PERSON OF INTEREST combines the popularity of procedural episodic TV mystery with one of TV’s best ever conspiracy arcs. Every episode features our heroes trying to save or stop a person of interest from some crime that had not yet happened. That mystery is self-contained in one episode, however the good guys are also dealing with a mysterious complex conspiracy, and a growing number of recurring villains with a variety of evil ambitions.

10 to 11PM: JUSTIFIED FX, Will return for season five TBA. http://www.fxnetworks.com/justified

   Each of the prior four seasons have featured its own storyline involving Elmore Leonard’s character Rayland Givens, Federal Marshall in Harlan County, Kentucky. Adapted with Leonard’s style, the series is blessed with great stories and characters as well as some of the best writers, actors, directors, producers, and probably even craft services in television today.

   Series that almost made my schedule: MASTERPIECE MYSTERY (PBS via England) has been a must see for mystery fans, especially traditional mystery fans for decades, but there was no room left on the schedule for the ninety minute program.

         ALL TIME MYSTERY

   There is too much choice to ever settle on one final schedule of three hours, but this will do until I change my mind again. Lists we create can often reveal secrets about ourselves. I am a sucker for characters that interest and entertain me. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I fall easily for any show that can surprises me or just tries to do something different. Style plays an important role, with my favorite style being the cool and confident hero of the 60s/70s with wit and a nice jazz soundtrack.

8 to 8:30pm: T.H.E. CAT

(See Forgotten Television)

8:30 to10pm: BANACEK

NBC – 1972-74 –

TV’s most underrated series is too often overlooked in a sea of longer running great mystery series from the 70s. But this is one of the rare series I could enjoy on an infinite loop, George Peppard’s cool confident role model, the wit of the dialog, the appeal of the characters, and the fair play mysteries. Yes, it was formulaic, but it’s a formula I never tire watching.

10 to 11pm: JUSTIFIED

(See Today’s Television)

   Series that almost made my schedule: DELPHI BUREAU and DANTE are more examples of my fondness of style and characters. Series such as EYES, RAINES, and PERSON OF INTEREST all have characters I find interesting, and the series are also risk takers, shows that try new approaches to telling the TV mystery.

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