This site began back in January 2011 and here we are, two years and 270 posts later and the year is almost up. What have we learned from the Blogosphere? Well, for one thing, WordPress and Google’s blogger software like each … Continue reading
The release of Ben Affleck’s smart historical satire Argo, based loosely on the true extraction by the CIA and Canadian officials of six American Embassy staff members out of Tehran in 1980, made me reflect on the spy genre as … Continue reading
Posted in 'Best of' lists, Adam Hall, Alfred Hitchcock, Amnesia, Billy Wilder, Brian de Palma, Cold War, Elleston Trevor, Eric Ambler, Espionage, Film Noir, George Smiley, Ian Fleming, James Bond, John Frankenheimer, John le Carre, Len Deighton, London, Michael Powell, New York, Paris, Quiller, San Francisco, Scene of the crime, Spy movies
John Norris, the host of the exceptional Pretty Sinister Books blog, returns with his mystery competition. As you would expect from a man of his considerable knowledge, it’s not for the faint of heart. Frankly, it is thoroughly fiendish though … Continue reading
Tomorrow is ‘International James Bond Day’, not actually a national holiday yet but I’m sure it’ll catch on eventually. It’s part of a coordinated media blitz celebrating the 50 years on screen of ‘the world’s favourite secret agent’. I’m starting … Continue reading
Posted in 'Best of' lists, 'In praise of ...', Espionage, Ian Fleming, James Bond, Spy movies
Tagged Cubby Broccoli, Daniel Craig, George Lazenby, Harry Saltzman, Ian Fleming, James Bond, John Barry, Ken Adam, Pierce Brosnan, Richard Maibaum, Roger Moore, Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton
Is Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo the greatest film of all time? The 2012 Sight & Sound critics poll thinks so. And even if this is not true (some don’t even think it’s the best of the director’s thrillers), how well do people … Continue reading
This site just passed another milestone at the end of this week with its 100,000th visit! This seems an extraordinary number, both heartening and humbling. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for the support – hope to see you round … Continue reading
Perhaps not a surprise this, but it has been revealed that loans in UK libraries between July 2010 and June 2011 are dominated completely by thrillers. Top of the pile is Dan Brown and his latest effort, The Lost Symbol, … Continue reading
No, this is not a review of the Carter Dickson classic, but it’s a classic snowbound impossible crime story and that seemed good enough reason to include the illustration. This site began back in January and here we are, twelve … Continue reading
John Norris, the host of the exceptional Pretty Sinister Books blog, has initiated a mystery competition. As you would expect from a man of his considerable knowledge, it’s not for the faint of heart. Frankly, it is thoroughly fiendish and … Continue reading
This is a minor milestones for Tipping My Fedora as the blog has now reached its 101st post. So, seeing as it is also my birthday today, what better way to celebrate than with a small indulgence in the company of … Continue reading
Posted in 'Best of' lists, Charlie Chan, Columbo, Dashiell Hammett, Dorothy L. Sayers, Film Noir, Giallo, Inspector Morse, Jonathan Latimer, London, Lord Peter Wimsey, Los Angeles, Nero Wolfe, New York, Oxford, Paris, Parker, Philip MacDonald, Philip Marlowe, Philo Vance, Raymond Chandler, Rex Stout, Richard Stark, Robert Culp, Ross Macdonald, San Francisco, Scene of the crime, Scott Turow, Sherlock Holmes, SS Van Dine, The Thin Man, TV Cops, William Goldman
There are two distinct flavours of Inspector Morse – first there are the Colin Dexter series of thirteen novels (and a handful of short stories) published between 1975 and 1999; then there are the 33 feature-length episodes of the TV … Continue reading
O Henry was considered to be the original master of the twist ending in his popular short stories, at least in the sense that this is what he became famous for – and certainly there are a great many movies … Continue reading
Posted in 'Best of' lists, Agatha Christie, Columbo, DVD Review, Film Noir, Giallo, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome, Spy movies, Top 10
Well, sort of – Robert Downey Jr returns to the role of Sherlock Holmes and has been cast opposite Noomi Rapace, who played Stieg Larsson’s heroine in the Swedish adaptations of the Milennium trilogy, in Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows … Continue reading
Peter Falk has died at the age of 83 after several years in poor health. A brilliant stage and film actor equally adept at comedy and drama, familiar for his blistering performances in John Cassavetes’ films and as the loving … Continue reading
Last month the American novelist Newton Thornburg died at the age of 81. He had apparently been incapacitated by a stroke in 1998 and been confined to a wheelchair since then. He remains best-known for his 1976 post-Vietnam novel Cutter … Continue reading
“The bottom is loaded with nice people. Only cream and bastards rise” – HARPER (1966) The private investigator or, in Sherlock Holmes’ case, ‘consulting’ detective, is a figure completely embedded into the history of the crime and mystery genre, but … Continue reading
The plan was to come up with a top 100 that I was prepared to stand by – but I wanted to re-read so many of the books that I might have included but now remembered too vaguely (such as Ngaio Marsh’s output or books like Tey’s hugely popular The Daughter of Time) that I thought I should publish only a partial list. Not to mention finding it a bit hard to just settle on one book by Georges Simenon given the enormity of his output – I have placed a list of 80+ titles on the site and am extremely open to suggestions …
So here are My (Nearly) Top 100 Mystery Books Continue reading
With the closure at the end of this month of The San Francisco Mystery Bookstore (as reported here) I thought I would dedicate a post this week to that fine city in Northern California where, once upon a time, I used to visit a very good friend of mine. I did a lot of growing up there in the 80s and 90s and also bought a lot of great mystery books.
I haven’t been there in over a decade now but along with its undoubtedly beautiful setting on the Bay, the vibrancy of its culture (and counter-culture) and of course the wonderful food, fascinating people and amazing architecture, the potential for squalor and seediness seemed often remarkably ever-present to me as a European tourist, requiring little more than a short step in the ‘wrong’ direction – especially before the regeneration of SOMA. This mixture of high and low culture, of beauty and darkness, have made it the perfect setting for all kinds of mysteries, from the misanthropic romance of Hitckcock’s Vertigo to the hard- and soft-boiled worlds of Hammett found in the gritty adventures of Sam Spade and upper class sleuths Nick and Nora Charles. In some ways the most valuable works here for me are those by Bill Pronzini and the late Joe Gores, who use the city and its environs as the backdrop for so much of their work. They offer a particularly fascinating and diverse look at a city and how it has changed over the decades.
Limiting this list to just 10 inevitably meant plumping for some personal favourites and some unavoidable but great, even classic, books that somehow you just can’t do without. So, for today, these are my top mystery books set in and about San Francisco, still beautiful and mysterious - just like my old friend. I present these in strict chronological order. I hope to blog on each separately, as time goes by … Continue reading
The Alphabet of Crime community meme over at the Mysteries in Paradise blog has reached the letter R, and my second nomination this week, also eligible under the guidelines of Bev’s 2011 Mystery Readers Challenge, is …
THE RED RIGHT HAND by Joel Townsley Rogers
“… surely one of the dozen or so finest mystery novels of the 20th century.” - Jack Adrian
There are prolific mystery writers, of great and small acclaim, who become defined by just one work – I’m not thinking of Helen Eustis and her sole adult contribution to the genre, the groundbreaking The Horizontal Man (1946), nor of distinctive but only belatedly recognised authors such as John Franklin Bardin. Rather there are those who, for various reasons, despite producing a number of offerings over their careers, only became popularly known for a small or even single portion of it. In some cases this is just an indication of capitalising on commercial success, as in Robert ‘Psycho’ Bloch for instance, but there are others only known to cognoscenti except for one exceptional title – and Joel Townsley Rogers is certainly one of those authors. Continue reading
Whether you consider it to be a fully fledged genre or more of a style or movement, Film Noir is unquestionably one of the most popular and certainly one of most discussed modes in cinema. Continue reading
This conference aims to explore: ‘Whodunit’, and how have they ‘dunit’? Investigating Agatha Christie’s works and their adaptations.
Agatha Christie is the best-selling author of all time. She has sold over two billion books worldwide and has been translated into over 45 languages. She has written over 80 novels and a number of plays. Her work has been adapted for cinema, television, animation and, more recently, computer games. The characters she created have assumed the status of ‘fictional celebrities’; Poirot and Miss Marple have become transnational phenomena, and are the protagonists of Japanese animations series and video games for various platforms.
To investigate the work of the Queen of Crime, the Department of Film and Media Studies at the University of Derby will host a one-day Conference on September 12, 2011. Continue reading
When is a post not a real post? When is a book not a book? When is a fiction a ‘real’ fiction?
One of the standout features of Rex Stout’s The League of Frightened Men is the prominence in the plot of the literary accomplishments of creepy suspect Paul Chapin, author of such (fictitious) works as ‘Devil Take the Hindmost’ – indeed, it is through a detailed analysis of Chapin’s work that Wolfe is be able to crack the case. This got me thinking about long and honourable history of fictitious novels and the allure of lost manuscripts in general. Henry James’ The Aspern Papers is certainly one of the most notable of such works but in the mystery genre it does seem to be particularly prevalent – this is in addition of course to all the works inspired by to the references in Arthur Conan Doyle to unreported tales, such as in the case of the ‘Giant Rat of Sumatra’, most notably in the book of short stories by Doyle’s son Adrian and John Dickson Carr in the 1950s (published as The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes) and most recently the pastiches written for radio by Bert Coules as The Further Adventure of Sherlock Holmes. Continue reading
Like so many aficionados of the genre, I got into mystery fiction at an early age, probably through exposure to film and TV adaptations. I certainly remember the great excitement of seeing the movie version of DEATH ON THE NILE (1978) when I was 10 years old at my local ABC cinema in Maidenhead and I suspect that I started reading Agatha Christie’s novels very shortly afterwards. The same was also probably the case with the much-filmed books by Ian Fleming and Raymond Chandler, the first ‘adult’ authors that I remember reading and getting really excited about. My fascination with the history of the genre is also fairly easy to pin down – it began when I came across the original 1972 edition in hardback of Julian Symons’ personal history of the genre, Bloody Murder (published in the US as ‘Mortal Consequences’), at the local library while visiting my grandparents in Horsham, West Sussex. After 30 years I still find myself regularly referring to it and so it has to come top of my list of reference works on the genre. Continue reading
Jeffery Deaver originally studied journalism and he employs and unfussy, nuts and bolts prose style that partially explains why he has recently followed a long line of authors – including John Gardner, Raymond Benson, Sebastian Faulks and (in a junior capacity) Charlie Higson – in continuing the literary adventures of James Bond with the forthcoming publication of Carte Blanche. Deaver is also, like Fleming, drawn to pulpy plots involving grand schemes from master professional criminals and heroes with well-hidden human frailties and vulnerabilities. In other respects though he is very different from Fleming, most notably his trademark love of puzzles and endless twists and turns and his general avoidance of descriptive passages. Undeniably though he is a very capable writer of thrillers as well as a best-selling author (the two don’t always go together, let’s face it). He is best know for the series featuring Lincoln Rhyme, a forensic detective who, being a quadriplegic, is in a very real sense a ‘armchair detective’. He was played by Denzel Washington in The Bone Collector, a reasonably successful movie adaptation of the first of the series. Rhyme makes a guest appearance in The Devil’s Teardrop, but the main character is Parker Kincaid, a graphologist working in Washington DC who retired from active FBI duties to keep his two young children out of harm’s way. Continue reading
Why 9? Well, 40 seemed too many, 5 was too few while the number 9 features heavily in the last Queen novel which was always going to be the last of my list, so … QED (a latin maxim which in one of the stories is amusingly mis-translated as ‘Queens’s Experiments in Deduction’).
Along with John Dickson Carr, Queen was the great detective story writer of my youth – when I turned 13 I began devouring their stories, marvelling at the ingenuity as they caught me out time and again. I’ll get round to Carr soon, but then again such a good job has already been done over at the ‘In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel’ blog that it is going to take a lot more effort to come up with something new to say.
“Ellery Queen” was the pseudonym of the cousins Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee, who also used the name for the detective, who is himself an author of detective stories. This is typical of the convolutions within their stories, which initially offered a ‘Challenge to the Reader’, claiming that at a certain point all the clues existed to deduced (never ‘guess’) who the murderer was. Lee later was polite enough to admit that this was probably only true if the reader was a genius! Continue reading
This gallery contains 5 photos.
Is the detective story fundamentally a postmodern genre?
During the ‘Golden Age’ of the detective story, between the two World Wars, the genre developed as a game in which ingenuity and surprise were much more important than characterisation or plausibility. The likes of Monsignor Ronald Knox and SS Van Dine created rigid lists of what was, and was not, permissible in a detective story, in much the same way as one would seek to establish the conventions of a round of Bridge – there were puzzles in the real sense of the word, constructed like crossword puzzles and frequently appealing to those in search of distraction by way of gentle brainteaser. Crime not as literature but as a form of narrative Sudoku in which the main virtue was the ability to create order from seeming chaos and succeed in tricking the opponent / reader. Inevitably many of the stories written then and shortly thereafter extended the ‘rules of engagement’ to include parody but such was the sense of ‘gamesmanship’ that knowing postmodern jokes and tropes started to enter the genre even before the term ‘postmodern had come into general use after the end of the Second World War.
Below I list some of the postmodern mystery stories that I have enjoyed the most – this is clearly a short and personal list of favourites and I would be very interested to know of titles that other readers would include in their lists. Continue reading
Over at the Mrs Peabody Investigates blog there is a discussion on the list of 20 great crime and mystery novels generated by John Connelly and Declan Hughes. Listmaking is one of life’s great joys, as is the opportunity to attempt to counter and redact other people’s lists – so here is my reposte.
In strict chronological order, here’s my score of today and I’m glad to say that keeping it to only 20 was just impossible … so it’s really 26! I’ve kept more recent titles to a minimum to give posterity a chance to percolate, although Stieg Larsson and his pulpy entertainments were never going to make it here.