Sad news, indeed. Actor Tony Curtis died last night the age of 85. I loved him in Some Like it Hot, one of my all time favorite movies. Curtis along with co-star Jack Lemmon disguised themselves as women to escape the Mob in this fabulous 1959 Billy Wilder classic comedy. The movie also starred Marilyn Monroe and was picked by the American Film Institute as the #1 screen comedy ever.
Curtis lived a life that could easily have been made into a movie. Born Bernard Schwartz and raised in the Bronx, N.Y., to Hungarian immigrants, Curtis completed only one year of high school, spent two years in the U.S. Navy, and learned to act on the GI Bill, which led to a contract gig with Universal Studios. Graduating to bigger parts in films like the 1952 Son of Ali Baba and 1953 Houdini, Curtis made a point of working in several genres.
Curtis had an Academy Award nomination for his performance in the 1958 crime drama The Defiant Ones where he portrayed a bigoted escaped convict. He was also in the noir drama Sweet Smell of Success. Curtis starred in the title role of the 1968 Boston Strangler. On TV he starred alongside Roger Moore in the caper series The Persuaders! as well as having a recurring role on Vegas.
He won Golden Globe awards in 1958 and 1961.
He was in many films during his long Hollywood career. He will be missed.
Arthur Penn, stage, television and motion picture director whose revolutionary treatment of sex and violence in the 1967 film “Bonnie and Clyde” transformed the American film industry, died Tuesday night at 88.
Many of the now-classic films of the “New American Cinema” of the 1970s — including “Taxi Driver,” directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Mr. Schrader, and “The Godfather,” written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola — would have been unthinkable without “Bonnie and Clyde” to point the way.
I'm a big Retro Fan and my favorite sets of glasses are Whiskey Glasses from the 1950s and 1960s that literally "Name Your Poison". This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me since I love glasses, dishes and flatware that you can 'read'.
In the 1950s and 1960s the cocktail hour flourished and with it all kinds of novelty barware, including the Name Your Poison glasses. In the 1950s several companies began making these with different shapes and varying graphics. These were originally sold in sets of four, six and eight. Each maker crafted different sets--some with original stirrers that make the glasses look like mortars and pestles. The glasses were usually heavy on the bottom with names Cyanide, Curare, Strychnine, Hemlock. My kind of drinks!
You can still find these glasses for sale at flea markets, eBay, Etsy, Replacements, and other online sites. However, Helaine Fendelman, appraisal guru, recently had an article about these in Country Living, so they'll be snatched up sooner than later.
Start searching. Raise one of these glasses next time you're watching Mad Men--or use them at Halloween. They're perfect!
Peter Robinson just won this year's Harbourfront Festival Prize! $10,000 goes with the award! He'll receive his award on the closing night of the International Festival of Authors! Congratulations, Peter!
Peter will be making several appearances at the International Festival of Authors in Toronto:
Saturday, October 30, 2010, 3:00pm, Brigantine Room, 235 Queens Quay West
Round Table: The Rap Sheet – Mystery writers talk about the scary stuff
Sunday, October 31, 2010, 1:00pm, Books & Company, Picton: Reading and round table
Friday, November 5, 2010, 7:30pm, Art Gallery of Windsor: Reading
For those of you in the UK, the first episode of the two-part drama based on Peter Robinson’s novel Aftermath is due to air on ITV in the UK on September 27 at 9:00 pm. ITV has issued a press release with a brief summary and a full cast list.
Prisoners are making more than license plates these days. Prison industries have burgeoned and even call centers are sometimes outsourced to prisons. The United States has seen a recent increase in the number of private firm/correctional facility partnerships that use prison labor for manufacturing all sorts of goods and provides services from lingerie to call centers!
10 Everyday Things You didn't know are made in Prisons
1. Household and Office Furniture
3. Brooms and Brushes
4. Digital, Data and Call Center Services. Oregon, Arizona, California and Iowas and oversees
5. Processed Meats. Meat packing plants and prisoners? I saw the movie.
6. Prescription Eyeglasses. PRIDE a manufacturer in Florida uses the Broward Correctional Institution for Women has an excellent rehabilitation program.
7. Household Chemical Products: laundry detergent, bathroom cleansers, glass polish, etc. Chemicals and prisoners? a bit weird
8. Dentures/orthodontics. Another rehabilitation program.
9. Heavy Vehicle Refits/Renovation. This includes SWAT units, Crime Scene Collection Units, Bomb Squad Units, Breath Analysis Laboratory, Detention Vehicles, and more. Weird.
10. Kevlar Bulletproof Vests.
Read all the Companies who use Prison Production at the bottom of the article, HERE.
The longlist of 21 books for the Portico Prize 2010 was announced this week. Judges included Dr Stella Butler, Ed Glinert and Val McDermid. They selected 10 fiction, 9 non-fiction and 2 poetry titles from the 103 volumes entered.
This is the only book prize exclusively for books about, or set mainly in, the North of England. Val McDermid said: "the longlist reflected those writers who understood the importance of place to underpin good fiction and this shone through with a great sense of vibrancy in Northern writing". The full longlist included a few mystery titles:
Simon Armitage – Seeing Stars (Faber & Faber, 2010)
Nicola Barker – Burley Cross Postbox Theft (Fourth Estate, 2010)
Tony Bianchi – Bumping (Alcemi, 2010)
Matt Haig – The Radleys (Canongate Books, 2010)
Sarah Hall – How to Paint a Dead Man (Faber & Faber, 2009)
Joanne Harris – BlueEyedBoy (Transworld Publishers, 2010)
Reginald Hill – Midnight Fugue (Hapercollins, 2009)
M.J. Hyland – This Is How (Canongate Books, 2009)
Jude Morgan – A Taste of Sorrow (Headline Publishing, 2009)
Jacob Polley – Talk of the Town (Picador, 2010)
Tony Williams – The Corner of Arundel Lane & Charles Street (Salt Publishing, 2009)
Steve Wood – The Angels of Mona Terrace (Prio)
BestCollegesonline.net is much more than the name implies. On 9/14, the blog admin posted a list of 50 Blogs for Mystery Readers, broken down into News, Reviews and Publishing; Book Stores; True Crime; Authors and Online Fiction. Mystery Fanfare is on the list! What a surprise and honor. Of course this isn't a definitive list, but it's really a good start. Many of my favorites on the list!
So to improve your reading:
News, Reviews, and Publishing
Murderati: Murderati examines trends in publishing and marketing through the eyes of mystery writers.
Shots: The Crime & Thriller Ezine: The blog of the U.K. magazine Shots has plenty of news and reviews about mystery and other genre fiction. Great for British readers.
Mysteries in Paradise: In addition to coverage of new titles, this blog also highlights old and forgotten mystery titles that make for ideal hunting in used book stores.
Detectives Beyond Borders: Peter Rozovsky, whose day job is copy editing, runs this lively and interesting blog dedicated to happenings in the mystery-lit world.
Paper Cuts: The literary blog from The New York Times is a required blog for fans of mystery lit. The blog covers all genres, and it does so with typical quality and skill.
Euro Crime: This blog covers the latest in the British and European book worlds, and also has contests in which readers can win free books.
Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind: Sarah Weinman writes about mystery writing for The Los Angeles Times and the Barnes & Noble Review, and she’s also a short fiction author. Definitely one of the best mystery bloggers in the game.
Reading in Reykjavk: The title’s no lie: this blog is based in Iceland, and it covers new releases, best-of lists, and questions about reading.
So today I posted about Nursery Rhymes and Agatha Christie on the Barnes & Noble Mystery Club site. Becke Davis, mystery fan and writer, hosts the site, and you'll want to have a look at everything being written about Agatha Christie this month by so many of your favorite writers, reviewers and fans. And, don't miss Kerrie Smith's Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival. Let me know of any other Agatha Christie posts this week.
Nursery Rhymes and Agatha Christie
As I mentioned on my blog earlier this week, I’m a huge Agatha Christie Fan, having taught numerous classes on the Queen of Crime, attended the Agatha Christie Centennial in Torquay and the one in the U.S., read everything and anything by and about her, and even set up a Botanical Garden tour based on Agatha Christie’s visit to the UC Botanical Gardens. On Tuesday, I blogged aboutRe-Reading Christie and the alternative titles of her novels. Because of the multiple titles, I’ve often picked up a book thinking I had found one I hadn’t read, only to find I had. Not a problem, since I usually forget the ending. But that’s also a tribute to Agatha Christie’s terrific plotting.
Agatha Christie drew her inspiration from so many places and nursery rhymes were a rich source for titles as well as themes. Although nursery rhymes may seem jolly with their happy rhymes, the mayhem they describe is fodder for a crime writer. Nursery rhymes, unlike fairytales, are all about ordinary people conducting disorderly behavior. Sometimes punishment is administered, but not always. People go about their daily lives—Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water. Perhaps that’s a naïve one, but even in that one, Jack falls down and breaks his crown, and Jill comes tumbling after. Any chance they were pushed? Many of the people in nursery rhymes have lives marked by anger, deceit, revenge and murder for lots of different reasons.
It’s interesting to note that Agatha Christie was not the first crime writer to use nursery rhymes in titles or build a mystery around the rhyme. S.S. Van Dine (detective: Philo Vance) wrote The Bishop Murder Case in 1928. The entire plot revolved around “Who Killed Cock Rock” starting with Joseph Cochrane Robin shot through the chest with an arrow. But Agatha Christie perfected the use of Nursery Rhymes in the crime genre!
So for the purpose of this post I suggest you read the rhymes along with the novels. Sometimes they add to the plot and sometimes they don’t, but it doesn’t really matter. You’ll always have a good read.
**SPOILER ALERT**Crimes and plots revealed
1. Mystery: Ten Little Indians (Ten Little Niggers, And Then There Were None) Ten Little Indians
Ten little Indian boys went out to dine; One chocked his self and then there were nine. Nine Indian boys sat up very late; One overslept himself then there were eight. Eight Indian boys traveling in Devon; One said he'd stay there then there were seven. Seven Indian boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in halves then there were six. Six Indian boys playing with a hive; A bumble-bee stung one then there were five. Five Indian boys going in for law; One got in Chancery then there were four. Four Indian boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one then there were three. Three Indian boys walking in the zoo; A big bear hugged one then there were two. Two Indian boys sitting in the sun; One got all frizzled up then there was one. One Indian boy left all alone; He went and hanged himself and then there were none.
I think this nursery rhyme, both title and plot, is the best example of Agatha Christie’s use of Nursery Rhymes in her books. The nursery rhyme is used throughout the novel to create a sense of tension essential to the atmosphere of suspense. The most controversial title, Ten Little Niggers (1939), is taken from a nursery rhyme that actually began as the mid-19th century American rhyme “Ten Little Injuns.” In 1869 Frank Green rewrote it for the British musical stage as “Ten Little Niggers,” the term “nigger” being used in England to refer to any dark-skinned person. The U.S. publishers substituted “Indians” for Christie's original “niggers,” as well as another alternate title from the last line of the rhyme: And Then There Were None.
Ten Little Indians, then, is one of my favorite Agatha Christie Nursery Rhyme mysteries for its sheer ingenuity. In this novel there is a closed society of victims and suspects on an island off the coast of Devon. They begin to die off, one by one, in various ingenious ways, closely aligned to the nursery rhyme. Brilliant multiple points of view! Interesting to note that Agatha Christie adapted this novel herself for the stage with a different, happier ending. All three films adapted from this title were actually adapted from the play. So give the original book a read. I think you’ll be surprised.
2. Mystery: A Pocket Full of Rye Sing A Song Of Sixpence
Sing a song of sixpence, A pocket full of rye; Four and twenty blackbirds Baked in a pie. When the pie was opened, They all began to sing. Now, wasn't that a dainty dish To set before the King?
The King was in his countinghouse, Counting out his money; The Queen was in the parlor Eating bread and honey. The maid was in the garden, Hanging out the clothes. Along there came a big black bird And snipped off her nose!
In A Pocketful of Rye, the nursery rhyme serves as the key to the solution for the series of murders that are committed along with the progress of the rhyme. In A Pocketful of Rye, it’s Miss Marple who figures out that the rhyme is the link between the series of murders, “Remember the Black Bird”. The first victim isn’t a king, but he’s a rich man. The second victim, his wife, is poisoned with cyanide during tea. The parlor maid has a clothespin on her nose and is strangled by a stocking. Oh, and in the pocket of the victim’s coat is a handful of rye. Maybe the murderer using the rhyme for his series of crime makes it a little easy for the reader, but there are unique characters, and I think it’s a compelling story. It’s also interesting to note that Agatha Christie also used this rhyme in two short stories “Sing a Song of Sixpence” and “Four and Twenty Blackbirds.”
3. Mystery: Hickory, Dickory, Dock Hickory Dickory Dock
Hickory, dickory, dock, The mouse ran up the clock. The clock struck one, The mouse ran down! Hickory, dickory, dock.
Neither the plot nor the characters in Hickory Dickory Dock have much of a connection to the nursery rhyme. Poirot quotes it at the end. As I remember it, the nursery rhyme is running through his mind, when he hears a clock chime. The only other connection is that the story involves a series of thefts at a youth hostel on Hickory Road that starts the investigation. Not withstanding the tangential relationship to the nursery rhyme, the novel itself is an excellent read.
4. Mystery: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
One, two, buckle my shoe Three, four, knock at the door Five, six, pick up sticks Seven, eight, lay them straight Nine, ten, a good fat hen Eleven, twelve, dig and delve Thirteen, fourteen, maids a-courting Fifteen, sixteen, maids a-kissing Seventeen, eighteen, maids a-waiting Nineteen, twenty, I've had plenty
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe actually has the rhyme in the preface, and a line at the beginning of each chapter. The first person to die is a Harley Street dentist who at first seems to have committed suicide. Poirot returns a buckle that morning after leaving the practice. The buckle having fallen off one of the other patient’s shoe. And, so the rhyme continues, as do the crimes. Read the novel.. and the rhyme.
5. Mystery: Five Little Pigs (aka Murder in Retrospect-a much better title) Five Little Pigs
This little pig went to the market. This little pig stayed home. This little pig had roast beef. This little pig had none. This little pig cried "Wee, wee, wee, wee!" All the way home.
Five Little Pigs is one of the few Poirot novels in which Poirot solves a past crime. Although each character is identified with the little pigs from the appropriate line in the nursery rhyme, and as five consecutive chapter titles, the rhyme doesn’t really define the characters. However, Poirot mentions in the text that he is thinking of nursery rhymes. Again, this is a case of the nursery rhyme not really being important to the novel, except that the five chief suspects are the five little pigs. Nevertheless, another good read.
Agatha Christie also used nursery rhymes as titles for several short stories, too, including “Three Blind Mice”, “There Was a Crooked Man”, “How Does Your Garden Grow.”
So Nursery Rhyme themes and titles are mostly a trope, but one I really enjoy, and I know readers will, too. Sometimes the rhymes add to the plot: sometimes they’re forced. No matter, what’s important is that Agatha Christie’s novels have an incredible variety of viewpoints, plots , characters and sources. You can always pick up a Christie and be entertained!
Listen to the Short Story “Four and Twenty Blackbirds” HERE:
Continuing the posts and celebrations of Agatha Christie this month, Google UK treated its users to a Google Doodle in honor of Agatha Christie's 120th Birthday. Alas, it didn't appear on the US Google search page. The Google logo crime scene includes the mustaches of Hercule Poirot and so much more!
Other Agatha Christie news today. From the Guardian: "HarperCollins Publishers is taking over the exclusive worldwide English rights to Agatha Christie's work including digital and audio formats ... This is the first time since the 1980s that all of Christie's books have been with a single publisher in the U.S. and the only time the program has been with one publisher worldwide.
Lift a glass of champagne or have a tea and scone in honor of Agatha Christie, Queen of Crime!!! Happy Birthday, Agatha Christie!
Shocking and very sad news. David Thompson, the force behind Busted Flush Press, died suddenly yesterday, September 13. Besides Busted Flush Press, David worked at Murder by the Book for 21 years. He made an indelible impression on the store and everyone who met him. David was co-chair of Bouchercon St. Louis (2011).
David Thompson was so supportive of everyone in the mystery community. Personally we exchanged numerous emails and tweets on authors, signings and new books. He arranged several of the Mystery Reader Literary Salons. Prior to one of the recent Literary Salon with Don Winslow, in addition to sending bookmarks, David put in a bag of chocolate flavored coffee beans for me. Always the personal touch. He knew my taste in chocolate and in crime fiction and was always suggesting new authors. He was always right. He expanded my reading tastes. I will miss him.
There will be a memorial service. Murder by the Book will share details as soon as they are available. In the meantime, David's wife, McKenna Jordan, asks that no tributes be sent to the bookstore for now.
UPDATE: On Sunday, September 26, there will be a celebration of David's life at the Briar Club, 2603 Timmons Lane, Houston, 77027, 2- 5 PM. In addition, Alafair Burke has set up a fund for those who wish to donate money in David's name, is available at the Murder By the Book website.
I've been blogging this week about Agatha Christie, both here and on my other Blog, DyingforChocolate.com. Check out my other Agatha Christie, Queen of Crime, posts onMystery Fanfare and Dying for Chocolate. More to come.
I’m a huge fan of Agatha Christie, and I’ve been celebrating her 120th birthday this month by re-reading many of her novels. As I started to do this, I was reminded that I’ve read many of her 75+ novels more than once, not always by design. Sometimes I’ve read a specific Christie mystery because I was using it in a course or bookgroup. Very legitimate reason. Sometimes I've reread one of her novesl because it was so good I thought it deserved a second or third reading.
Alas, there have been other reasons. Sometimes I just forget I read the novel. Agatha Christie is such a fine plotter that I rarely remember what happens, so I can re-read the book as if it's brand new. Oh yes, occasionally bits and pieces fall into place, but rarely the endings. This reason moved to number one as I got older, but really it’s all about Christie and her writing that keeps me intrigued. When you’re reading one of her novels, no matter if a Poirot, a Marple, or whatever, you turn the page and say, aha! Then you turn the page again, and there’s a completely different ‘turn of events’, and so it goes. She’s truly the Queen of Crime. Her plots are intricate, unexpected and witty!
The second reason that I’ve unwittingly re-read some of her novels is that there are alternate titles for many of them. Many times years ago when I was traveling abroad or at the bookstore looking for a good read, knowing that Christie would foot the bill, I would come across these, buy them, and read them (for the second time). Many of the Agatha Christie Mysteries were retitled for the American Market and at other times retitled even in the U.K. because of changed sensibilities. And, sometimes, I've bought and read copies that where bootlegs with different titles altogether (Indian editions). Sometimes I bought them in another language (Meutre au champagne: Sparkling Cyanide). Such an easy mistake.
So to save you the trouble, here are some of my favorite Christies and their alternate titles. But maybe you’re like me, it doesn’t really matter. Agatha Christie mysteries are always worth re-reading.
Th Sittaford Mystery: Alternate Title: The Murder at Hazelmoor
Lord Edgware Dies: Alternate TitleThirteen At Dinner
Murder in the Calais Coach: Alternate Title: Murder on the Orient Express:
Why Didn't They Ask Evans?: Alternate Title: The Boomerang Clue
Three Act Tragedy: Alternate Title: Murder In Three Acts
The ABC Murders: Alternate Title: The Alphabet Murders
Dumb Witness: Alternate Titles: Poirot Loses A Client, Murder At Littlegreen House, and Mystery at Littlegreen House
Hercule Poirot's Christmas: Alternate Titles: A Holiday for Murder, Murder For Christmas
Murder Is Easy: Alternate Title: Easy to Kill
Ten Little Niggers: Alternate Titles: And Then There Were None, Ten Little Indians
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe: Alternate Titles: The Patriotic Murders; An Overdose of Death
Murder in Retrospect: Alternate Title Hercule Poirot Five Little Pigs
So many celebrations in honor of Agatha Christie's 120th birthday this year.
Over the years, I've read just about every novel and story, play and reference book on the Grande Dame of Crime Fiction. I've taught classes on Agatha Christie at UCB, Santa Cruz, St. Mary's College, as well as focused on Agatha Christie in my mystery bookgroup.
Agatha Christie visited the UC Botanical Garden and was particularly taken by the Peruvian Lily. Poisonous? In honor of that long-ago visit, I organized a poison tour of the UC Botanical Garden with a very knowledgeable guide for my bookgroup.
For Agatha Christie's Centennial, I attended the CWA (Crime Writers UK) conference in Torquay which included the Agatha Christie Centennial Celebration Banquet. Everyone was there, and by that, I mean all my favorite British crime writers and many of the actors who portrayed Christie's characters over the years. David Suchet sat at the next table. I saw Joan Hickson in the Ladies Room. During that same trip, I went with CWA to visit Greenway, the long before it was opened to the public. The family was in residence at the time, and either they forgot that a group of mystery writers was stopping by or they didn’t care. It was a very lovely (and intimate) tour of the house.
When I returned to the States that year, I was on the organizing committee of the U.S. Agatha Christie Centennial. There were reading challenges, library talks, courses and lectures, and I wrote an 'Agatha-Christie inspired' interactive mystery event. It was great fun!
If you happen to be in England this week, check out the Festivities at the Agatha Christie Festival. Full Program of the Agatha Christie Festival. Can't be there? You can read an Agatha Christie, but to guide you, there are several Blog Tours this month celebrating Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime.
Kerrie Smith of Mysteries in Paradise who identifies Agatha Christie posts all year round (Agatha Christie Reading Challenge) has organized a wonderful Agatha Christie 120 Blog Tour this month. Be sure and check out the posts, a different blog site every day. Links here. This is also a great way to be introduced to wonderful Crime Fiction Blogs, too! Mystery Fanfare will be part of the Blog Tour, and I'll be posting later this week.
I'll also be blogging about Nursery Rhymes and Agatha Christie on the Barnes & Noble Mystery Bookclub site this week. Be sure and follow the daily postings from Christie experts and crime writers. Becke Davis is the Mystery Book Club Coordinator, and a big Agatha Christie Fan.
On my DyingforChocolate blog this week, I'll be posting a special recipe for chocolate cake called Delicious Death developed by Jane Asher for the Official Agatha Christie Celebraton.
Stop by all of these sites for everything and anything Agatha Christie. Let me know about any others!
And here's a real treat: A Video of a 1955 interview with Agatha Christie from the BBC Archives in which Agatha Christie talks about her lack of formal education and how boredom during childhood led her to write 'The Mysterious Affair at Styles'. She outlines her working methods and discusses why it is much easier to write plays than novels.
Raise a glass on September 15 to the Queen of Crime!
From Publisher's Weekly comes info on a new book Literary Tattoos: The Word Made Flesh. Will this save books? er... flesh?
Two young writers noticed a different kind of phenomenon–they noticed lots of people are getting literary tattoos: quotes or illustrations from all kinds of books, as you can see in the book trailer below. The results of their investigation will be published as The Word Made Flesh, a beautiful illustrated book from Harper Perennial next month.
Barbara Corrado Pope has a PhD in the Social and Intellectual History of Europe from Columbia and has taught history and women's studies in Hungary, Tuscany, the University of New Mexico and Harvard Divinity School. Her longest teaching stint was at the University of Oregon where she was the founding director of Women's Studies.
Publishers Weekly gave The Blood of Lorraine a starred review: "Pope improves on her 2008 debut, Cézanne's Quarry, which also featured magistrate Bernard Martin, in this fascinating look at the rise of anti-Semitism in France after the arrest of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus for treason in 1894... Pope, a historian, gives us a complex lead and with great skill makes the anti-Semitic atmosphere of the times both palpable and tragically prophetic."
Seems like there aren't a lot of mysteries set during the Labor Day Holiday. I've posted pretty much the same title for the past three years. So there's definitely an unfilled niche for crime writers.
Lee Harris' Labor Day Murder remains the only title. Let me know if I've missed another one out there. On the web: "The Labor Day Mysteries" by Nicole Williams (short story). Also Chantelle Osman recommended the Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime How NOT to survive a Vacation anthology.