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Radio Drama: "Aunt Emmy" (1955)

Radio Drama

"Aunt Emmy", first aired November 15, 1955, from the series The Clock.

Thoughts Before Listening

It has sometimes been my wont to believe like the dickens that something is going to be good simply because I think the title is rad. This rarely works out because why would it. I have chosen to listen to Aunt Emmy for exactly this reason. I am stupid.

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Review Round-up: Dead Dolls, Discoveries, Tides and Thieves

Some recent reads, old and new, fantasy and crime. Including Lin Carter's Discoveries in Fantasy, Day Keene's Dead Dolls Don't Talk, Brooke Magnanti's The Turning Tide, David Benioff's City of Thieves and the first two volumes of Thieves' World.

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Lin Carter's Discoveries in Fantasy (1974)

The Ballantine Adult Fantasy series - edited by Carter - is a pretty amazing body of work. Easily the closest thing I've seen to a 'Penguin Classics for fantasy'. The complete list is here, including the 'pre-cursors' and 'leftovers', and it includes an impressive combination of books now recognised as classic-classics as well as some curious unknowns. Carter clearly had delightfully far-reaching taste, and it is delightful to see authors like Cabell rubbing shoulders with the Deryni books and even Lovecraftian pastiche. 

That said, Discoveries is a pretty weak entry into the 'canon' (although one with an AMAZING cover, I mean, wow). It reads more like a sampler or a sales brochure than a holistic collection in its own right.

Carter's gathered short stories by Ernest Bramah, Donald Corley, Richard Garnett and Eden Phillpotts, and loosely united them with the twin themes of 'these guys should be more popular' and 'I'm going to be publishing them before long!'. Carter's introductions are similarly cursory, possibly because he was expecting to write more when he published the authors properly. Sadly, only Bramah made it into print before the series was canned.

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Radio Drama: "The Revenge of India" (1946)

The Revenge of India

"The Revenge of India" first aired August 3, 1946, on the series Lights Out.

Thoughts Before Listening

Not going to lie, the minute I saw this I was like OH MY GOD YOU HAVE TO. I am also scared and apprehensive that I, as an alleged Indian, will not be offended by this in the right way. I am also scared and apprehensive that by being offended I will be racist to white people in general so I am sorry for that in advance and also #notallwhitepeople and some of my best friends are white.

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Review Round-up: Detectives, Aliens and a Succubus

The Yellow PhantomDid you know the goodie bag at the Oscars is worth something like $200,000?!

This goodie bag of belated reviews isn't. But it does feature detective stories by Margaret Sutton and Elliott Hall, as well as Richelle Mead's Georgina Kincaid and Raymond Jones' The Alien. So that's something!

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Margaret Sutton's The Yellow Phantom (1932)

Sutton's Judy Bolton was a 'girl detective' with the misfortune to be published at the same time as Nancy Drew. That said, Bolton's adventures ran for 38 volumes and have accumulated a certain fandom of their own. One critical difference is a sense of growth (and canonicity, I suppose). Unlike the freewheeling but ageless Drew, Bolton grows up, falls in love, gets married and tackles more of 'life'. 

Still, The Yellow Phantom is still - well - very much an artefact of its time. Judy and her friends travel to New York City where they meet a mysterious and handsome writer of handsome and mysterious books.

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"A defence of detective stories" by G.K. Chesterton

Detection

In attempting to reach the genuine psychological reason for the popularity of detective stories, it is necessary to rid ourselves of many mere phrases. It is not true, for example, that the populace prefer bad literature to good, and accept detective stories because they are bad literature. The mere absence of artistic subtlety does not make a book popular.

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Ben Smith on "The Long Way Round to a Frances Marion Kickstarter"

Frances MarionI’m a huge Howard Hawks fan.

It’s my project to see every film he ever made - and without splurging box-set style, but instead to eke them out across the decades. I go for a new one every few years, as I'm in no rush to deny myself future pleasure. So it should come as no surprise that, a couple of years ago, I was filling in time by reading Todd McCarthy’s excellent biography of the man, Hollywood’s Grey Fox. From it, I learnt that Hawks had been part of Douglas Fairbanks' circle of energetic young men.

So then I searched out a Fairbanks biography, which was pretty remarkable, and then that led me to my first encounter with Frances Marion, named as one of his screenwriters and a close confidant of Mary Pickford.

Naturally, I then happened upon another book in a remainders shop, Joseph P Kennedy’s Hollywood Years, about JFK’s father - a banker, film producer, US ambassador and Nazi sympathiser. It contained an incredible story about Frances Marion and her husband’s ill-treatment at Kennedy’s hands. So I then picked up that author's other biography, this one about Frances Marion. Without Lying Down is so called because Marion spent her whole life looking for a man she “could look up to without lying down”.

I was completely sold on her. 

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Review Round-up: The Essex Sisters and Rules of Prey

Kiss Me, AnnabelA quick round-up of some recent reads: The Essex Sisters, four volumes of Regency hijinks by Eloisa James, and Rules of Prey, the first Lucas Davenport thriller.

Eloisa James' Essex Sisters (2005 - 2006)

Eloisa James's books are wonderful. They are charming, bantery romances that are almost entirely populated by nice people doing nice things for one another. I've written in the past about how epic fantasy could pick up some tricks from historical romance, and the Essex Sisters series ticks those boxes nicely. There's clever foreshadowing with the interrelated characters and perspectives, a casual approach to historical authenticity that balances empowered female characters with Regency world-building, and an openness to both humour and (of course) romance. These four books - about the marital prospects of four orphaned sisters - aren't quite as conniving or as surprising as the Desperate Duchesses series, but they certainly have their highlights. The third, The Taming of the Duke, is perhaps my favourite, as both the male and female leads have their obstacles to overcome. (I was a little disappointed by the final volume, as it recycled some tricks, and used a 'woman in peril' shtick that felt tonally different from the rest of the series.) 

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The Moonlit Way by Robert W Chambers

The Moonlit WayThere's good Chambers and bad Chambers and The Moonlit Way (1919) is firmly in the latter camp.

This ponderous and preposterous tale - that of an American artist drawn into a Prussian plot in the early days of World War I - is mostly an excuse for rampant jingoism and patriotic drum-beating. Virtually every other page is given over to a lengthy rant about 'Teutonic conspiracies' and the 'porcine Hun', as well as notes about how Britain fights on the 'side of Christ' and 'pacifism is a type of sexual perversion'. The latter is a lengthy diatribe given by a fictional doctor, so you know it is true.

Garry, our square jawed artist/scion of a rich family, is a typically Chambersian character and is painted by route. Although wealthy, he's committed to his art, and The Moonlit Way begins with him in Paris, pretending to be an impoverished student and enjoying himself immensely. It is there he encounters the dancer Thessalie, a beautiful young noblewoman who is the toast of Europe and the object of many a skeezy lordling's fantasy. Thessalie has been bartered to a French politician by the Teutonic Illuminati, and, when Garry meets her, she's hiding from her future husband.

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