Fresh Meat: <i>Wouldn't It Be Deadly</i> by D. E. Ireland Fresh Meat: Wouldn't It Be Deadly by D. E. Ireland Kerry Hammond She's been made a lady, but now Eliza must become a detective... Now Win <i>This</i>!: Hunt or Be Hunted Sweepstakes Now Win This!: Hunt or Be Hunted Sweepstakes Crime HQ Don't turn your back on these seven duplicitous offerings! Fresh Meat: <i>The Blood of an Englishman</i> by M.C. Beaton Fresh Meat: The Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton Kim Hammond Agatha Raisin's 25th case is filled with (amateur) drama! Fresh Meat: <i>Broadchurch</i> by Erin Kelly Fresh Meat: Broadchurch by Erin Kelly Debbie Meldrum Two small-town cops team up over a boy's murder. Comment for a chance to win!
From The Blog
September 17, 2014
Thief Robs Autistic Man's Birthday Money
Teddy Pierson
September 16, 2014
Denzel Washington Joins Cast of The Magnificent Seven Remake
Joe Brosnan
September 15, 2014
Steve McQueen: The King of Cool Westerns
Edward A. Grainger
September 15, 2014
We'll All Be Seeing Hannibal's Therapist Regularly
Crime HQ
September 14, 2014
Mossad as Superspy: Is the Myth Slipping?
Lance Charnes
Sep 17 2014 4:00pm
Original Story

The Noir Geek’s Guide to The Big Lebowski

Jake Hinkson

The Coen Brother’s 1998 comedy The Big Lebowski has many cultural touchstones—the sixties, hippies, Vietnam, CCR, weed, Busby Berkley musicals—but the underlying structure of the movie goes back further to the days of 40s film noir. In a movie full of touches of genius (full disclosure: I’m a Lebowskiphile from way back), the initiating act of genius was the decision to make the film a modern day update of the hardboiled L.A. crime story. Of course, the Coens were well aware that Robert Altman did this back in the seventies when he brought Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe to the grimy, drugged-out LA of 1973 in The Long Goodbye. The Coens did Altman one better by celebrating/satirizing/sending-up every noir trope they can get their hands on.

Here then is a noir geek’s guide to the land of Lebowski:

1. The Big Lebowski, The Title: In the film itself, “The Big Lebowski” refers to the character played David Huddleston, the rich old man who hires “The Dude” to find his missing wife. The title, however, is a throwback to The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler’s novel about a rich old man who hires private eye Philip Marlowe to find his missing son-in-law. It’s evocative, too, of other noir titles like The Big Bluff, The Big Combo, and The Big Heat.

[Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.]

Sep 17 2014 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Wouldn’t It Be Deadly by D. E. Ireland

Wouldn’t it be Deadly by D. E. Ireland is an historical mystery and the 1st in a series featuring Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins that picks up where My Fair Lady left off (available September 23, 2014).

Many of us know the story of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins from the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, which was made into the movie My Fair Lady. From the original story we know that Henry Higgins used his mastery of phonetics to teach Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl, to speak properly and even passed her off as a duchess at the ball. D. E. Ireland takes the story from here, and creates one of the best new traditional mystery series I have had the pleasure of reading this year.

Once Eliza completes her transformation, she decides to leave Professor Higgins and his good friend Pickering , and get a job teaching phonetics lessons. She becomes the assistant to Higgens’ rival, Emil Nepommuck. Higgins is not happy about the arrangement and when Nepommuck takes credit for Eliza’s transformation, Higgins writes the newspaper denouncing Nepommuck as a fraud. When Nepommuck is found murdered, it’s the unfortunate Higgins who is the chief suspect. Knowing him to be innocent, Eliza feels it her duty to assist the police and prove her friend innocent. The fact that he claims to have been wandering around London listening to accents doesn’t help matters. Since he can provide no solid alibi or anyone who remembers seeing him, and the police are under pressure to solve the case quickly, Higgins is the natural suspect.

[But he won't be the only one...]

Sep 17 2014 8:45am

Thief Robs Autistic Man’s Birthday Money

Surveillance video from a Connecticut shopping mall captured a truly disgraceful act — someone robbing an autistic man's birthday money.

The despicable robbery happened in broad daylight, around 3:45PM last week. Police say the victim was on his way into a mall when the suspect approached him. It appears the victim pulled out the $100, excited about spending the money he got for his birthday.

That is when the suspect took the money, and began taunting the victim with it. Then it almost looked as though there was a change of heart, but didn't and he kept the money. He was later seen running away.

A short time later the autistic man figured out what happened and started screaming for someone to help him.

Thanks to a video released by the local authorities, the thief was found and arrested. He was later charged with stealing.

Despite everything going on with this story there’s a positive — police in Stamford as well as members of the community have come together and raised over $1800 for the man.

Sep 16 2014 1:00pm

Now Win This!: Hunt or Be Hunted Sweepstakes

If you’re not acting, you’re reacting, so get into the hunt for these seven great new releases! Register to enter for a chance to win!

Click here to enter for a chance to win!

This is NOT a Comments Sweepstakes. You must click the link above to enter.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry. Promotion begins September 16, 2014, at 1:00 pm ET, and ends September 30, 2014, 12:59 pm ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.

[You can't afford any hesitation...]

Sep 16 2014 11:00am

Fresh Meat: The Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton

The Blood of an Englishman, the 25th Agatha Raisin cozy Cotswolds mystery by M.C. BeatonThe Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton is the 25th cozy mystery featuring Agatha Raisin, a P.I. in the rural Cotswolds, who'll face murder amid the tormented world of amateur theatrics. (available September 16, 2014).

Agatha and her crew are back, embroiled in another small-town murder. Mild-mannered Mrs. Bloxby, the vicar’s wife, talks Agatha Raisin into attending a pantomime in neighboring Winter Parva.  It's an amateur play that barely keeps Agatha awake and she can't wait to leave. But shortly after her departure, Bert Simple, the local baker who played an ogre in the pantomime,  is discovered brutally killed. Agatha flies back to the scene to see what's happened and runs into her friend, Detective Sergeant Bill Wong, who is uncharacteristically distant and tells her to go home.

[It's never worked before, and won't now!]

Sep 16 2014 8:45am

Denzel Washington Joins Cast of The Magnificent Seven Remake

While promoting his upcoming film, The Equalizer, Denzel Washington announced that he has signed on for a role in the eventual remake of The Magnificent Seven.

Set to direct is Antoine Fuqua, who has worked with Washington both on the soon-t0-be-released The Equalizer, and in 2003's Training Day, where Washington won an Academy Award for his role. 

True Detective's writer Nic Pizzolatto has written the first draft of the remake, and multiple other stars have been associated with the film, including Matt Damon, Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, and Tom Cruise. Washington is the first actor to confirm a role in the film.

What do you think of the upcoming remake? Is it another case of Hollywood greed, or do you think it's time for a reimagining of the story?

Sep 15 2014 6:00pm

Boardwalk Empire 5.02: “The Good Listener”

At the end of last week’s stellar season premiere, Nucky’s new bodyguard slices the ear off of a would-be assassin. Episode Two, “The Good Listener,” continues this auricular theme in both its visuals and its message. The opening shot is of Eli’s ear (both the outer and the inner) as Eli lies passed-out, drunk on the floor. He awakes to a new Federal Treasury Agent—one not on the Capone payroll—raiding his warehouse. We find out later that this new Fed is Elliot Ness, played by Jim True-Frost (Pryzbylewski from The Wire). True-Frost, in a nice hat tip to his former show, tells his agents to “Put the cash on the table,” a refrain similar to that of the Baltimore PD, who wanted “Drugs on the table” for their press conferences.

The rest of the Chicago characters, absent last week, are also featured in “The Good Listener.” Capone, now the boss of bosses and a worldwide celebrity, isn’t listening to anybody (not that he was ever interested in other people’s opinions). Instead, he’s giving interviews to Variety Magazine while clownishly shouting and joking to a room full of yes men. His inattention is costing him, and not just the twenty grand that Ness seized. He’s allowed a mole to penetrate his organization at the highest levels, an oversight that will eventually lead to his downfall.

[Finances can be tricky...]

Sep 15 2014 4:30pm

Steve McQueen: The King of Cool Westerns

Steve McQueen (1930-1980) built a legendary acting career playing anti-establishment characters in memorable films like Bullitt, The Thomas Crown Affair, and The Getaway. In 1974 he finally passed a personal goal by becoming the highest paid Hollywood star (and top billing against friendly rival Paul Newman) with his turn in The Towering Inferno. But, at the beginning, The King of Cool rose to fame playing Western heroes like Josh Randall on television and his breakout movie role as Vin in The Magnificent Seven. Here are seven spur-wearing parts that span his notable acting career:

Trackdown: The Bounty Hunter (TV, 1958)

Robert Culp starred in Trackdown (1957-1959) as Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman who worked out of a small town in West Texas solving an assortment of trouble that passed through his region. A spin-off series was created from Trackdown (which itself was a spin-off of Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater) featuring McQueen as bounty hunter Josh Randall who wanders the American Old West bringing in wanted felons with the leverage of a sawed off shotgun he fondly calls his Mare’s leg. In this first outing aptly titled “The Bounty Hunter,” he helps Hoby locate a less than savory husband. Trivia: Culp claims credit for landing McQueen the part of Randall. According to bonus material on the DVD releases of the classic Wanted: Dead or Alive series, he taught McQueen the “art of the fast-draw,” adding that on the second day of filming McQueen easily won.

[Let's keep the cool going...]

Sep 15 2014 1:15pm

The Strain 1.10: “Loved Ones”

Flashbacks aren’t new to this show, but this week’s episode handles them a little bit differently. Rather than giving us insight into a character’s origins, as in the Abraham and Eichorst narratives, we swing back and forth between the recent past and the present to see exactly what happened to Eph’s estranged wife Kelly.

I quite like it: it disrupts the normally linear story in an interesting way that puts the full spotlight on a side character. And by making us connect with Kelly, it lets us feel just how horrific such an experience would be on a visceral level.

Everything opens in the present with Zach using his noggin and a laptop liberated from the pawn shop (clever boy) to track down his missing mother’s iPhone. I always appreciate when child characters are given more to do than stand around and look cute, and this just further cements my opinion that Zach and Carl from The Walking Dead would make quite the pre-teen team.

[That's a show I'd watch!]

Sep 15 2014 9:45am

We’ll All Be Seeing Hannibal’s Therapist Regularly

Gillian Anderson plays Bedelia du Maurier on Hannibal, an astonishingly cool and self-possessed character, especially given her hints about being the victim of violent crime and given that her almost-shuttered practice has devolved to including only client, the insistent Dr. Lecter himself. If you've been watching, you've discovered more of her hidden depths—oh, that Season 2 finale!—and it's just been reported she'll become a series regular.

Creator Bryan Fuller says Season 3 will begin about a year after the shocking end of Season 2 with the characters Hannibal and Bedelia, who seem to have moved somewhat beyond office visits and quarterly billing, and we can't wait to see what's happened to them and everyone else in the interim. Now, we know Bedelia is still around—wonder who else is!

Sep 14 2014 12:00pm

Mossad as Superspy: Is the Myth Slipping?

I’ve run across an interesting piece by Nathan Abrams, Professor of Film Studies at Bangor (UK) University, on The Conversation website (“a collaboration between editors and academics to provide informed news analysis and commentary”). The title sums it up nicely: “Mossad Agents Were Suave and Effective on Screen, Now They’re Ineffective Blunderers.”

Abrams’ thesis:

Mossad, Israel’s secret intelligence service, has a reputation for being fearsomely effective, protecting Israelis and Jews far beyond the country’s borders. Such portrayals used to be common...[there is] a wider recent trend in which the reputation of the Mossad secret agent is tarnished.

While the on-screen Mossad appearance he keys on is the recent BBC2/SundanceTV co-production The Honourable Woman, he also indicts such varied films as David Mamet’s Homicide, Lucky Number Slevin, the Adam Sandler spoof You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, and, strangely, Munich, Spielberg’s love letter to the Mossad. He compares them to the almost-godlike Mossad agents featured in The House on Garibaldi Street and concludes that “there is no doubt that Israel, and specifically the Israeli secret service, is suffering on screen. No James Bond or Jack Bauer here.”

[No Chloe or dry martinis, either...]

Sep 13 2014 2:00pm

Bogie and Bacall: Key Largo (1948)

In tribute to the late Lauren Bacall, we’re looking at the four classic films she made with husband and screen partner Humphrey Bogart between 1944 and 1948: To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo. Last week we looked at Delmer Daves’ Dark Passage. Today we’ll look at John Huston’s Key Largo.

I want to state this up front because I know that many people will disagree: Key Largo is not one of Humphrey Bogart’s best films.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s really, really good. Since I’ve seen it, oh, 20 times or so, it must be doing something right. Still, when you consider that his credits include Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, and In a Lonely Place, you realize that Bogart simply made so many masterpieces that even a film like Key Largo has to get bumped down to the second tier. There it joins films like The Enforcer and Dark Passage. And that ain’t  bad company.

[That's where I want to go...]

Sep 13 2014 11:00am

Bogie and Bacall: Dark Passage (1947)

In tribute to the late Lauren Bacall, we’re looking at the four classic films she made with husband and screen partner Humphrey Bogart between 1944 and 1948: To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo. Last week we looked at Hawks’ The Big Sleep. Today we’ll look at Delmer Daves’ Dark Passage.

Dark Passage doesn’t get any respect. It’s a fine film noir that has two things working against its reputation: 1) a hokey stylistic device, and 2) the fact that it is the least of the Bogart/Bacall vehicles.

I’ll deal with each of these criticisms in a moment. First however, the plot: Bogart plays Vincent Parry, a convict who has just busted out of prison when the film starts. He’s picked up by a talkative motorist named Baker (Clifton Young). It doesn’t take Baker long to figure out that Parry’s a fugitive, so Parry slugs him, takes off on foot and is picked up by another motorist. She’s Irene Jansen (Bacall), and surprisingly she already knows who Parry is and wants to help him. It turns out that Parry was convicted of killing his wife, and Irene followed his trial in the papers, convinced of his innocence. Before long, Parry undergoes a facelift and sets out to track down his wife’s killer.

[That's a tricky bit to pull off...]

Sep 12 2014 11:00pm

Checking into The Knick 1.05: “They Capture the Heat”

If there’s one point that The Knick has driven home time after time, it’s that early 20th Century surgery was not easy. If the actual process of cutting you open didn’t kill you, the recovery process certainly could, as antibiotics weren’t around to prevent infection. A surgeon of these times was similar to a baseball player—succeeding 30% of the time was considered good.

So as “They Capture the Heat” opens with one of gangster Bunky Collier’s henchmen suffering a severe leg wound, we’re left assuming breathing, let alone walking, are not in the man’s future. But that’s not okay for Collier. Not only does he demand that his underling must survive, but the leg must be saved too. If not, he’ll kill everyone involved, which in this case, includes John Thackery, Algernon Edwards, and Herman Barrow. Cue the suspense (and the forced close-up of Collier’s holstered gun).

Being that Collier’s arrived at The Knick in the early hours of the morning, Thackery assumes he’ll be the only surgeon on site, since Bertie and Gallinger live further away. But Thackery doesn’t know about Edwards’ secret late-night basement clinic. Upon seeing Edwards at the hospital, Thackery’s objections take a back seat to pragmatism, creating an intesting situation where both Thackery and Edwards will finally work together. Now of course we’re not going to have a wannabe gangster kill off three main characters 15 minutes into the fifth episode, but this plot device was welcomed, as we’re all hoping that Edwards and Thackery put their dual-geniuses together and kick some medicinal ass. And for at least a few hours, they did.

[But that doesn't last...]

Sep 12 2014 12:00pm

Mayhem by the Numbers: A Mystery Count-Off

Having recently finished The Nine Tailors, Dorothy L. Sayers’ golden age whodunit, I had a small epiphany during the re-shelving process. I realized that I have quite a lot of numerically titled mysteries in my collection. Well, friends, my epiphany is your epiphany. For no reason other than whimsy (not to be confused with Lord Peter Wimsey) I give you here a list of mysterious novels and stories whose sole common denominator is that each has a digit in the title. As it worked out, the Brit authors outnumber the Yank ones three to one. Most of these tales date back several decades, and while many fall on the classics side of the genre; a couple are more obscure. From one to ten, allow me to enumerate: 

1) The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Before dipping into the past, we’ll start off with a modern offering. Penned by Scottish writer Alexander McCall Smith, this popular series kickoff introduces the resourceful Mma Precious Ramotswe. As the first female private eye in Botswana, Mma Ramotswe plies her trade with pluck, persistence and empathy. Her sign claims “Satisfaction Guaranteed for all Parties” and she aims to please. Precious’s caseload includes con-men, missing persons, and witch doctors, all against the backdrop of Africa’s distinctive landscape and culture. Her Number One is our Number One.

[Come count along...]

Sep 12 2014 8:45am

A Word with the Dearly Departed: Sean Astin on The Strain

Sean Astin has never been into vampires.

“When I was sixteen I worked in a movie theatre where my friend Corey Feldman’s movie The Lost Boys premiered—that was probably the height of my vampire interest,” Astin says with a laugh. While the world was swept up in the vampire craze—with True Blood and The Vampire Diaries taking over TV and Twilight blowing up in book stores and theatres—the actor was more focused on dramatic work and fantasy series like The Lord of the Rings.

But when Guillermo del Toro approaches you with a job offer, you don’t just say no.

“[It’s an exciting thing] spending time with Guillermo,” says Astin. “He’s just so full of life and creativity… You always feel like he’s both incredibly well prepared and in the moment, able to be spontaneous. I’m grateful that Guillermo reached out and swept me up.”

[Del Toro has swept us all up with The Strain...]

Sep 11 2014 2:00pm

Lost Classics of Noir: Build My Gallows High by Geoffrey Homes

I didn’t set out to make a habit of, when writing appreciations of books for this site, also commenting on movies that were made from the novels. Ditto discussing the books that were converted into the films I cover. But oftentimes it just makes sense to do this. There’s usually something interesting in the connection between books and the movies that get made from them, and when you know one but not the other, then experience the other, you often come away with some new insights into the story in the medium to which you were already hip.

Anyway, when writing about the novel that was turned into the classic 1947 movie Out of the Past, there’s just no way around commenting on the film. Ask 100 film noir buffs to list their all-time top 10 examples from the genre, and my guess is at least 80 of them (if not more) would include Jacques Tourneur’s 1947 masterpiece on their tally. Yet I wonder how many of those 80 or more have read the book – Build My Gallows High (1946), penned by Daniel Mainwaring under the pseudonym of Geoffrey Homes – that is the foundation of the big screen feature. I’ve been an avid watcher/reader of both noir film and fiction for decades, first saw and was blown away by Out of the Past many years back, but I’ve only just now read the novel. The book is out of print, as best I can tell was last issued by Film Ink in 2001. And there is no e-book version, at least that I can find. So it’s fair to say it’s a lost title. And, having just taken it in (I got it in one of the Ace 2-for-1 editions, with a Harry Whittington novel attached), I can say it’s a classic.

[You owe it to yourself to check it out...]

Sep 11 2014 10:30am

Fresh Meat: Broadchurch by Erin Kelly

Broadchurch by Erin Kelly is a small town murder mystery based on the television series from Chris Chibnall (available September 16, 2014).

At its core, this is a police procedural. A dead body has been found, obviously murdered. Detectives need to figure out who did it and why. Once they do, if they do, apprehend the culprit. But there is so much more than that going on.

All of the action takes place in a small town. The good thing about small towns is that everybody knows everybody else. It’s also the bad thing about small towns. At first no one can believe someone they know could have done this. It must be an outsider.  But as the investigation drags on, they start looking at each other differently. Every action and word becomes suspect, sinister.

A big city Detective Inspector is leading the investigation. Alec Hardy’s got the experience, the know-how. What he doesn’t know is how to navigate this small town. He’s brusque, rude even. No one on the team likes his style. Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller, as his reluctant second in command, gets the brunt of it.

She’s barely holding it together. Danny was her son’s best friend and her best friend’s son. As a detective she knows what questions she needs to ask and just who should be questioned, whether she likes it or not. And Miller does manage to keep up with Hardy. Not only keep up with but stand up to when necessary. Ellie’s a mum. And that doesn’t just mean the soft, nurturing part. She has the grit and stamina to keep going, protect herself and those close to her while ferreting out the truth.

[It's a refreshing, fully developed character...]

Sep 11 2014 8:45am

Who Would You Cast in a Ghostbusters Reboot?

Ghostbusters castThe classic comedy, Ghostbusters seems to constantly have rumors of a reboot or sequel lurking. However, it seems like the rumors might be getting a little bit of fact behind them. Recently, Ghostbusters' star Bill Murray told the Toronto Star that he's not averse to a sequel—as long as he isn't in it. Who did he pitch instead? Why, an all female cast!

Among his suggestions were Melissa McCarthy, his co-star in the Toronto International Film Festival-premiering St. Vincent, and another McCarthy co-star, Kristen Wiig. Funny ladies Emma Stone and Linda Cardellini (most recently of Mad Men) rounded out the fab four.

Bridesmaids director Paul Fieg has expressed an interest in directing the reboot, and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are also among the names mentioned in the reboot.

Are you in favor of a reboot? If you could fantasy cast an all-female Ghostbusters, who would be your picks?

Sep 10 2014 2:00pm

Gotham’s Girls: Comic Noir’s New Leading Ladies

Noir has long been a male bastion in comics, from Frank Miller reimagining Daredevil and Batman to Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka creating Gotham Central, an inspiration for the upcoming Gotham television series.

Female creators writing noir stories for comics have been few and far between. But that’s changing. Batgirl is being re-imagined by a creative team that includes Babs Tarr and acclaimed artist Becky Cloonan is part of a team working on the all-new Gotham Academy series, both debuting in October.

On the independent side, Erica Schultz is the co-creator of M3, an award-winning independent series with art by Vicente Alcázar. M3 is the story of a female assassin who entered the trade after being raised by the hit man who murdered her parents. Machiavella Maria Marcona’s (hence: M3) always believed her assassinations were for the right reasons and that she was murdering for the greater good. As her story unfolds, mixing flashbacks with the current day, it becomes clear everything she was certain of in her life could be wrong.

[That's a big pill to swallow...]