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! Now Win <i>This</i>!: Can't Beat the Classics Sweepstakes Now Win This!: Can't Beat the Classics Sweepstakes Crime HQ They're classics for a reason... Fresh Meat: <i>Nine Days</i> by Minerva Koenig Fresh Meat: Nine Days by Minerva Koenig Angie Barry Under witness protection in rural TX, Julia's no innocent, but neither is anyone else... FM: <i>Virtue Falls</i> by Christina Dodd FM: Virtue Falls by Christina Dodd Laura K. Curtis An earthquake brings one family's history rushing to the surface.
From The Blog
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
September 13, 2014
Bogie and Bacall: Key Largo (1948)
Jake Hinkson
September 12, 2014
Checking into The Knick 1.05: “They Capture the Heat”
Joe Brosnan
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...]

Sep 10 2014 11:00am

Bogie and Bacall: The Big Sleep (1946)

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 Howard Hawks’ To Have and Have Not. Today we’ll look at Hawks’ The Big Sleep.

The Big Sleep is a movie that is nearly universally beloved by movie buffs, but it is also the source of some debate among noir fans. Everyone agrees that it’s masterfully made, and everyone agrees that it contains one of Bogart’s great performances. But is it noir? Many people say no. One must admit, too, that there are strong arguments in support of this argument.

[But it's not that easy...]

Sep 10 2014 8:45am

Carjacking Victims Hogtie Naked Carjacker

An Australian man who foolishly attempted to carjack not one, but three vehicles was chased down by the angry victims and hogtied until the local authorities arrived.

The carjacker allegedly shattered the windscreen of a moving truck in Karragullan, Australia over the weekend. The driver lost control of his truck and flipped it over on its side.

Then another passing motorist stopped and tried help, but the man attacked them both with a stick. He then tried to carjack yet another vehicle that pulled up to the scene.

One of the drivers said the man, who was not identified, was “going crazy.”

“He tried to drag the girl out of her car and carjack her, ripping at her clothes and hair,” he told 9News.

He then began stripping off his clothing.

The victims called the police as the man fled. They chased him down, tossed him down on the ground and hogtied him.

Sep 9 2014 4:00pm

Now Win This!: Can’t Beat the Classics Sweepstakes

The classics are the classics! This bundle of seven criminal works, including an audiobook and a comic no less, has an impeccable pedigree!

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 9, 2014, at 4:00 pm ET, and ends September 23, 2014, 3:59 pm ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.

[What's up for grabs?]

Sep 9 2014 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: Nine Days by Minerva Koenig

Nine Days by Minerva Koenig is a debut mystery featuring Julia Kalas, a forty-something former mob wife who finds herself under witness protection in rural Texas and in the middle of murder (available September 9, 2014).

Julia Kalas has had a rough couple of years. Not only did she witness her husband’s murder, endure gunshot wounds, and have to turn state’s evidence on the Aryan Brotherhood—she’s now been forced into the Witness Protection Program and relocated to a tiny town in rural Texas.

Of course, that all happened because Julia was, frankly, a criminal. A mob wife. The launderer of the money her husband and father-in-law made in illegal gun-running. So it’s not as if she was an innocent angel caught in the crossfire. As she says herself:

I hate to admit that I believe in a concept as hackneyed as the Criminal Mind, but I can remember having thoughts like the one I was having now as far back as my memory goes.

And she’s sure not going to just sit back and blend into the woodwork once she hits Azula, Texas. Her handler, the local police chief, sets her up with a job interview at a bar. Which doesn’t make Julia the happiest camper, given her true passion and skill set lies in construction.

[Can she construct a new life...?]

Sep 9 2014 12:00pm

Boardwalk Empire 5.01: Season Premiere “Golden Days for Boys and Girls”

Season 4 of Boardwalk Empire was both its most satisfying and gloomiest season to date. A host of new characters and plotlines were introduced, allowing the show to avoid the pattern of having each new season revolve around a different foe for Nucky to tangle with and defeat. Still, going into last year’s finale, it seemed as though Nucky, trapped from all sides, would have to hatch another violent plan to extricate both himself and Chalky White from trouble, while bringing western-style justice to those who deserved it.

Only this time, the plan went off track. Yes, there was violence, but unlike previous seasons, there was nothing triumphant about it. Nucky’s foes were not vanquished, justice was not meted out, and two of the good guys (in a murderous psychopathic-kind-of-way) were dealt cruel fates. Richard Harrow died under the boardwalk, dreaming of the domestic life he would never have, while Chalky watched as his daughter was gunned down, a victim of his own transgressions. Toss in poor Willie’s freshman roommate at Temple being jailed for a murder he didn’t commit and Gillian’s tragic storyline (making Gillian a sympathetic character is one of Winter’s greatest achievements) and Season 4 was a serious bummer.  Did I say bummer? What I meant to say was a soul-crushing kick to the stomach.

[We're still keeled over...]

Sep 9 2014 10:15am

Fresh Meat: Virtue Falls by Christina Dodd

Virtue Falls by Christina Dodd is a standalone romantic suspense featuring a geologist, an FBI agent, and a long-buried secret that comes to light during an earthquake (available September 9, 2014).

If you like the television show Bones, this book is right up your alley. Elizabeth Banner, the heroine, is a geologist whose father—Charles Banner, himself a world-famous geologist—allegedly murdered her mother when Elizabeth was only four. Elizabeth has walled herself off, preferring rocks to people. And much like Bones, she is not understood by “normal” people, who see her scientific mind and her focus on inanimate objects as distinctly peculiar.

The walls groaned. Nails popped out of the Sheetrock. Behind Elizabeth, one by one, the windows exploded. Shards of safety glass sprayed the diner.

Elizabeth’s excitement rose.

At least an eight on the Richter scale. Maybe an eight-point-five. Not the biggest earthquake ever … but it wasn’t diminishing. It wasn’t done.

There was a rhythm to the earth surges coming onto the coast, an increasing and glorious roll.

Behind the counter, the shelves tilted; the drinking glasses crashed backward, then forward and off, heaving themselves onto the floor like Disney-animated crockery. The coffee pot jumped off the heater and committed suicide, splashing hot liquid into the air. Sympathetic porcelain mugs followed.

Elizabeth was in awe; the floor was rippling, two feet up and then two feet down. She had read about earthquakes so violent, of course she had. But never had she thought she would have the luck to experience one.

Because, yeah, “luck” is how most of us think of experiencing major earthquakes…and the tsunamis that follow them.

[We have an exclusive audio excerpt below!]