Have You Heard the News?

Wherein I talk a little about what’s up in the P.I. world, for better or worse, and point toward a few recent links I thought may warrant further investigation. Feel free to comment below, or follow me on Twitter.

Did Dashiell Hammett Change the Way America Drinks?
  • The 100 Best Crime Novels and Thrillers Since 1945
    The Times (of London) just published a list, and it’s been drawing flak for its bias against women. Apparently the three judges (two women, one man) only chose 28 books written by women, but the list is worth perusing anyway. Most of the usual suspects are included, including a few pleasant surprises, and it’s hard to argue with most of the choices, but as always with lists like this there are also some glaring and sometimes puzzling omissions, as more than one fan of this site has pointed out. No Block, no Crumley, no Grafton, no Parker, no McBain? It’s definitely a British list, that’s for sure. 
  • Stream a Little Stream of Me
    I’ve just come across a slew of old private eye shows now streaming on Amazon Prime, Filmrise and a few other apps. I’m not sure why they’re all suddenly available (did some legal logjam just go “poof”?) but if you’re in a P.I. mood, they’re fun to watch. Some you may barely remember, and some may be new to you, and they range from MEH! to COOL!, but try a few on for size. There’s Booker (the 21 Jump Street spin-off starring teen idol Richard Grieco), Man With a Suitcase (a sixties series about an oh-so-hip American P.I. bouncing around Europe), Mr. Lucky (a Blake Edwards joint about the trouble-prone owner of a gambling ship anchored just outside the three-mile limit neat LA), Stingray (a Cannell show about a freelance troubleshooter in a cool car) and a personal favourite of mine, Mom P.I. (a Canadian show for all ages about a Vancouver waitress with gumshoe dreams that’s way more clever than it ever had to be).
  • The Real Lives of Private Investigators
    In his new book, Becoming a Private Investigatoraward-winning journalist Howie Kahn shadows two experienced American P.I.s, Sheila Wysocki and Mark Gillespie, both of whom are working actual murder cases, and sheds a ton a ton of light on the shamus game. But in this CrimeReads piece, he sketches out the history of the profession, and some of its notable practitioners throughout history.
  • Miss Fisher is Going Chinese?
    As though there wasn’t enough Miss Fisher news (see below) it’s just been announced that a Chinese production company has commissioned the first-ever Mandarin-language adaptation of an Australian TV series, with Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries set to be transposed to Shanghai in the 1930s with Yili Ma starring as Miss Fisher. They plan to do 30 42-minute episodes of the series, which will air in the spring of 202o.
  • A Detective’s Detective
    The story of San Francosco private eye David Fechheimer who, inspired by Dashiell Hammett, decided to investigate his hero back in the sixties, making future Hammett scholarship possible. (Medium.com, april 2019)
  • We Used to Be Friends
    Everyone’s favourite girl detective, Veronica Mars, is set to return to television with an eight-part limited series, with Kristen Bell once again in the title role. This time she’s investigating the murders of spring breakers in her hometown of Neptune, California. Joining the cast will be J.K. Simmons and Patton Oswalt. The show will stream on Hulu in the States and Crave in Canada starting July 26. You can catch the first official trailer here. I love the line about “bottomless drinks and topless dancers, street scum and beach bums.”
  • Stumptown Comes to TV
    The last arc featuring Greg Rucka’s scrappy Portland P.I. Dex Parios from a few years ago was a bit of a letdown (although to be honest, anything by Rucka still rocks mightily), and he seemed to have abandoned the series, moving on to bigger things, so imagine my surprise when it was announced in early 2019 that Dex would be appearing in Stumptown, a television pilot on ABC, with Cobie “How I Met Your Mother” Smulders starring as the troubled P.I. The film will be shot on location in Vancouver, British Columbia, which just happens to be Smulders’ hometown.
  • The Hammett Awards
    This is really just in! Our Vancouver pal (and closet Montrealer) Sam Wiebe  has been nominated for the Hammett Award for his private eye novel Cut You Down, featuring B.C. gumshoe Dave Wakleland.   Woo-hoo! I wonder who he’ll wear to the ceremony? The other nominees are William Boyle for The Lonely WitnessLisa Unger for Under My SkinLou Berney for November Road and Robert Olen Butler for Paris in the Dark.
  • The Return of Jackson Brodie
    I’d pretty much given up on ever hearing from Kate Atkinson’s compassionate eye ever again, after 2011’s masterful Started Early, Took My Dog, but I’ll be damned — here comes that voice again. Brodie will be back in June in Big Sky, a new novel which finds the old softie trying to live the quiet life, keeping his head down in the peaceful seaside village to which he’s retreated, his mopey teenage son and his dog his only companions.
  • Say What? Ms Who?
    First  Netflix’s new Spenser is a recently released felon, and then we learn the new Shaft movie will have three (count ’em) THREE Shafts, but now I hear that Kerry Greenwood’s super popular Jazz Age Australian eye Phryne Fisher is being re-imagined, and thrust onto Australian television as Peregrine Fisher, Phyrne’s neice, in Ms Fisher’s MODern Murder Mysteries, a new Australian series of made-for-TV movies set in swingin’ (well) sixties Melbourne. At least traditionalists can find solace in the news that Essie Davis is set to star as the original Phryne in Miss Fisher & The Crypt of Tears scheduled for release in 2020. Acorn TV has announced that it will be the exclusive North American partner for both the film and the new series.
  • “Talking ’bout Shaft…”
    But I can’t dig it. I’ve just seen the trailer for the new Shaft movie, set to drop soon, starring Samual Jackson, Richard Roundtree and Jessie T. Usher as three generations of Shaft. Sorry, I can get behind anything, but they’re just blowin’ at high dough, here. The trailer makes the film look slick and jokey, and the long, lingering, wannabe-iconic final shot looks more like a fashion shoot or an ad for expensive horse-piss aftershave than a crime film, with about as much grit as creamed corn. Where oh where is the funk and grit of the original? Let’s hope the actual film is better…

ALSO

  • For more on what’s up, check out Word on the Street, for a listing of new Hardcovers, Paperbacks, Audiobooks, eBooks, Collections & Anthologies, DVDs, Blu-Rays and more.
  • Don’t forget to check out The P.I. Calendar for the latest P.I. hapenings around the world… and maybe your hometown.
Respectfully compiled by Kevin Burton Smith. Hammett photo is © The Hammett Estate.

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