Posts from the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
February 26, 2018
Original review published on February 25, 2018 here: http://nudge-book.com/blog/2018/02/borderland-noir-edited-by-craig-mcdonald/
I came across this anthology when I was looking into a feature on Mexican crime fiction, also published this month on BookNoir. I’m glad I did because there is some fine writing here; there is a genuine connection between the stories based at La Frontera, the border. Equally there is a decent variety of interests, style and purpose in these tales. Naturally I have some favourites but I found each piece engaging and thought-provoking, for the main part the fiction is edgy, exciting and original. I think this is a gem for real noir fans.
McDonald has collated eleven short stories, a couple of excerpts from longer works and two short essays. Borderland Noir has contributions from Ken Bruen, James Sallis, Sam Hawken, Martín Solares and several other respected crime writers.
“All roads lead to borderlands of one sort or another”, says Craig McDonald in his introduction. La Frontera has a mystical hold on the imagination of the crime reader, it’s not so much the reality as the myth. “That delicious, dark-eyed myth of the border”, Tom Russell (song writer). The border conjures images of The Day of the Dead, Narcotraficantes, refugees, mariachi and the north/south divide (the rich and the poor). McDonald is keen to point out that borders are a state of mind, it’s not just the physical border, it’s not just about a place or a geographical location. You can imagine it even if you’ve never been to the borderlands.
These pieces reflect on people’s experience as refugees, economic migrants, victims and perpetrators as well as on their desire and desperation. Wider themes are memory, history, corruption and crime – the value of life, and it’s infinite variety along the border. What the frontier does to people and the light we see them in. Villains include a rapist, people slavers, right-wing border guards and vigilantes. These stories are influenced by the best noir traditions, by writers like James M. Cain, novels like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and literary writers like Graham Greene.
Coyote’s Ballad by Mike MacLean deals with two mules (people smugglers), Cruz and Miguel, transporting ten pollos (chickens/people), across the border to sell. Humans as commodities. A young girl is raped and murdered. Rough justice is served but not for the sake of the girl, for greed and for expediency.
To Have To Hold by Ken Bruen (an Irish man surely knows about borders!). Charlene is a mad Johnny Cash fan and she is in a pickle for killing a man.
Trailer dear Fuego by Garnett Elliott. Tench beats a prisoner to make a point for the inmates and the other guards, to establish that ‘the jungle’ has enforcement if not law. Actions have unforeseen consequences in a case of poetic justice.
Reading the Footnotes by John Stickney deals with two men in a car, Federal Agents or killers or both. Postulating on Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and echoes of Breaking Bad.
The Work of Wolves by Bradley Mason Hamlin. Devin is pondering the nature of evil. Talking about getting away from his family, going to Universidad, all the while torturing and murdering a man who can’t escape and has to listen to his rambling monologue.
Traven by Martin Solares is an homage to Ben Traven, writer of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
Sam Hawken deals with a man murdered in his hotel room with a six-inch stiletto and Tom Russell muses on murder and recent history around Ciudad Juárez.
There are two brilliant essays. One on Touch of Evil, the Orson Welles movie, and the other on Pancho Villa, revolutionary and bandit. Zeltserman tells the story of one of the great noir movies, a tale that happens across the border. Vargas, Charlton Heston, a narcotics investigator in Mexico, witnesses a murder. A businessman and his stripper girlfriend are blown up in their car. As the explosion occurred on the American side of the border Hank Quinlan is called in to investigate, Orson Welles. Marlene Dietrich is brothel owner Tanya. Quinlan frames a boy but he turns out to be guilty, Vargas knows he is framed. A battle for the truth develops between the two men. Dietrich delivers the classic noir line at the end of the film:
“He was some kind of a man. What does it matter what you say about People?”
Pancho Villa is a potted history of the notorious bandit, raising his own army, his role in the revolution, decline into banditry, raids on the US, falling out with other leaders, tawdry death. Short but not lacking in insight.
Both are excellent encapsulations of important border stories.
The anthology is sectioned into North, South and on the Border. The tales are spare; noir prose, short meaningful stories, pithy dialogue and all direct to the point. This is the heart of noir. Darkly entertaining, a really interesting mix of stories and essays.
January 10, 2018
It’s an Oscar contender featuring one of the great actors of our time. The costume design is remarkable, and the cinematography gorgeous. Newcomer Vicky Krieps gives a sensitive and memorable performance and it’s written and directed by auteur, Paul Thomas Anderson. Still, none of this is why I think you should see the film Phantom Thread.
My recommendation is more personal than that. I have often written of how I enjoy it when my two loves, fashion and fiction, meet. This is one of those encounters. Phantom Thread portrays a similar character as I wrote about in my novel Silk for the Feed Dogs. Reynolds Woodcock is cut from a similar cloth as Signor Adriani. Alma is the innocent from the outside squaring off against the design genius’s perverse psychological gamesmanship just as Kat had to contend with similar in my tale. Substitute the London of the 1950s…
View original post 68 more words
June 13, 2017
Looking for a riveting stew of murder, sex, history and literature?
“One True Sentence,” by Craig McDonald, offers that and a lot more. The novel, part of a series featuring writer Hector Lassiter, is set in Paris during the 1920s. Lassiter, who writes stories for crime magazine Black Mask while pondering more literary ambitions, is one of the many Americans huddled in the City of Lights and spends his non-writing time drinking hard and hobnobbing with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Ford Maddox Ford and other writers and poets. When someone begins knocking off publishers of literary magazines, it naturally catches their attention. Soon Hector, Hemingway and the others find themselves poking around into the investigation and finding themselves in a great deal of trouble.
I enjoyed this book on several levels. It is a fine noir novel on its own, with great femme fatales and a…
View original post 259 more words
May 25, 2017
This novel is O’Sullivan’s second, after Killarney Blues, published by Betimes Books in 2013. It takes place in a world transformed by disaster: earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, nationalist and corporate mergers, roaming wolves. The Starved Lover Sings is a fever dream of a world at the end of its rope.
Our protagonist, and in many chapters our narrator, is Tombo, a PE teacher and soccer referee.
In this excerpt, our antagonist is one of the two teenage girls, called Ferocity and Velocity, or Tink and Tank, or Weal and Woe, or Tooth and Nail, or Bado and Sado — whatever suits them at the moment — who develop an obsession with Tombo and decide he’s “the one”…
May 16, 2017
Donald Finnaeus Mayo about undercover policing – in facts and fiction.
Former undercover officer Andy Coles, photo courtesy of Peterborough Today
Another day, and another former police officer is forced to resign amid allegations he manipulated a young female activist into entering into a sexual relationship while working undercover in the 1990s. This time it’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridge Andy Coles, who has been outed by campaigners from the Undercover Research Group.
The group claims that Coles was part of a covert group of Metropolitan Police Officers who assumed false identities in order to inveigle themselves into the lives of political activists. What is so alarming about the revelations, and the reason why the Met is looking down the wrong end of a whopping lawsuit, is that the activists targeted were by and large engaged in legitimate political protest. Where they erred on the wrong side of the law, it was generally for activities such as breaking into…
View original post 170 more words
May 15, 2017
The second novel from Donald Finnaeus Mayo, author of Francesca, is an unlikely love story between an undercover intelligence officer and an IRA activist. While the novel is set in the 1980s, its theme has been placed into sharp focus by recent investigations and court cases concerning the controversial practice of undercover policing.
May 13, 2017
A wonderful new review for Book 1 in the Hector Lassiter series
I first heard about Craig McDonald’s series of historical mystery thrillers fairly recently via a review by fellow Ellroy scholar Steven Powell. In it, Powell draws some fascinating links between McDonald’s work and James Sallis’s ‘Lew Griffin’ mysteries – a series of compelling, unusual and beautifully written crime novels. Probably better known as the author of Drive (which was subsequently made into an excellent film by Nicolas Winding Refn), James Sallis is one of the most underrated – and one of my favourite – crime writers working to day, so this comparison was intriguing enough for me to pick up one of McDonald’s books.
McDonald’s novels follow the exploits of Hector Lassiter, a crime writer/amateur detective who finds himself swept up in some of the most violent and infamous events of Twentieth Century history. One True Sentence places us in 1920’s Paris, an historical milieu populated by bohemian artists and real life figures from ‘the Lost Generation’. Not long out…
View original post 368 more words
April 20, 2017
No happy ending ever started in a bar.
After the tumultuous events that took place on the world’s stage during World War II, and after, in the last Hector Lassiter novel I read, and my ninth, Roll The Credits, expectations were a bit lower as I began The Running Kind. Mistake on my part.
Hector was in a Youngstown, Ohio hotel bar during the December 1950 blizzard, reuniting with his dear, old Irish cop friend, Jimmy Hanrahan. While sharing drinks and war stories, they are suddenly interrupted by a young hysterical girl, who pulls at Hector’s sleeve, pleading: “Please, mister, my mommy needs help.”
Never hesitant, off Hector and Jimmy go, guns and fists at the ready.
After a violent confrontation with some thugs in the bathroom of the hotel and outside, the men rescue the girl’s mother, who is the wife of a Ohio mobster chieftain, and the mistress of the mobster, who Hector notices right away, resembles Veronica Lake. The girls are on the run, trying to find a way to testify against the mob boss, at the Televised Hearings on the Mafia, being held by Senator Kefauver.
Never to shy away from a dangerous and deadly challenge, especially when outnumbered, Hector and Jimmy commit to helping them get to Dayton to testify. Off they go with mobsters, hit men, crooked cops, hired thugs, and FBI agents, joining the cross-country chase through the blizzard, culminating in events that will alter Lassiter’s life forever. Alter in a way that he never would have imagined. One hell-of-a way for the original running kind to celebrate turning 50.
One of the things I so enjoy about reading the Hector Lassiter series, is the way novelist Craig McDonald introduces historical and cultural figures who play roles in the different books, through different eras. In The Running Kind one of the people who help Hector out of a deadly jam, is Doc Savage’s writer, Lester Dent. A young writer, Rod Serling sits with Hector in a bar outside the Antioch campus, and tells Hector of his idea for a new dark anthology series he is writing for television.
Untouchables hero, and now down on his luck, Eliot Ness, puts down the bottle, and picks up a gun to give Hector and Jimmy much-needed help. Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner make an appearance late in the novel, bringing a message from Sam “Momo” Giancana, that will lead Hector back to Cleveland, for revenge, and a terrific climax.
There is also a subtle undercurrent of loss and regret throughout The Running Kind. For Hector, at three am in the morning, it will always be the dark-haired beauty, and fellow writer, Brinke Devlin, his life’s greatest love. Like Hector, she was a running kind, and her memory will run through his thoughts forever.
I have been asked on more than one occasion, which Hector Lassiter novel I liked the best. It is safe to say that it has always been the last one I read.
March 28, 2017
On the occasion of the new release of Les Edgerton’s debut novel, The Death of Tarpons, in paperback format by Betimes Books and in electronic format by Endeavour Press, we are taking a look back at what makes Edgerton’s first work of fiction so special. For something which, at first glance, seems so different from his later works, how does it fit so seamlessly in Edgerton’s body of work?
First published in 1996 as a hard cover edition, The Death of Tarpons stands out in Edgerton’s repertoire for how different in tone it is from his subsequent novels. To many, Edgerton is known as an acclaimed crime writer, but his most loyal fans will also know that he has never wanted to limit himself – or be limited – to one genre of writing: from short story collections like Gumbo Ya-Ya to young adult fiction such as Mirror, Mirror and plenty of non-fiction, Edgerton has explored writing in its many forms.
Consequently, it should come as no surprise that Edgerton’s first piece of writing is a touching coming-of-age story about a young teenage boy trying to build a better relationship with his father.
“Then, last year, I got this fantastic idea to do something totally on my own, in secret, that would show him once and for all I could do something mechanical. Manly. Then, he would love me and be proud of me and put his arm around me. I decided to build a boat. For him.”
This sounds as far removed as possible from other works like The Rapist or Just Like That but, as one reviewer and fellow author has mentioned, the seeds of Edgerton’s later fiction can indeed be found here.
“Edgerton’s later novels have become Noir classics to many, and The Death of Tarpons hints at a moonless childhood that explains the author’s successful literary journeys into darkness.”
– Jack Getze, Spinetingler Magazine, 2017
In The Death of Tarpons, young Corey certainly encounters many episodes of darkness. Nearly all of the personal relationships around him are afflicted with violent outbursts or psychological abuse: the regular beatings of his best friend, Destin, and his mother at the hands of his drunken father; the violent reprimands Corey endures from his own father as well as the emotional neglect he and his mother receive from Corey’s father – a neglect that has driven his mother to religious fanaticism.
“Every atom in my body was in fear. I had never seen such a look on his face as there was now, not even at his angriest. It was like the face of God Himself, the face the fire and brimstone preacher Mom listened to, conjured up, Sunday mornings.”
Thus, the darkness one would expect from Edgerton’s work is present in his debut; however, it is tempered by the sweet nature of its protagonist and the loving relationship Corey has with his Grandpa.
What allows Edgerton to write across different genres with such success is something that all his works have in common: an honesty that can only come from personal experience. Edgerton has described The Death of Tarpons as being “85% autobiographical” and as being a work which was long in the making, having started writing it at the age of fifteen. The setting of the novel – 1950s era Freeport, Texas – was a place where Edgerton spent part of his childhood and many characters are drawn from real life with, for example, the author’s own grandmother being just as successful and driven a businesswoman as the Grandma character featured in the novel. Just as Edgerton’s own experience as an ex-con gives a realistic edge to his crime fiction, the same truthfulness can be found in his debut.
“The Oyster Bar. The business that had sustained three generations, mine and my sister Doc’s, my parents, and my grandparents. The business that, along with the taxi cab company, my grandmother had created and ruled as her own private fiefdom. Not with some metaphoric iron hand, but with a very real Navy Colt long-barreled .45 on the dash of her taxi”.
Honesty and credibility are what make Edgerton’s writings so distinctive and evocative. When reading The Death of Tarpons, one can really visualise what it was like being a young boy, just out on summer vacation with lots of great plans for how he was going to spend the holidays hanging out with his best friend, fishing with his Grandpa and getting closer to his dad.
“All the way downtown, I used lawns, head down, alert for nettles and stickers. When I had to cross a street, leave the coolness of grass, I ran faster, landing on different parts of the soles of my feet. First-day-of-summer-vacation-tootsies were too white and thin-skinned for concrete baked at ninety-plus degrees.”
As with the rest of Edgerton’s work, the vividness of his characters and settings is a result of his personal knowledge of what it was like to be a young teenage boy growing up at this time in the American South. The credibility that comes from writing about places and situations one is familiar with is what gives The Death of Tarpons, as well as Edgerton’s other novels, a distinctive edge.
March 1, 2017
Fionnuala Brennan’s novel about Francisco de Goya takes the fresh approach of telling the artist’s story through those of the important women in his life. Who were these women, and what was their relationship to the great painter?
Rosario, Goya’s loyal but conflicted daughter
On the eve of her father’s burial, Rosario keeps vigil by his bedside, spending the hours talking to him before she loses him forever. Affectionately known as “his little ladybird”, Rosario and de Goya had been very close and so, on this night, she is desperate to leave nothing unsaid.
Yet, already distraught by his death, young Rosario also has to cope with being de Goya’s illegitimate daughter, ostracised by the rest of his family. As night turns to day, Rosario’s fear for the future grows more intense. Without her father’s protection, how will she and her mother, Leocadia, survive? Can she trust de Goya’s promises to provide for them despite the antagonism of his legitimate family members?
Feeling guilty for doubting her father’s word, Rosario determines to keep the promise she made to him before his passing. But can she succeed in doing so, in the midst of the chaos that follows de Goya’s death?
“Swear to me that nobody will dictate the art you will make. And when the day comes when you know you are good enough, then use my name. But not until then.”
Gumersinda, the spiteful daughter-in-law
“Opportunist, adulterer, collaborator! I know that one should not speak ill of the dead, but I do not care.”
Money, respectability and status; for Gumersinda, these are sacrosanct. Her father-in-law, however, appears to defy these values at every opportunity.
Rumours of infidelities with models and rich patrons, of his relationships with servants and his spawning of illegitimate heirs do not appear to ruffle him. Nor does he see the hypocrisy between his political paintings and his political actions. But Gumersinda cares. And she will not stand for de Goya jeopardising her, or her son’s, reputation anymore.
When she is called away from her comfortable life in Spain to attend to her dying father-in-law, Gumersinda is annoyed with Javier, her husband. He is blind to his father’s faults and has never caught on to Gumersinda’s dislike of the man.
However, seizing the opportunity she has unwittingly been given, Gumersinda resolves to save the dignity of her family before de Goya’s mistress, Leocadia, can cause any more harm.
Leocadia, Goya’s frustrated companion and mother of Rosario
Fleeing an unhappy marriage and with a son to support, Leocadia first met the widowed de Goya when she applied to be his housekeeper. Over time, they became lovers and their daughter, Rosario, was born. Due to the scandalous nature of their relationship, neither Leocadia nor Rosario could ever receive recognition as de Goya’s family which left Leocadia feeling like an object of shame, hidden away in de Goya’s house.
“Everybody here knows that I was his wife – in all but name.”
For Leocadia, de Goya has never appreciated the sacrifices she made to be with him nor has he always been kind to her. He directed his passion and energy towards his art and his tenderness to his children and grandchildren, yet for Leocadia, all her efforts led to were loud arguments and stormy exits. Even the memory of his deceased wife, Josefa, loomed like a spectre in their relationship.
But now that de Goya has died, will Leocadia finally receive some token of appreciation from him? Can Leocadia now emerge from the shadows of Goya’s life and earn the respect she deserves?
Josefa, the long-suffering wife
Confined to her deathbed, Josefa spends her remaining days looking back on her marriage to the fiercely proud and temperamental Goya. Marrying into a respected and well-connected family was of great advantage to Goya, yet for Josefa it produced a string of tragic pregnancies which left her feeling voiceless and alone.
“I was stricken with a sickness of mind and body worse than the plague. There was no hope, no reason for me to go on breathing”
A sympathetic response was all Josefa desired but proved difficult to achieve when having to compete with Goya’s art – and his female models – for his attention.
As she approaches the end of her life, Josefa wishes to make de Goya hear the truth about their marriage, about the ways she suffered.
Can she at last cease vying for Goya’s attention and get the respect she deserves? Yet if there was any love in their marriage, will it fully reveal itself now before it’s too late?
Duchess of Alba, Goya’s fiery patron
Beautiful and intelligent, the Duchess of Alba does not lack confidence in her abilities. When she sets her sights on something – or someone – she normally gets her way. If this makes her endearing to men, it bristles the women she takes them from.
In an effort to rile another woman, the Duchess summons Goya to her home to paint a number of portraits for her. Goya’s arrogant nature vexes the Duchess at first but, to her surprise, she finds herself wanting him nonetheless.
“In truth I am fascinated by this uncouth artist. I ask myself why this is so and have to admit that it is simply because he appears so impenetrable, contradictory and, most exasperating of all, unattainable. He has become my challenge.”
Widely revered for her beauty and skilled at the art of seduction, the Duchess feels a certain power over the artist she has employed. But Goya is headstrong too. Will her flirtation with the artist succeed or has she met her match in Goya?
Dolores, a naïve artist’s model who gets a hard lesson in life
Working as a maid in the Duchess of Alba’s home, Dolores thought she knew exactly how her life would turn out; she would follow the rules, marry a man of her rank and have a family of her own. However, the normal and secure life Dolores foresaw is utterly changed after a strange artist is summoned to paint the Duchess. Intrigued by the young servant, de Goya asks for her to model for him and introduces her to a life Dolores would never have expected.
“I could hardly wait to find out what being a model for an artist meant. I also wondered why there had to be so much secrecy about it. I was soon to find out.”
Duchess of Osuna, another aristocratic patron
“María Josefa has a great many talents and gifts. So elegant, so learned, so accomplished.”
As an artist, de Goya relied on the regular and loyal patronage of a number of Spain’s wealthy elite. His status as the Court Painter and his reputation for being one of Spain’s leading painters of the day helped him receive more commissions. Of these many aristocratic patrons, one of the most fervent was the Duchess of Osuna.
As with many of de Goya’s models – and to the detriment of Josefa and Leocadia – rumours swirled as to whether the two enjoyed a strictly business relationship.
Queen María Luisa
The queen of Spain was another of Goya’s patrons and was fond of horse-riding, as seen in her portrait here. According to the Duchess of Alba, Queen María Luisa was suspected of having a relationship with the prime minister, Don Manuel Godoy.
“Despite the torture she endured while Goya painted her, the lump of lard was apparently very pleased with the finished work, and especially with the portrayal of Marcial, a present from Godoy and thus her favourite horse. Her Majesty was also delighted with the progress of another big painting on which Goya was engaged – a group portrait of the entire Royal Family.”
February 3, 2017
“From the first page I was drawn into and seriously engaged in Kat’s many adventures and misadventures. Streets and places in London and Milan are so vividly described, as well as the world of fashion. But what I loved the most about this book is the fact that this is no ordinary chick lit, where the most important thing is the romance in the story. It’s so much more: a window to the world of fashion, lifestyle and basically, life with all it’s ups and downs.” —Amazon Reviewer
“Weaving fiction into well researched historical fact, Fionnuala Brennan conjures up the relationships six women had with the great 18th-century Spanish painter Francisco Goya. Just as Goya conjured up the glitter and gold of the Spanish court with his portraits while revealing his subjects greed and vanity, so Fionnuala gives us a good and often bitter taste of the painter’s attraction for these women and his, at times, difficult personality.” —Amazon Reviewer
“In the midst of a world slowly going to the dogs, and brought together by murder and art restoration, two lost former revolutionary souls manage to carve out a slice of happiness with each other once more. Dirty Pictures is at its heart a fierce and darkly funny story about love – for your lover, parents, children and beliefs.” —Amazon Reviewer
“The relationship between Holmes and Watson is fresh and flirty and defines this new take on Sherlock. The Red-Handed League manages to make him uber-intelligent and the master of deduction whilst also humanising him, and takes the novel away from the pastiche of other Holmes interpretations that maintain the asexual genius and become slightly stilted in both prose and character.” —Amazon Reviewer
“Hogan has crafted an absorbing tale of hope and redemption set on a beautiful, remote Greek island….The author skillfully weaves together themes of environmental protection, humanity’s oneness with all living creatures, nature versus commerce, political intrigue and romance. When he meets the free spirit Kerryn, our unnamed protagonist questions the wisdom and the risks of giving of oneself completely — whether it be to one cause or to another being.” —Goodreads Reviewer
“I loved Brinke Devlin the first time she came on the page and I loved her at the end, too. She’s a fascinating character. Those of us who are male writers can really appreciate how difficult it is to write such a strong and believable female character.” —Jim Sallis, author of Drive
November 17, 2016
Our trade paperback edition is also available: viewBook.at/Francesca_DFMayo
Francesca, originally brought out by Betimes Books, has been published in an e-version by The Odyssey Press. Odyssey is the newest imprint from Endeavour Press, Britain’s leading independent digital publisher, and was launched to publish new literary fiction and biographies, and revive older classics now out of print.
October 27, 2016
When New York art dealer Elizabeth Martel’s mother falls ill, she returns to her hometown in the Midwest. After her mother’s death she is seriously short of funds, and a friend suggests she take a job as art adviser to billionaire grain merchant, Preston Greylander.
When Greylander is killed in a mysterious murder-suicide, Martel is left in possession of a Rembrandt that needs restoration. She takes the painting to Amsterdam where she deposits it with the prestigious firm of Van der Saar Fine Arts.
The Van der Saar family has been in the art business since the seventeenth century and the current generation is represented by two brothers: Hendrik, suave and charismatic, is the perfect front man, while the deceptively low key Willem is a master of restoration. Hendrik and Martel enthusiastically resume an old love affair, and she discovers that the brothers’ personal lives are in chaos, and the family is haunted by guilt and swathed in deception.
As doubts arise about the authenticity of the Rembrandt, other actors arrive in Amsterdam determined to recover the picture.
Author Hadley Colt discusses which famous film portrayals influenced her ‘Sherlock Holmes’ novel, “The Red-Handed League”.
October 24, 2016
From Hadley Colt’s Blog:
THE RED-HANDED LEAGUE & THE FACES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
The faces of Sherlock Holmes: So many, so varied. Some so bewildering.
I’m specifically thinking about Mr. Holmes’ countless incarnations on film.
When you look over the list of actors who’ve taken on the task of playing Sherlock—and ifyou’ve somehow evaded forming your own opinions of The Great Detective—then you might believe the character to be wildly elastic.
There’s a vast range between Basil Rathbone and Benedict Cumberbatch; bigger still between Roger Moore (James Bond, The Saint) and Tom Baker (Rasputin…Doctor Who).
Even the guy who played Max Headroom got several turns as Holmes early during the previous decade.
The old black-and-white Rathbone films simply don’t speak to me. Not a smidge.
Rathbone’s Holmes is rigid, distant, and terribly off-putting to me.
The Basil-era Watson comes across as a daft old uncle slipping into senility. You can’t fathom the two men actually being able to spend a simple evening together in their Baker Street digs, let alone having a constructive partnership as crime fighters.
Surely, that Watson would drive that Holmes to murder.
Throughout much of the 1960s and 1970s, it seems to be there was more very bad miscasting: venerable but dull old British actors (Peter Cushing, John Neville) and some bewildering choices including George C. Scott and “I Dream of Jeanie’s” Larry Hagman (it’s true, look it up!).
Things started to improve, at least from my perspective, in the late 1970s, with Nicol Williamson’s haunted take on a cocaine-addicted Great Detective in Nicholas Meyer’s “The Seven-Percent Solution.”
Soon after came Christopher Plummer’s rather dashing Holmes in the under-rated “Murder by Decree.”
In both those iterations, Watson finally got an I.Q. up-grade courtesy of Robert Duval and James Mason.
In 1984, my definitive Holmes at last arrived in the person of Jeremy Brett.
Particularly in the early going of his sublime array of Granada adaptations, Brett for me embodies the Holmes that captivated me on the page.
Once Mr. Brett passed, it took over a decade of this new century to give me another Holmes in whom I could invest in and take to my heart in the person of Benedict Cumberbatch.
We all have our favorite or preferred takes on Holmes and Watson.
I know some actually prefer Robert Downey, Jr. and Johnny Lee Miller to Cumberbatch. I don’t get it, but to each his own, right?
When it came time to put my spin on Sherlock Holmes for my new novel, The Red-Handed League, I was aiming for a synthesis of the younger Jeremy Brett and the current Cumberbatch versions of Holmes.
Given the chance, how would you portray Holmes and Watson? Who would you be seeing in your mind’s eye as you tried to restore them to life on the page?
Find out if Hadley Colt has created your perfect Sherlock Holmes by buying The Red-Handed League at Amazon.
September 14, 2016
“Finished Toros & Torsos last night, and reluctantly closed it. Just a superb read, from an expert craftsman Did not want to see it end. Fully entertaining, so well researched, and one I will not forget for a long time.
Then, to top it off, I discover Part Four – How The Ghost of You Clings (1959) – two years after the events of Head Games, in which Hector and Papa become friends again, and join together for a fitting finale. What a surprise. Back to Borderlands again.
Still waiting for One True Sentence to arrive. Which one do you recommend after One True Sentence, Craig?” Marvin Minkler
The full series is available on Amazon.