Mystery Scene, Spring 2020
Quaint villages shadowed by secrets. A roster of eccentrics. Murders most bizarre. Not to mention all those teapots and taverns. During its 20-plus years on TV, “Midsomer Murders” has quietly staked out its own territory – think of it as Agatha Christie with a dash of “Twin Peaks” – and in doing so, it has quietly become a genre classic. Circumventing casting changes and controversy, the popular British series has attracted viewers the world over – in some 200 countries to date. Not bad for a contemporary crime drama about cops without guns. (Unlike US police officers, the majority of UK police do not carry them.) Inspired by the Inspector Barnaby books by Caroline Graham, the series is set in fictional Midsomer County, where veteran Detective Chief Investigator John Barnaby – who took over when his cousin, Tom Barnaby, retired – probes mysterious deaths that occur in the county’s quirky, picturesque villages.
Mystery Scene, Spring 2020
Mystery Scene, Spring 2019
The opening music is lush but ominous. As the movie credits roll, strains of carnival music break through, accompanying the camera as it moves in on a barker, doing his best to entice crowds outside a tent with a sign that reads GEEK. GEEK? To modern audiences, a geek is someone with minor social skills – possibly combined with extra-ordinary intelligence. An eccentric. An oddball. A dweeb. Back in the 1940s the term implied something else – something dark. And tragic. Something within this movie tent, where a striking looking man, wearing a white T-shirt and great physique, watches and waits. “This exhibit is being presented solely in the interest of education and science!” claims a handler, who points to an unseen figure below. “Is he the missing link? Is he man or beast?” The man in the T-shirt – his name is Stanton Carlisle, and he’s a newcomer to the carnival biz – stands, appalled, among the gaping onlookers. When the (unseen) geek is tossed live chickens to eat, Carlisle walks away from the squawks of brutalized poultry, and the resulting gasps from the crowd. He goes on to say, incredulously, “I can’t understand how anybody could get so low.” It’s a prophetic line that serves as a dirty welcome mat to “Nightmare Alley,” a weird, unsettling 1947 movie about an enigmatic grifter who uses the women he meets to con his way to the top.
Orange Coast, November 2016
As a child, Julie M. Rivett knew that her deceased grandfather was a famous writer…. She became a Hammett authority so she could represent his legacy. For Rivett, it’s tough to separate the man from the writer. “His personality is inherent in his writing – which is logical, succinct, thoughtful. Even his inability to write for all those years was about his devotion to perfection.” She adds, “I’ve come to feel a great fondness and attachment to him.”
by Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske
Howard Hughes was one of the most amazing, intriguing, and controversial figures of the twentieth century. He was the billionaire head of a giant corporation, a genius inventor, an ace pilot, a matinee-idol-handsome playboy, a major movie maker who bedded a long list of Hollywood glamour queens, and ultimately a bizarre recluse whose final years and shocking death were cloaked in macabre mystery. In this fascinating, revelation-packed national best-seller, the full story of one of the most daring, enigmatic, and reclusive power brokers America has ever known is finally told.
The New York Times, February 5, 2006
During her brief lifetime, Elizabeth Short never starred in a single movie. There is no record of her having played so much as a bit part. Yet within popular culture, Short — who frequently told friends she wanted to break into show business — has emerged as something of an honorary leading lady whose shadowy life and violent death follow the contours of a classic film noir script.