Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lost Friends, Lasting Influences

One of the saddest tasks I undertake at the end of each year is to compile a list of people who--for various reasons--were significant to the crime-fiction community, and who perished during the previous 12 months. I keep hoping that every new such inventory will be shorter than the last, that the folks so familiar to us through their fiction writing or their roles in mystery/thriller-related films and TV shows will do a better job of surviving. Unfortunately, even more names appear below than were featured in my 2012 rundown.

Michael Ansara, 91, a Syrian-born American actor who came to prominence playing Chiricahua Apache chief Cochise in the 1956-1958 ABC-TV series Broken Arrow. Ansara later appeared on Law of the Plainsman, Daniel Boone, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, Mission: Impossible, Star Trek, McMillan & Wife, Police Story, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and many other programs.

Jakob Arjouni (né Jakob Bothe), 48, a German crime novelist who saw his first book, Happy Birthday, Türke!, published in 1985, when he was just 20 years old. Arjouni went on to create four more novels starring private detective Kemal Kayankaya, including Brother Kemal, which was released in the States earlier this year.

Robert Barnard, 76, an English crime writer who in 2003 won the Cartier Diamond Dagger award for lifetime achievement. “Robert Barnard,” explained British critic-columnist Mike Ripley, “was one of a quartet of writers born in 1936--his contemporaries being Reginald Hill, Jonathan Gash and Peter Lovesey--who formed a solid backbone for traditional English crime writing of the highest order in the last quarter of the twentieth century.” Barnard’s first novel was Death of an Old Goat (1974). He also wrote under the pseudonym Bernard Bastable, producing two alternative historical mysteries starring an elderly Wolfgang Mozart in a sleuthing role.

Eileen Brennan, 80, the Los Angeles-born actress who appeared in so many roles, including that of Captain Doreen Lewis in the 1980 comedy Private Benjamin, and as singer Betty DeBoop in the 1978 Neil Simon comedy, The Cheap Detective, which starred Peter Falk.

Gwendoline Butler, 90, the British author of more than two dozen novels featuring Inspector John Coffin (beginning with 1958’s Receipt for Murder, in which the character was introduced playing second fiddle to another detective, Inspector Winter). Butler also concocted a series of women’s police procedurals under the pseudonym Jennie Melville. She won the Crime Writers’ Association’s Silver Dagger Award in 1973 for her novel A Coffin for Pandora.

Tom Clancy, 66, the American author of more than 20 thriller and espionage novels, among them The Hunt for Red October (1984), Clear and Present Danger (1989), and his latest, Command Authority, which was released by Putnam earlier this month. Clancy, wrote Dave Rosenthal in the Baltimore Sun, “almost single-handedly created the techno-thriller genre …”

Robert H. Colfelt, 79. He wasn’t a famous author, although he did publish one collection of personal essays, Together in the Dark: Mysteries of Healing (1987). He wasn’t a movie producer or a Hollywood star. But Seattle neurologist Bob Colfelt was an avid reader of crime and thriller fiction--particularly works by Philip Kerr, Dan Fesperman, and Ian Rankin--and he was a strong supporter of independent bookstores. He was also my friend. For all of those reasons he deserves a place among these remembrances.

Basil Copper, 89. He was best-known as a writer of horror fiction, but from the 1960s through the ’80s he also concocted dozens of stories featuring Los Angeles P.I. Mike Faraday. Following the death in 1971 of August Derleth, Copper continued the former’s series of pastiches featuring Sherlockian sleuth Solar Pons.

Gordon Cotler, 89, whose screenwriting credits included episodes of McMillan & Wife and Lanigan’s Rabbi, as well as the 1987 TV movie Deadly Deception, which was nominated for an Edgar Award. He wrote half a dozen mystery novels, among them The Bottletop Affair (1959), which was adapted to film in 1962 as The Horizontal Lieutenant. Cotler also produced nine short stories about Detective Lieutenant Bernie Farber for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine during the first decade of the 21st century.

Ava Dianne Day, 75, a psychologist turned author who penned romantic suspense fiction before finding a place among mystery tale-makers. She created half a dozen novels featuring turn-of-the-last-century San Francisco heroine Caroline Fremont Jones, beginning with 1996’s The Strange Files of Fremont Jones.

Gérard de Villiers, 83, a French fictionist and journalist. According to The Gumshoe Site, de Villiers “wrote 200 spy novels featuring an Austrian prince called Malko Linge, who worked as a freelance CIA agent, starting with SAS in Istanbul in 1965 (SAS stands for Son Altesse Serenissime, meaning His Most Serene Highness), and ending with SAS: The Kremlin Revenge, his last and 200th, in 2012. He was almost unknown in the USA and UK, but … sold about 100 million copies worldwide. Less than 20 SAS titles in English have been published in the U.S., but Vintage Books will start publishing SAS novels in the U.S. and Canada in 2014.”

Nate Esformes, 79, a New York City-born character actor who appeared in TV series such as Quincy, M.E., The Streets of San Francisco, Barbary Coast, Mission: Impossible, Ironside, Mannix, Police Story, and Search. Stephen Bowie adds, in The Classic TV History Blog, that “He played one of the Watergate burglars in All the President’s Men, and most of his other films have achieved either critical acclaim or cult fame: Petulia, [James Garner’s] Marlowe, Black Belt Jones, Henry Jaglom’s Tracks, Battle Beyond the Stars, Vice Squad, Invasion U.S.A.

Dennis Farina, 69, a Chicago policeman turned performer who starred in the television series Law & Order, Buddy Faro, and Crime Story. His other credits include appearances in such films as Get Shorty, Saving Private Ryan, Out of Sight, and Snatch.

Vince Flynn, 47, a popular author of political thrillers, including 13 books starring undercover CIA counter-terrorism operative Mitch Rapp.

Joan Fontaine, 96, a British-American actress (and the elder sister of fellow star Olivia de Havilland), who appeared as a haunted wife in the Alfred Hitchcock film Rebecca (1940) and subsequently picked up the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of a spooked newlywed in Hitchcock’s Suspicion (1941). You can find out much more about Fontaine in her New York Times obituary.

Steve Forrest, 87, who starred in the 1966-1967 British crime drama The Baron as well as in the 1975-1976 ABC police drama S.W.A.T.

Gail Frazer, 66, who--with her journalist friend, Mary Monica Pulver Kuhfeld, and under the pseudonym Margaret Frazer--created the Sister Frevisee mystery series. Kuhfeld ceased to be involved in that historical series after its first six installments, but Gail Frazer carried on to pen another 11 Sister (later Dame) Frevisee books.

Leighton Gage, 71, the author of seven novels featuring Brazilian Chief Inspector Mario Silva, including this year’s Perfect Hatred and The Ways of Evil Men, to be published next month by Soho Crime.

James Gandolfini, 51, who played patriarch Tony Soprano in the 1999-2007 New Jersey-based mobster drama, The Sopranos.

Andrew M. Greeley, 85, a Catholic priest turned prolific novelist. Although he is surely best known to readers of this blog for creating the part-time sleuth Father Blackie Ryan, Greeley was also an outspoken critic of George W. Bush’s Iraq war.

Noel Harrison, 79, who co-starred with Stefanie Powers in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (1966-1967), playing British secret agent Mark Slate.

Robin Hathaway, 79, author of the Dr. Fenimore and Jo Banks series. Fellow author Elizabeth Zelvin had more to say about Hathaway’s passing here.

Mitchell Hooks, 89, a Detroit-born artist-illustrator who created numerous memorable paperback crime-novel covers during the latter half of the 20th century.

Ed Koch, 88, a former U.S. congressman and New York City mayor, who co-authored a succession of four mystery novels, all featuring a fictional character named Ed Koch. That series began with Murder at City Hall (1995, composed with Herbert Resnicow) and concluded with The Senator Must Die (1998; with Wendy Corsi Staub).

Ed Lauter, 74, who for four decades was a fixture on U.S. television and movie screens. He appeared in an abundance of TV series, including Longstreet, Ironside, Kojak, The Rockford Files, Nero Wolfe, Magnum,P.I., The A-Team, Cold Case, Miami Vice, NYPD Blue, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Lauter also starred in Last Hours Before Morning, an unsuccessful 1975 pilot film for NBC. He played Bud Delaney, a 1940s Los Angeles cop who was booted from the force “after being framed by a mysterious higher-up,” and took a job as the house detective at a B-grade Hollywood hotel.

Elmore Leonard, 87, the author of more than 45 novels--including Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Hombre, City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit, Mr. Majestyk, LaBrava, Tishomingo Blues, and Rum Punch--many of which were adapted over the years for entertainment screens large and small. His contributions were recognized during the National Book Awards presentations in 2012, when this Detroit-area storyteller won the Medal for Distinguished Contribution. Leonard was also given the Crime Writers’ Association’s Diamond Dagger award in 2006, the F. Scott Fitzgerald award in 2008, and the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. The Rap Sheet paid homage to Leonard’s legacy in two large posts. Click here and here to find those tributes.

Richard Matheson, 87. Although he was principally recognized as the author of fantasy, horror, and science fiction (1954’s I Am Legend being perhaps his most popular work of the imagination), Matheson also concocted a trio of nourish novels, including 1953’s Someone Is Bleeding, and he won 1973 Edgar Award in the TV feature category for his work on The Night Stalker, a 1972 ABC “movie of the week” starring Darren McGavin as a seersucker-wrapped reporter and part-time monster hunter.

Cortright McMeel, 41, a Boston-born novelist and short-story writer, and the founder of Murdaland, a high-quality publication devoted to crime fiction that (sadly) lasted only two issues.

Barbara Mertz, 85, the author and Egyptologist best known under two pseudonyms, Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels. Wikipedia notes that Mertz--who, as Peters, produced a popular historical mysteries series starring Victorian archaeologist Amelia Peabody--was “the recipient of a number of grandmaster and lifetime achievement awards, including being named Grand Master at the Anthony Awards in 1986 and Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1998; in 2003, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Malice Domestic Convention. In 2012 she was honored with the first Amelia Peabody Award at the Malice Domestic Convention ...”

Don Mitchell, 70, the Houston-born actor best known for playing delinquent-turned-bodyguard Mark Sanger in the 1967-1975 NBC-TV crime drama Ironside. Mitchell also appeared in The Fugitive, McMillan & Wife, and Matlock. In what was evidently his last role, he resurrected Mark Sanger for the 1993 TV movie The Return of Ironside.

Tony Musante, 77, who starred in the 1973-1974 ABC-TV crime drama Toma, based on the real-life undercover exploits of Newark, New Jersey, police detective David Toma.

Hal Needham, 82, a stuntman who worked “for the television series Mike Hammer before getting his big break serving as Richard Boone’s stunt double on the popular Western series Have Gun--Will Travel.” At one point, writes blogger Terence Towles Canote, Needham was said to be “the highest paid stuntman in the world.”

Michael Palmer, 71, a doctor turned novelist who penned 18 medical thrillers, the last two of which--Oath of Office (2012) and Political Suicide (2013)--featured Washington, D.C., physician Lou Welcome. Palmer’s 20th novel, Resistant, is scheduled for publication (by St. Martin’s Press) on May 20 of next year.

Joan H. Parker, 80, a psychologist and specialist in early childhood development--and not incidentally the only wife of prominent private-eye novelist Robert B. Parker, who died back in January 2010 at age 77. Joan Parker is said to have inspired the character Susan Silverman, the girlfriend of her husband’s fictional Boston private eye, Spenser. Read more about Joan Parker’s life here and here.

Dale Robertson, 89, who starred in a couple of small-screen western dramas, Tales of Wells Fargo (1957-1962) and The Iron Horse (1966-1968), as well as the Stephen J. Cannell-created series, J.J. Starbuck, on which he played Jerome Jeremiah “J.J.” Starbuck, an oil-rich Texan inclined toward detective work.

Nick Robinson, 58, the chairman at publisher Constable & Robinson.

Harry Sims, 90. As The HMSS Weblog explains, Sims was “an announcer best known for [uttering] the words ‘a Quinn Martin production!’” on such TV programs as The Streets of San Francisco, Cannon, Barnaby Jones, and Banyon. Click here to learn more about Sims’ life and career.

Malachi Throne, 84, who played thief-turned-spy Alexander Mundy’s SIA boss, Noah Bain, on the 1968-1970 ABC-TV series It Takes a Thief, Throne also appeared on episodes of The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, and Star Trek. A more extensive rundown of his professional roles can be found here.

Jack Vance, 96, who picked up three Hugo Awards as well as a Nebula, and was familiar as a prolific science-fiction writer. In addition, though, Vance penned a number of mystery novels, including the Edgar Award-winning The Man in the Cage (1960) and three that were released under the “Ellery Queen” house name: The Four Johns (1964), A Room to Die In (1965), and The Madman Theory (1966).

Colin Wilson, 82, the English author who, according to The Gumshoe Site, “became famous at 26 when his first book, The Outsider (Gollancz, 1956), hit the street … He was a prolific writer of philosophy, literature, history, and the occult. He also wrote science fiction as well as crime fiction, including Ritual in the Dark (Gollancz, 1960), The Glass Cage (Barker 1966), and The Schoolgirl Murder Case (Hart-Davis, 1974), which is the first of the Inspector Gregory Saltfleet series.” Learn more from The Daily Telegraph’s obituary.

So, have I forgotten to include anybody? Please feel free to suggest any additions in the Comments section of this post.

READ MORE:Good-bye 2013, Good-bye Audrey Totter!,” by Terence Faherty (SleuthSayers).

3 comments:

Picks By Pat said...

Sad, but grateful for the list. A couple of writers who I haven't read are shown, so worth bookmarking.

Jacques Filippi said...

Canadian writer ASA Harrison died just before the publication of her first book, last April. "The Silent Wife" (Penguin Canada) is one of the best novels of the year. Harrison was 65 years old. Nicole Kidman will produce and star in the movie adaptation of the book.

Anthony Rainone said...

Loved TOMA. Man, I still wish that show had a few more years.