Monday, October 31, 2011

31 October: This Day in Mystery

31 October 1920
Dick Francis was born on this day in Tenby, South Wales. After a successful career as a steeplechase jockey, he retired and began to write, first as a newspaperman and then as a crime novelist. Author of such books as Whip Hand (1980) and Forfeit (1969).

31 October 1926
HRF Keating is born in St. Leonards -on-Sea, Sussex, England. Critic and novelist, Keating writes mysteries featuring Indian detective Inspector Ganesh Ghote of Bombay - an often bumbling policeman who nevertheless always gets his man. (The Perfect Murder (1965), Dead on Time (1989))

31 October 1944
Kinky Friedman is born "somewhere in Texas Hill country." He is a country-western singer, songwriter and bandleader turned mystery writer. He writes of his old haunts in the bars and clubs of Greenwich Village, telling of his fictional adventures in which he, along with his fictional companion Ratso, must act as detectives. Greenwich Killing Time (1986) Case of the Lonesome Star (1987).

Sunday, October 30, 2011

30 October: This Day in Mystery

According to The Mystery Book of Days (1990, Mysterious Press) nothing mysterious has ever happened on this day.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

29 October: This Day in Mystery

29 October 1906
Fredric Brown is born in Cincinnati, Ohio. A writer of mostly science fiction short stories, his mystery novels include The Fabulous Clipjoint (1947) and The Night of the Jabberwock (1950).

29 October 1964
Jack Murphy (Murph the Surf) and two of his beach bum cohorts break into the New York Museum of Natural History and steal the Star of India, the world's largest star sapphire. After their arrest, Murphy claims that he perfected the heist by watching Jules Dassin's classic caper film, Topkapi.
He was involved with a robbery on October 29, 1964, of the Star of India along with several other precious gems, including the Eagle Diamond and the de Long Ruby. This robbery was called the "Jewel Heist of the Century." It targeted the J.P. Morgan jewel collection from the display cases of New York's American Museum of Natural History.

Murphy had cased the museum earlier and discovered from a 17-year-old visitor that security was lax to non-existent. The burglar alarm system was non-operational, and a second story window in the jewel room was usually left open to aid in ventilation. The thieves climbed in through the window and discovered that the display case alarms were non-functional as well. The stolen jewels were valued at more than $400,000.

Murphy and both his accomplices, Alan Kuhn and Roger Clark, were arrested two days later and received three-year sentences. The uninsured Star of India was recovered in a foot locker at a Miami bus station. Most of the other gems were also recovered, except the Eagle Diamond, which has since been hypothesized to have been cut down into smaller stones. Richard Duncan Pearson was also convicted.

The heist was the subject of a 1975 movie, directed by Marvin Chomsky, called Murph the Surf. The movie starred Robert Conrad, Burt Young, and Don Stroud (as Murphy).

In 1968, he was convicted of first-degree murder of Terry Rae Frank, 24, a California secretary, one of two women whose bodies were found in Whiskey Creek near Hollywood, Florida, in 1967. He also was convicted of trying to rob a Miami Beach woman in 1968. He was sentenced to life in prison in Florida.

Post Prison

When Bill Glass, Roger Staubach and McCoy McLemore visited Florida State prison in 1974, as part of a Bill Glass Champions for Life weekend, Murphy was impressed with the visitors, both world champion athletes and local businessmen. At that time Murphy had an earliest parole date of Nov. 2225, but that weekend changed his attitude and he devoted his future time spent in prison to serving a higher cause. His service in the chaplaincy program, leading Bible studies and mentoring other men in prison led the Florida Parole Board to release him on "parole with lifetime monitoring" in 1986.

In 1986, Murphy began going back into prisons and jails all over the U.S. as a platform guest with Bill Glass. In 1990, he was hired on staff with Bill Glass Champions for Life. Murphy has also been a featured speaker for Kairos, Coalition of Prison Evangelists, Int'l Prison Ministries, Time for Freedom and Good News Jail & Prison Ministry. After visiting over 1,200 prisons, and recognizing the incredible change apparent in this man's life, the FL Parole Board terminated his "lifetime parole" in 2000.

Murphy is now international director for Champions for Life, visiting prisons, jails, and youth detention facilities all over the world. Murphy authored a book of his experience and testimony Jewels for the Journey.

Friday, October 28, 2011

28 October: This Day in Mystery

28 October 1945
Simon Brett is born in Worcester Park, Surrey, England. He is the author of the Charles Paris mystery series, as well as the Mrs. Pargeter series and the Fethering series. He also writes and produces a variety of radio series.

Charles Paris
Charles Paris is an unhappily separated (but not divorced more than 30 years on), moderately successful actor with a slight drinking problem who gets entangled in all sorts of crimes, and finds himself in the role of unwilling amateur detective. There are 17 novels featuring this character:

* Cast, In Order of Disappearance (1975)
* So Much Blood (1976)
* Star Trap (1977)
* An Amateur Corpse (1978)
* A Comedian Dies (1979)
* The Dead Side of the Mike (1980)
* Situation Tragedy (1981)
* Murder Unprompted (1982)
* Murder in the Title (1983)
* Not Dead, Only Resting (1984)
* Dead Giveaway (1985)
* What Bloody Man Is That? (1987)
* A Series of Murders (1989)
* Corporate Bodies (1991)
* A Reconstructed Corpse (1993)
* Sicken and So Die (1995)
* Dead Room Farce (1998)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

27 October: This Day in Mystery

27 October 1906
Elizabeth Lemarchand is born in Barnstaple, Devonshire, England. She writes "a nostalgic series of ...genteel mysteries featuring Scotland Yard detectives Tom, Pollard and Gregory Toye (Light Through Glass (1984)).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

26 October: This Day in Mystery

26 October 1886
Vincent Starrett is born in Toronto, Canada. He is a distinguished scholar who specializes in detective fiction - Sherlock Holmes in particular - and writes The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1933). He also writes The Unique Hamlet (1920), considered by many to be the best Sherlockian pastiche, in which Holmes searches for the ultimate rare book, an inscribed first edition of Hamlet. His autobiography is Born in a Bookshop (1965).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

25 October: This Day in Mystery

25 October 1957
Mob hit man Albert "the Executioner" Anastasia sits down for a haircut at the Park Sheraton Hotel barbershop in New York City. Two men, their face hidden by scarves, come up behind him and shoot him five times, killing him instantly. The killers are believed to be "Crazy Joey" Gallo and his brother.

Monday, October 24, 2011

24 October: This Day in Mystery

24 October 1917
Ted Allbeury, the real-life inspiration for Len Deighton's espionage hero Harry Palmer, is born in Stockport, Cheshire, England. A lieutenant colonel in British Intelligence during World War II, he also wrote his own spy novels, The Other Side of Silence (1981); The Judas Factor (1984).

John Frankenheimer's film version of the Richard Condon novel The Manchurian Candidate, starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and Angela Lansbury is released. A Cold War thriller of mind control and assassination, the film is taken out of circulation after President John F. Kennedy is assassinated.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

23 October: This Day in Mystery

23 October 1906
Jonathan Latimer is born in Chicago. A screenwriter, he will write the screenplays for Dashiell Hammett's The Glass Key (1942), Kenneth Fearing's The Big Clock (1948) and Cornell Woolrich's The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948). He is also the author of the hard-boiled novel Solomon's Vineyard (1941).

23 October 1942
Scientist and science fiction writer Michael Crichton is born in Chicago. He is the author of The Great Train Robbery (1975), the 1968 mystery A Case of Need (under the pseudonym Jeffrey Hudson), and such books as The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

22 October: This Day in Mystery

22 October 1866
Playboy and mystery writer E. Phillips Oppenheim is born in London. Called "the Prince of Storytellers," he writes 116 novels and 39 short story collections, only The Great Impersonation (1920) is still widely read today.

Steve Cochran and Mamie Van Doren in The Beat Generation22 October 1959
The Beat Generation, a B movie starring Mamie Van Doren, is released. It is the story of two cops in pursuit of a robber known as the Aspirin Kid, and exploits the then-popularity of bebop, beards, bongos and bad poetry.

Friday, October 21, 2011

21 October: This Day in Mystery

21 October 1926
Roderic Jeffries, son of mystery writer Bruce Graeme [Jeffries], is born in London. Jeffries continues his father's series about the adventures of Blackshirt, the safecracker with a heart of gold.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

20 October: This Day in Mystery

20 October 1905
Frederic Dannay is born in Brooklyn. With his cousin Manfred B. Lee, he creates private detective Ellery Queen. The character first appears in books. In 1941, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine makes its debut.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

19 October: This Day in Mystery

19 October 1931
David Cornwell is born in Pool, Dorsetshire, England. Under the pseudonym John LeCarre, he is the author of espionage novels - the antithesis of the James Bond books, featuring George Smiley as a world-weary civil servant, in such books as The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1963) and The Russia House (1989).

19 October 1942
Andrew Vachs is born in New York City. A criminal lawyer specializing in child protection cases, he writes novels featurung Burke, an ex-con whose knowledge of crime makes him an extremely unorthodox private eye. (Flood, 1985, Hard Candy, 1989.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

18 October: This Day in Mystery

Bartlett Robinson

18 October 1943
Perry Mason begins its radio life on the CBS network in a script prepared especially for radio by Erle Stanley Gardner (Mason's creator). Bartlett Robinson plays Mason in the beginning episodes, shortly to be replaced by Donald Briggs, who will be eventually replaced by Santos Ortega. (Ortega will also play the radio version of Nero Wolfe).

Monday, October 17, 2011

17 October: This Day in Mystery

17 October 1893
Richard Connell is born in Poughkeepsie, New York. A prolific writer, his most famous story is "The Most Dangerous Game" - the classic suspense story of the Russian aristocrat who hunts human prey.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

16 October: This Day in Mystery

16 October 1888
The most apparently genuine of all Jack the Ripper's mocking letters is received by George Lusk of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. The note is accompanied by a small package containing half a human kidney.

16 October 1944
Brett Halliday's private eye Michael Shayne debuts on the US west coast's Don Lee radio network. Starring Wally Maher in the title role, it goes national by 1946.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

15 October: This Day in Mystery

15 October 1880
Arthur B. Reeve is born in Patchogue, New York. He will be the first American mystery writer to make it big in the UK, with the tales of his scientific detective, Craig Kennedy. (The Silent Bullet (1912)

15 October 1917
Exotic dancer and espionage agent [reputed] Mata Hari (real name Marguerite Zelle) is executed by a French firing squad.

15 October 1926
Evan Hunter is born in New York City. Under the pseudonym Ed McBain, he writes police procedurals featuring the 87th Precinct. (Cop Hater, 1956, Vespers 1990). Under his own name, he is the author of The Blackboard Jungle (1954). He is awarded the Grand Master title by the Mystery Writers of America in 1986.

Friday, October 14, 2011

14 October: This Day in Mystery

14 October 1912
New York City saloon owner John Schrank shoots former president Theodore Roosevelt at a Milwaukee political rally. The bullet is stopped by the papers on which Roosevelt has written his speech and which he carried in his breast pocket. He delivers the speech before going to the hospital. He survives the attack but the bullet remains in his body until the day he dies.

14 October 1928
Roger Moore is born in London. He will play Simon Templar, the Saint, in the TV series that runs in the 1960s. In 1973 he makes his first James Bond movie, Live and Let Die.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

13 October: This Day in Mystery

13 October 1867
Guy Boothby is born in Adelaide, Australia. He is the creator of the hypnotically gifted Dr. Nikola, a ruthless and unscrupulous evil genius of fin de siecle (end of the century, 1890s) times (The Lust of Hate 1898).

His 1897 book The Prince of Swindlers features Simon Carne, one of the first gentlemen crooks-preceding Raffles by two years.
(Read more at:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

12 October: This Day in Mystery

12 October 1904
Lester Dent is born in La Plata, Missouri. Using the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson, he creates Doc Savage, the "Man of Bronze" in 1935. Doc Savage's popularity in the pulps is second only to that of The Shadow (although he will never achieve radio success.)

12 October 1939
Soldier, bartender, roughneck and finally mystery writer James Crumley is born in Three Rivers, Texas. He sets his novels in the American West. His private eye heroes Sughrue (The Last Good Kiss 1978) and Milodragovitch (Dancing Bear (1983) wrestle with their obsessions and addictions in these hardboiled novels.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

11 October: This Day in Mystery

According to The Mystery Book of Days, (Mysterious Press, 1990), not a single mysterious thing happened on this day.

Monday, October 10, 2011

10 October: This Day in Mystery

According to The Mystery Book of Days, (Mysterious Press, 1990), not a single mysterious thing happened on this day.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

9 October: This Day in Mystery

9 October 1900
British character actor Alistair Sim is born in Edinburgh. He will portray Christianna Brand's sardonic detective Inspector Cockrill in the 1946 film Green For Danger.

9 October 1918
E. Howard Hunt is born in Hamburg, New York. He writes a long running series of macho adventure novels, but is also a spy - and participated in the Bay of Pigs. He was also the head Watergate "plumber."

9 October 1939
James McClure is born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes a long-running series about White Afrikaaner policeman Kramer and black Bantu policeman Zondi, which examines the racial apartheid system as well as murder mysteries. (The Steam Pig, 1971, The Artful egg, 1984).

Saturday, October 8, 2011

8 October: This Day in Mystery

8 October 1850
M. McDonnell Bodkin is born in Dublin.

Matthias McDonnell Bodkin (8 October 1850 – 7 June 1933) was an Irish nationalist politician and MP. in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Anti-Parnellite representative for North Roscommon, 1892–95, a noted author, journalist and newspaper editor, and barrister, King’s Counsel (K.C.) and County Court Judge for County Clare, 1907-24.

Bodkin was a prolific author, in a wide range of genres, including history, novels (contemporary and historical), plays, and political campaigning texts.

Bodkin earned a place in the history of the detective novel by virtue of his invention of the first detective family. His character Paul Beck, a private detective with comfortable lodgings in Chester, was an Irish Sherlock Holmes with a very original yet logical method for detecting crime. Beck first appeared in Paul Beck, the Rule of Thumb Detective in 1899. In the following year Bodkin’s creation Dora Myrl, the lady detective, made her first appearance. In The Capture of Paul Beck (1909), Bodkin had them marry each other and in 1911 their son appeared, in Paul Beck, a chip off the old block. Other titles in this series were The Quests of Paul Beck (1908), Pigeon Blood Rubies (1915) and Paul Beck, Detective (1929).

Friday, October 7, 2011

7 October: This Day in Mystery

7 October 1907
Espionage novelist Helen MacInnes is born in Glasgow, Scotland. Hers works often feature international backdrops, romance, and intrigue. (Above Suspicion, 1941; The Salzburg Connection, 1968).

7 October 1954
Suddenly, a taut, suspenseful thriller starring Frank Sinatra and Sterling Hayden, is released. Sinatra is a vicious and sadistic assassin who holds a family hostage. (Suddenly is the name of the town where the action takes place.)

7 October 1971
William Friedkin’s Oscar Winner The French Connection opens. Based on a true story, the movie follows the adventures of New York cop “Popeye” Doyle, played by Gene Hackman, in his search for a French heroin dealer.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

6 October: This Day in Mystery

6 October 1916
Stanley Ellin is born in Brooklym. He specializes in suspense and mystery short stories. His best known tale is “The Specialty of the House,” a subtle story of cannibalism in modern-day New York. He also writes novels, such as The Eighth Circle (1958) which will earn him the Best Novel Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America. In 1983 the MWA will make him a Grand Master.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

5 October: This Day in Mystery

5 October 1915
The first real pulp magazine, Detective Story, appears. Created in the form of the Nick Carter Library of dime novels, Detective Story will last until 1949.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

4 October: This Day in Mystery

4 October 1895
Buster Keaton is born in a vaudeville trunk somewhere on the roads of the Midwest. In 1924 he will star in Sherlock Jr.

4 October 1931

Chester Gould’s comic strip hero Dick Tracy (“Crime does not pay,” “Little crimes lead to big crimes,” first appears in the newspaper.

4 October 1972
Bill Cosby and Robert Culp attempt to recreate the chemistry of I, Spy, but Hickey and Boggs, a TV movie which airs on this date, will be unsuccessful.

Monday, October 3, 2011

3 October: This Day in Mystery

3 October 1925
Erudite essayist, playwright and novelist Gore Vidal is born in West Point, NY. In the early 50s Vidal, using the pseudonym Edgar Box, publishes a trio of mysteries featuring public relations man Peter Cutler Sargeant, including Death in the Fifth Position (1952).

3 October 1941
The definitive film version of The Maltese Falcon is released, directed by John Huston. (There had been 2 earlier versions). It stars Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, and is the directorial debut of John Huston.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

2 October: This Day in Mystery

2 October 1904
Graham Greene is born in Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire, England. He will go on to author both serious novels and "entertainments" - as he calls his crime and espionage thrillers. Brighton Rock, Ministry of Fear and The Third Man are 3 of his most famous novels.

2 October 1955
Alfred Hitchcock Presents premieres on CBS. It features sardonic introductions and conclusions by Alfred Hitchcock.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

1 October: This Day in Mystery

1 October 1910
In response to the anti-Union editorials of Los Angeles Times owner Harrison Gray Otis, unionists John and Jim McNamara plant a bomb in the printing department of the newspaper on this day. The subsequent explosion kills 21 workers.

1 October 1920
Actor Walter Matthau is born in New York City. He will take on many roles in the mystery and crime genres - even starring as Per Wohloo and Maj Sjowall's detective Martin Beck in The Laughing Policeman.