Silver Bells and Brass Knuckles
Christmas 2004 Gift Suggestions
For the P.I. Fan Who Has Everything

These are just a few suggestions that I thought had particular merit several years ago. They're still great gifts -- if you can find them, and of course, you can always check out Word on the Street for more recent ideas.

And if you're really feeling nostalgic, you can always head on over to the 2004 Cheap Thrill Awards...

By the way, the prices are in American dollars and represent the going rate, as far as I can tell. Most (but not all) of the "Buy this" links are to Amazon.com, with whom I have a sponsorship deal, which helps to pay for this site. But if you'd prefer to buy them elsewhere, go ahead.

Like your mama done told ya, ya better shop around...

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| Books | Comics | Radio/Audio Drama | Film/Television |
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Magazines | Other Suggestions | The Ultimate Gift |

BOOKS

  • Pulp Fictions
    Edited and introduced by Peter Haining
    Barnes & Noble Books, $9.95

    This reissue of the 1996 collection of pulp classics, old and occasionally new, is priced to own, and you sure can't turn your sniffer up at the selection. Besides solid, if not too surprising P.I. stories from usual suspects Chandler, Hammett, Bellem, Daly, Ellroy and Macdonald, there are entries ranging all over the hard-boiled genre from everyone from Spillane, Leonard and MacKinlay Kantor to McBain, Sam Fuller, Stepen King and Quentin Tarrantino. And Hainings' brief but informative introductory notes are worth checking out, as well.
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  • The World's Finest Mystery and Crime Stories, Fifth Edition ..Buy this book
    Edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg
    Forge, $17.95/$29.95
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    The Best American Mystery Stories 2004
    ..Buy this book
    Edited by Otto Penzler and Michael Connelly
    Houghton Mifflin, $14.00/$27.50
    Once again the Fighting G's (Gorman and Greenberg) take on Penzler and this year's hired gun, military thriller writer Nelson DeMille, in an all-out, no-holds-barred battle for the coveted title of "Greatest Annual Short Crime Fiction Collection."
    It's hard to say who'll take the bout this year. The Gs, as always, have the international reach and weight, attempting to cover the international crime scene by including material from around the world , but Otto and Nelson are showing some truly pugnacious spunk this year, focussing mostly on two-fisted American crime fiction, and only offering a little traditional mystery rub-a-dub.
    Both books are solid collections, though, guaranteed to please most discerning mystery readers, available in paperback and hardcover. Gorman and Greenberg gets a few extra technical points for their more ambitious global perspective, offering short essays on the mystery scene in Canada, Great Britain and Germany, as well as Stateside, but Penzler's unapologetically more insular tack packs a real punch this year. My solution? Be a diplomat, and get 'em both.
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  • Murder Most Merry ..Buy this book
    Edited by Abigail Browning
    Gramercy, $9.99
    Just in case the two previous books didn't seem quite "seasonal" enough, this budget-priced collection of crimonious Christmas tales will deck your halls and have the mystery fan on your list fa-la-la-la-laing til the wee wee hours. Featuring thirty-two murderous, holiday-spiced yarns, full of everything from malicious elves to a department store Santa playing detective, while it may not be exactly chockfull of P.I. tales, it does feature stories from some of the best writers in the genre, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, John D. MacDonald, Rex Stout, Anthony Boucher, Julian Symons, Ed Hoch, Georges Simenon, Lawrence Block and John Mortimer. Heck, there are even a couple of stories I mention in Down These Mean Streets with Boughs of Holly). Usher in the season with the likes of Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe and Horace Rumpole. Favourite title? "I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus' by George Baxt. Now what could be more seasonal than that?
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  • The Deadly Directory 2004
    Edited by Kate Derie
    $19.99, available from Deadly Serious Press
    Also available as a pdf download
    Subtitled "A resource guide for mystery, crime and suspense readers and writers," thain't no idle boast. This is the bomb of resource books for the "deadly serious" mystery fan, featuring extensive annual listings of mystery bookstores, organizations, publications, events, archives, small presses, reviewers, entertainment, gifts, and online sites, with names, addresses, phone/fax, email, and websites. Editor Kate Derie is also the creator of the fantastic ClueLass web site.
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  • The Art of Noir: The Posters and Graphics from the Classic Era of Film Noir....Buy this book
    By Eddie Muller
    Overlook Press, $35.00
    Now in paperback, it just doesn't get much yummier than this.With over 300 full-color illustrations, many of them full-page spreads, crime novellist and movie nut Eddie "Dark City" Muller covers the mean streets and fleabag hotels of the noir beat once again, this time through movie posters and his own two-fisted commentary. For noir fans, this impressive collection is the ultimate coffee-table tome, simply to die (or possibly kill) for. I want it
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  • Gangsters, Swindlers, Killers, And Thieves: The Lives and Crimes of Fifty American Villains ...Buy this book
    Edited by Lawrence Block
    Oxford University Press, $26.00
    For any red, white and blue true crime afficiando out there, this is the ultimate perp walk. Master crime novelist Block and the American National Biography Reference Series team up to proudly present this fascinating illustrated rogues' gallery torn from the pages of American history, with individual entries (complete with illustrations and color commentary from Block) on everyone from Jesse James to Dutch Schultz. They're all here: assassins, outlaws, bootleggers, mobsters, serial killers, con artists, hit men, psychos, sickos and going back over two hundred years from sea to shining sea. Sorta makes ya proud, don't it?

  • Tailing Philip Marlowe ..Buy this book
    by Brian & Bonnie Olson
    Burlwrite
    $14.99

    This handy-dandy trade paperback features three single-day ours of Los Angeles, visiting over forty locations referred to by Raymond Chandler in his novels: Marlowe's Hollywood, Marlowe's Downtown, and Marlowe's Drive. Includes b&w photo illustrations, color maps, local colour and more historical trivia than you can shake a gimlet at. For a new Los Angeleno like myself, or just someone contemplating killing a few days in the City of Angels, this is one righteous gift. Santa, are you listening?

COMIC BOOKS

  • Gravedigger: The Scavengers
    Written by Christopher Mills
    Art by Rick Burchett
    Rosarch Entertainment, $3.50
    Illustrated by Eisner Award-winning Batman artist Rick Burchett, and scripted by Femme Noir writer Christopher Mills, this two-fisted crime comic about a heist gone wrong starring professional bad guy "Digger" McCrae is a worthy hommage to cinematic crime, with sly winks to everything from classics like The Killing and Point Blank to more modern fare like Reservoir Dogs and Payback. And it's no mistake that Digger is a dead ringer for both Richard Stark's Parker and seminally cool film tough guy Lee Marvin (who, of course, played Parker in Point Blank). It goes on sale November, courtesy of Rorschach Entertainment, in suitably noirish black-and-white. Perfect for the hard-boiled fan on your list – shove it in his stocking and tell him to take it and like it.
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  • Angeltown
    Written by Gary Phillips
    Art by Shawn Martinbrough
    DC/Vertigo
    Five-part mini-series/$2.95 each
    Private eye Ivan Monk's creator (and a frequent contributor to Mystery Scene), Gary Phillips, pumps up the volume (and expands his already impressive reach) with this five-part mini-series starring Nate Hollis, a smooth-talking, sharp-walking hard-boiled black LA eye who's hired to track down an arrogant basketball superstar suspected of murdering his wife. But wouldn't you know it? Nate ends up finding a lead to an older murder – that of his father! The first issue goes on sale in November 2004.
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  • Road to Perdition: On the Road
    By Max Allan Collins
    Art by José Luis Garcia-López,Josef Rubinstein, Steve Lieber
    DC Comics, $14.95
    Collected at last: all three volumes (Oasis, Sanctuary and Detour) of the landmark graphic novel trilogy, completing Max Allan Collins' untold tales of mob hitman Michael O'Sullivan and his young son on the run from gangsters in the 1930s. Originally related in The Road to Perdition, the New York Times Bestelling graphic novel by Collins and artist Richard Piers Rayner, which in turn inspired the Oscar-nominated film starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman, this story has definitely shown it has legs. You can also pick up all three of these volumes individually, of course (if you can still find them) but this edition includes a long intro that ties together the myriad threads of this tale's various versions, and puts them in context. Speaking of which, for those of you who simply just can't get enough of this rich, evocative and enthralling yarn, Road to Purgatory, the first prose sequel to the original graphic novel is now out as well, from William Morrow.

RADIO/AUDIO DRAMA 

  • The Saint: 3 Hour Collector's Edition
    Radio Spirits, $19.98
    This three-hour, three DVD set (also available on cassette) invites you into the world of Leslie Charteris' sophisticated and suave adventurer Simon Templar, better known as "The Saint" who, in this 1940s-50s incarnation, works as a rather quixotic private eye taking on the cases everyone else has given up on. Charming and debonair, The Saint displays both savoir faire and steel-eyed reserve as he wines and dines a procession of lovelies and fights crime in his own occasionally swash-buckling way. A young Vincent Price stars in the six thirty-minute episodes included in this set.

  • Casey, Crime Photographer Special Edition
    10 CDs10 hours
    Radio Spirits, $39.98
    Originally appearing in the pages of Black Mask, under the watchful eyes of then-editor Joseph Shaw, George Harmon coxe's Flashgun Casey was the original fast-talking crime photographer for the Morning Express Newspaper, a big, hot-tempered Boston Mick with a gift for gab and a nose for trouble. Casey kept a bottle of hooch and a .38 in his desk drawer, and boasted of being able to put a "slug where he aimed" and having "two big fists he knew how to use." Ol' Flashgun even becamesomething of multimedia superstar of the day, appearring in a couple of quite popular B-flicks; and this very successful radio show, which ran on CBS for several years in the forties, starring Staats Cotsworth as Casey. In the radio version, Casey sported a reporter girlfriend, Ann Williams and hung out at the Blue Note Café where the Blue Note Musicians (played by The Teddy Wilson Trio) held court. This 10-CD set brings it all back, with twenty half-hour episodes.
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  • Old-Time Radio's Greatest Detectives
    20 CDs
    Radio spirits, $69.98
    Intrigued by OTR but not sure where to jump in? Try this tempting buffet of murder and mayhem, the perfect introduction to a gone-but-not-forgotten world of colorful characters, witty banter, clever writing and often great acting, featuring ten of radio's most popular gumshoes. Philip Marlowe, The Saint, Sgt. Joe Friday in Dragnet, Boston Blackie, Sam Spade, Richard Rogue, Richard Diamond, Nero wolfe, Nick Carter and Johnny Dollar are all present and accounted for, with four episodes from each of their shows, and starring the likes of Vincent Price, Dick Powell, Howard Duff, Jack Webb, Gerald Mohr and Sydney Greenstreet, among others. How could you go wrong? It's a veritable feast – so grab your knife and fork and dig right in. After all, it's the holidays, right?
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  • Private Eyelashes
    By French, Jack
    BearManor Media, $18.95
    Don't touch that dial! Just in case anyone gets the wrong idea by the selection listed above, radio was NOTpopulated exclusively by male detectives. In fact, there were dozens of crime-busting women populating the airwaves of the forties and fifties, a veritable slew of popular lady dicks the likes of which we wouldn't witness again for more than forty years. In this eye-opening volume, old time radio historian Jack French presents an empassioned tribute to radio lady crimefighters, dishing up the dirt on the expected wives, secretaries and gal Fridays of popular male detectives (Nora charles, Della Street, Margo Lane, etc.) but saving most of the space for such popular detectives as Ann Scotland, Irene Delroy, Miss Pinkerton, Phyl Coe (sponsored by Philco, of course), Carolyn Day, Kitty Keene and one of the very best radio dicks of them all, Candy Matson. These lady dicks took no guff from anyone and proudly called their own shots, and legions of fans loved them for it. Now if only we could get some episodes of Candy Matson YU 2-8209 released on CD.

FILM/TELEVISION

  • TVNow Mystery Classics
    $28.00
    Available from TVNow Mystery Classics
    The bargain of the year! A budget-priced DVD collection of fifty (Yes! FIFTY!) Mystery Classics. Okay, the title's a bit of a con -- most of them are far from classic, and there's a high cheese quotient (and even one or two true stinkers) but there are actually a few flat-out cult classics here (Detour, Kansas City Confidential and They Made Me a Criminal, among others ). The rest are mostly solid dependable programmers (notably several Sherlock Holmes flicks with Rathbone and Bruce) and some gloriously hokey public domain series B-flicks (Bulldog Drummond, Mr. Wong, Nancy Drew, Dick Tracy and The Shadow all pop up). But for less than thirty bucks, and with stars like Edward G. Robinson, Dan Duryea, Jimmy Cagney, William Powell, Frank Sinatra and Lizabeth Scott, who can gripe? P.I. fans will particularly enjoy hard-to-find flicks like Eyes in the Night and Murder With Pictures, but with over fifty flicks to pick from, there's bound to be something here for everyone.
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  • Shadows, Lies, and Private Eyes: The Film Noir Collection.. Buy this DVD set
    Warner Home Video, $49.99
    Powerful stuff. Now that the TVNow Collection above has cleansed your palate, here's the main course for those whose tastes run to the dark end of the genre: a 5-disk set featuring newly remastered editions of seminal Warner Brothers film noirs. The set includes The Asphalt Jungle (John Huston, Sterling Hayden and the heist from hell), Gun Crazy (happiness is a warm gun, mama), Murder My Sweet (former song-and-dance man Dick Powell as – believe it or not -- the best Philip Marlowe ever), Out of the Past (starring Robert Mitchum, arguably the quintessential noir actor in, arguably, the quintessential noir) and the less well-known (but no less potent) The Set-Up from 1949, a darkly relentless boxing flick played out in "real-time," directed by Robert Wise and starring former real-life fighter Robert Ryan that pulls absolutely no punches. Even better, none of these films are presented in a vaccumn – they're accompanied by intriguing new commentary from some folks who actually know what they're talking about, including noir expert Alain Silver, Martin Scorsese and Wise himself. Only five films in this one, but still a great bargain. And if you don't want to spring for the whole set, all five films are also being released separately.
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  • Honey West Volume 1...Buy this set
    Honey West Volume 2
    ...Buy this set
    $16.95, BijouFlix Releasing
    I'm not sure of the legality of these, but BijouFlix is offering two collections of the classic cult P.I. show for sale. Volume One contains the episodes "In the Bag," "The Flame & the Pussycat," "Gray Lady" and "Invitation to Limbo," while Volume Two has "The Fun-Fun Killer," "Pop Goes the Easel," "Slay, Gypsy, Slay" and "Little Green Robin Hood." Like her pet ocelot Bruce says, "Rrrrrrrrrrrrerrrrrr....."
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  • Monk: Season One. Buy on DVD
    $59.99
    For mystery fans who prefer a lighter touch, this 4 DVD set includes all twelve episodes from the first (and possibly best) season of the hit USA Network show, starring the Emmy-winning Tony Shalhoub as a once brilliant San Francisco homicide detective battling severe psychological disorders and obsessive-compulsive tendencies in the wake of his wife's murder. Now's he's trying to make a new life, and get reinstated onto the police force. And it ain't easy – it turns out the detective has a phobia about virtually everything: germs, heights, crowds, the dark... even milk (though Sharona, his reluctant full-time nurse/keeper thinks they may have turned the corner on that last one). Includes the previously released two-hour pilot "Mr. Monk and the Candidate. Shop around, and you might still find a limited edition that comes complete with special antibacterial hand gel. After all, you can't be too careful – it's a jungle out there. Just ask Monk.

MAGAZINES

What could be cooler than receiving a gift all year long? There are tons of great mystery magazines and newsletters, featuring a range of fiction and non-fiction, ranging from enthusiastically amateur to slickly professional, for all tastes and budgets. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Mystery Scene...Subscription information
    5 issues/year
    $32
    Kate Stine and Brian Skupin's Mystery Scene, originally created by Robert Randisi and Ed Gorman, is a labour of love, and has rapidly become the cornerstone of the mystery writing community. Currently published five times a year, this "trade journal" promises "news, reviews, interviews and views," with special empasis on the business of writing. The magazine has received numerous awards and contributors include some of crime fiction's best writers as well as editors, agents, booksellers, film and television directors, collectors and critics. They also let me scribble its pages now and then, but don't let THAT discourage you.
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  • BULLET....Subscription information
    Digitalent Ltd
    First four issues: £8.00.

    Keith Jeffrey's hot new mag from the U.K. specializes in what he calls "rock'n'roll noir." He promises a slim volume of 10 high voltage stories each no longer than 1500 words. From the promo: "Imagine the buzz of the Ramones, the electric intensity of the Clash. Imagine rock'n'roll turned into fiction. Imagine BULLET." Hard-boiled? This stuff is flame-throwered! An issue slips easily into your back pocket, but the stories will claw their way into your brain. Available in print or in electronic versions, with postage and packing included.
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  • Crimestalker Casebook...Subscription information
    Falconcroft Press
    Semi-annual, two years $24
    Andrew McAleer knows and loves his mysteries, and it shows in this great little zine (also known as Austin Layman's Crimestalker Casebook), featuring some truly great short stories from the likes of O'Neil De Noux, Stephen D. Rogers and Michael Bracken, Andrew McAleer. Highly recommended.
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  • Mystery News...Subscription information
    $20 US for 1 year/six issues
    You could certainly do a whole lot worse for the mystery fan on your gift list than to give him or her a subscription to this smart bi-monthly tabloid which focusses on crime fiction. Unlike some mags that tend to be overly fawning, this one gives it to you straight. Contributors include Chris Aldrich, Reed Andrus, Gary Niebuhr, Beth Fedyn, Frank Denton, Marv Lachman, Lynn Kaczmarek and several other shady characters who have been known to have opinions worth hearing. Intelligent book reviews, columns and excellent interviews abound. These people know their stuff.

OTHER SUGGESTIONS

  • Gift Certificates
    Okay, it's not the most thoughtful gift, but at least you won't be buying someone a book they've already read. Most bookstores and online bookstores offer gift certificates, including several that offer rare and collectible books. Check out my list of Booksellers & Dealers.
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  • The 1955 Velda Wall Calendar
    Black Cat Studios
    Free download available in pdf format
    What could be more decidedly retro than this 1955 girlie calendar featuring everybody's favourite stripper turned P.I., Ron Miller's Velda Bellinghausen? And could the price by any righter? But why 1955, you may ask? That's simple. According to writer/photographer/artist/designer Miller, "Unless my calculations are way off, the calendar for 2005 is the same as for 1955..."
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  • Golden Spider Earrings
    $12.00
    Available from The Wolfe Pack Store
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  • Rex Stout: A Majesty's Life
    by John J. McAleer
    Millennium edition, 2002
    James A. Rock & Company Publishers; $46.95
    Perfect for the Nero Wolfe fan in dire need of some stylin' lobe decoration, these Golden (but, alas, not gold) Spider Earrings pay tribute to the 1953 Rex Stout novel, which was later adapted for the pilot for the late, lamented A&E TV show. Available from The Wolfe Pack, the official Nero Wolfe fan club, which boasts over 400 members from all over the world.
    By the way, the Wolfe Pack, founded in 1978, was named by famed Stout biographer Professor John McAleer who sadly, passed away this year. Fortunately, his landmark work , Rex Stout: A Majesty's Life, is once again available, in a nicely updated edition, with the original intro from P.G. Wodehouse, plus a new introduction and an afterword by the author's son, mystery writer and Crimestalker Casebook publisher Andrew McAleer, who relates how he visited Stout's home at age eleven with his father, when he was researching the book. Available from the Wolfe Pack or at finer bookstores everywhere.
    The Wolfe Pack Store offers several other exclusive items, including a signed and numbered lithograph of a Wolfean still life by noted portrait artist Kevin Gordon.
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  • BBQ Aprons
    $15.00
    Miniature Skulls
    $12.00
    Toe Tag Keyrings
    $5.00
    Available from LA Coroner's Office's Skeletons in the Closet
    You stab 'em, they slab 'em. What could be more distinctive (or possibly lacking in taste) than a BBQ apron straight from the LA Coroner's Office's Skeletons in the Closet shop? These black bib-style aprons measure 24" X 28", and come with imprints of a red heart in the appropriate place, plus spare hands and spare ribs on the pockets. Or perhaps they could interest you in a 4" tall plastic skull with fine anatomical detail, spring mounted jaw, and a convenient snap-off top ? Ideal as a paperweight or a prop for your next recital of Hamlet's soliloquy at the office Christmas party, it's part of their Earthly Remains Collection.Or perhaps you'd prefer the relatively discreet toe-tag keychain, which gently admonishes its owners "This could be you please don't drink and drive."
    An actual offshoot of the L.A. County Coroner's office, Skeletons offers unique clothing, office items, mugs, and more to those of you with "dubious distinctive taste." Proceeds go to the Youthful Drunk Driving Visitation Program.

  • Brodart Book Covers
    Assorted prices, available from brodart.com
    For the serious book geek who wants to protect his or her prized possessions, and is starting to run out of ZipLocs, what could be better than some library-quality bookcovers to protect their treasured tomes? While their trademark lawyers slept, the Brodart company became so well-known in the industry and among serious bibliophiles that their archival-quality jackets are now commonly refered to simply as "Brodarts." Covering your books is like flossing or calling your mother – we all know we should do it.
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  • Posters
    Assorted prices, available from allposter.com
    Tired of staring at blank walls? Buy your sweetie a movie poster from their favourite classic mystery film. They're also a great way cover hide any inconvenient bullet holes or unfortunate blood splatters. Perennial favourites include Chinatown, The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

And finally, the ultimate gift for any truly serious private eye fan....

  • The Maltese Falcon Statuette
    $59.95, available from The Mysterious Book Shop
    Not the real one, but an incredible facsimile, and a perennial on my own Personal Wish List (I keep asking, and I keep not getting it. Maybe the Fat Man doesn't like me). I mean, what real mystery fan wouldn't want their own Black Bird? A foot high and weighing in at a hefty nine pounds, cast in heavy plaster from the same mold as the dingus used in the classic Bogart film, and covered with jet black, glass enamel. Available from the Mysterious Bookshop in New York., although there is apparently no truth to the rumour that for a price, owner Otto Penzler will dress as a dying sea captain to deliver it to you personally. Still the stuff that dreams are made of...


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