CfP – The Golden Age of Crime: A Re-Evaluation

The Golden Age of Crime: A Re-Evaluation

A 2-day international conference at the University of Chester

3-4 April 2020

 

The Golden Age of crime fiction, roughly defined as puzzle-based mystery fiction produced between the First and Second World Wars, is enjoying a renaissance both in the literary marketplace and in scholarship. This conference intervenes in emerging academic debates to define and negotiate the boundaries of Golden Age scholarship.

 

As well as interrogating the staples of ‘Golden Age’ crime (the work of Agatha Christie and/or Ellery Queen, the puzzle format, comparisons to ‘the psychological turn’), this conference will look at under-explored elements of the publishing phenomenon.

 

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers or panel presentations of one hour. Topics can include, but are by no means limited to, the following:

 

Defining the parameters of Golden Age crime

The Queens of Crime (Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, Gladys Mitchell)

Significant male writers of the Golden Age (John Dickson Carr, Anthony Berkeley, Ellery Queen)

Lesser-known Golden Age practitioners

Collaborative and round robin novels

Continuation novels

The Detection Club

Parody, pastiche, and postmodernism

Psychology and psychoanalysis

Meta-fiction and self- or inter-referentiality

The language of crime fiction

The Golden Age and social value

Nostalgia and heritage

Writing the past

Gender, sexuality, and queerness

Clues and coding

Crime and the Gothic

Magic and the supernatural

Place, space, and psychogeography

Reissues and rediscovery

Archival finds and innovations

The ‘Second Golden Age’

The influence of Golden Age crime writers on subsequent and contemporary writers

Interdisciplinary perspectives

Teaching Golden Age crime fiction

 

Organisers: Dr J C Bernthal (University of Cambridge), Sarah Martin (University of Chester), Stefano Serafini (Royal Holloway, University of London)

 

We welcome academic and creative paper proposals. Please email your 200-word proposal and short biographical note to goldenageofcrime@gmail.com no later than 15th December. Comments and queries should be directed to the same address.

Flame Tree to publish Crime Writers’ Association anthology

Flame Tree Publishing have agreed a deal with the Crime Writers’ Association to publish the latest anthology of stories by CWA members, to be edited by Martin Edwards. Vintage Crimeswill be a CWA anthology with a difference, celebrating members’ work over the years. The book will gather stories which members have contributed to CWA anthologies from the mid-1950s until the twenty-first century. Publication is scheduled for summer 2020.

“There are many gems of crime writing in the CWA archives,” Martin Edwards commented. “This book will contain stories by great names of the past, great names of the present together with a few hidden treasures by less familiar writers.”

Nick Wells, Publisher at Flame Tree Publishing said “We’re absolutely thrilled to work with the CWA and Martin Edwards, setting out a path to bring back the best writing by the best writers in crime from the past 70 years at the CWA. We aim to restore the glory of the short story and inspire the next generation of mystery writers, readers, reviewers and bloggers.”

The first CWA anthology, Butcher’s Dozen, appeared in 1956, and was co-edited by Julian Symons, Michael Gilbert, and Josephine Bell. The anthology has been edited by Martin Edwards since 1996, and has yielded many award-winning and nominated stories in the UK and overseas.

CfP – Captivating Criminality 7 Crime Fiction: Memory, History and Revaluation

7th Annual Conference of the International Crime Fiction Association, in association with Bath Spa University

 

Captivating Criminality 7: Crime Fiction: Memory, History and Revaluation

 

2-4th July 2020

 

Newton Park campus, Bath Spa University, Bath UK.

 

Call for Papers

 

The Captivating Criminality Network is delighted to announce its seventh conference, which will be held in Bath, UK. Building upon and developing ideas and themes from the previous six successful conferences, Memory, History and Revaluation, will examine the ways in which Crime Fiction as a genre necessarily incorporates elements of the past – the past in general and its own past, both in terms of its own generic developments and also in respect of true crime and historical events. The CfP will thus offer opportunities for delegates to engage in discussions that are relevant to both past and present crime writing.

 

As Tzvetan Todorov argued in “The Typology of Detective Fiction,” crime fiction in many of its various sub-forms has a special relationship with the past. In classic forms of detective fiction, the central event around which the narrative is organized – the murder – occurs in pre-narrated time, and the actual narrative of the investigation is little more than a form of narrative archaeology, an excavation of a mysterious past event than is only accessible through reconstruction in the present. But this relationship between crime fiction and the past goes beyond narrative structure. The central characters of crime writing – its investigative figures – and frequently represented as haunted by their memories, living out their lives in the shadow of past traumas. More broadly, crime writing is frequently described as exhibiting a nostalgic orientation towards the past, and this longing for the restoration of an imagined prelapsarian Golden Age is part of the reason it has been association with social and political conservatism. On the other hand, there is a strong tradition of radical crime fiction that looks to the past not for comfort and stability, but in order to challenge historical myths and collective memories of unity, order, and security. Val McDermid argues that ‘…crime is a good vehicle for looking at society in general because the nature of the crime novel means that you draw on a wide group of social possibilities.’ Thus, crime fiction has been used to challenge, subvert and interrogate the legal and cultural status quo. Crime fiction’s relationship with the past is thus inherently complex, and represents a fascinating, and underexplored, focus for critical work.

 

Papers presented at Captivating Criminality 7 will thus examine changing notions of criminality, punishment, deviance and policing, drawing on the multiple threads that have fed into the genre since its inception. Speakers are invited to embraceinterdisciplinarity, exploring the crossing of forms and themes, and to investigate and challenge claims that Crime Fiction is a fixed genre. Abstracts dealing with crime fiction past and present, true crime narratives, television and film studies, and other forms of new media such as blogs, computer games, websites and podcasts are welcome, as are papers adopting a range of theoretical, sociological and historical approaches.

 

Topics may include but are not restricted to:

  • True Crime
  • Gender and the Past
  • Crime Fiction in the age of #me too
  • Crime Fiction from traumatised nations
  • Crime Fiction and Landscape
  • Revisionist Crime Fiction
  • Crime Fiction and contemporary debates
  • Crime Reports and the Press
  • Real and Imagined Deviance
  • Adaptation and Interpretation
  • Crime Fiction and Form
  • Generic Crossings
  • Crime and Gothic
  • The Detective, Then and Now
  • The Anti-Hero
  • Geographies of Crime
  • Real and Symbolic Boundaries
  • Ethnicity and Cultural Diversity
  • The Ideology of Law and Order: Tradition and Innovation
  • Gender and Crime
  • Women and Crime: Victims and Perpetrators
  • Crime and Queer Theory
  • Film Adaptations
  • TV series
  • Technology
  • The Media and Detection
  • Sociology of Crime
  • The Psychological
  • Early Forms of Crime Writing
  • Victorian Crime Fiction
  • The Golden Age
  • Hardboiled Fiction
  • Contemporary Crime Fiction
  • Postcolonial Crime and Detection

Please send 200 word proposals to Professor Fiona Peters, Dr Ruth Heholt and Dr Eric Sandberg, to captivatingcriminality7@gmail.com by 15th February 2020.

The abstract should include your name, email address, and affiliation, as well as the title of your paper. Please feel free to submit abstracts presenting work in progress as well as completed projects. Postgraduate students are welcome. Papers will be a maximum of 20 minutes in length. Proposals for suggested panels are also welcome.

 

CfP – Nordic Film Music and Sound

A special issue of the Journal of Scandinavian Cinema (Intellect)

Guest editors: Gunnar Iversen(Carleton University), Pietari Kaapa (University of Warwick), Kate Moffat(University of Stirling)

‘Working from a multifaceted musical palette with a vast variety of experiences to draw from, the Nordic film and media composers are known for their ability to do whatever it takes to tell the story; whatever it takes to serve the film. You can say that Nordic composers make their movies and directors win prizes’ (Nordic Film Music Days).

Nordic cinema has consistently enjoyed a curious relationship with popular culture. As part of small nation cinemas, audience sizes are restricted, requiring institutional support to sustain a healthy film industry. Thus, Nordic cinemas have tended to prioritize artistic or experimental filmmaking, resulting in respected international auteurs like Ingmar Bergman, Lars von Trier, Roy Andersson and Pirjo Honkasalo.

While these filmmakers have been explored endlessly in international scholarship, film music and sound remains a frequently ignored aspect of their work. Beyond the Nordic region, and specifically in relation to Hollywood cinema, there is an emerging body of research focusing on the role and relevance of the film score as a key signifier of narrative meaning (such as Murphy’s harmonic taxonomy [2006, 2014], which explores the reciprocal relationship between text and orchestration).

These concerns have become even more urgent with distinct transformations in Nordic film production, which has seen increased investment in popular and especially genre cinema since the 1990s. Subsequently, Nordic film scores have moved from experimental soundscapes to emulating international trends and standards, both in use of melodic content and in the incorporation of large orchestras and advanced synth soundscapes. Film composers like Tuomas Kantelinen and Søren Hyldgaard have consolidated professional careers as industry specialists and often broken out into global film culture. We can also consider the increasingly transnational presence of Nordic composers and multi-instrumentalists like Ólafur Arnalds (whose portfolio includes the BAFTA award-winning score for British noir series Broadchurch [2013-17]) and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Academy Award nominations for Best Original Score in The Theory of Everything (Marsh, 2014) and Sicario (Villeneuve, 2016). Equally, discussion of scores by the likes of Henrik Skram, Trond Bjerknes, Panu Aaltio and Johan Söderqvist, whose work reaches across a broad range of visual media and genres, remains significantly underdeveloped in both domestic and international contexts.

Journal of Scandinavian Cinema has prioritized this emerging field for an upcoming special issue, triggered by a rising interest in this area, especially following composer Ludwig Göransson’s recent Best Score Oscar for Black Panther (Coogler, 2018) (as well as several Grammies for his producing work for Childish Gambino) and the continued success of Nordic Film Music Days.

At stake here are areas of considerable relevance for Journal of Scandinavian Cinema. This includes an increased investment in exploring Nordic success stories in international markets, but also significant innovation in domestic production.

The issue encourages submissions on the following themes and also welcomes work outside/combining these areas:
• The role of the professional film composer
• The Nordic soundtrack community (fans and communal events such as Nordic Film Music Days)
• Transnational soundscapes
• Moviescore Media (Nordic soundtrack label specializing in international film scores)
• The history of Nordic film music (especially the respective Studio Eras)
• Classical cross-overs (Einar Englund, Jukka Linkola etc.)
• Sound and genre
• Indigenous soundscapes (e.g. Minority cultures and music/sound)
• The role of voices, dialects and sociolects in Nordic film culture
• Technology, industry, practice and education
• The broader role of music cultures
• Synergy and the creation of soundscapes – for instance examining the relationships and thematic interplay between landscape and sound in Nordic film culture
• The relationship between sound and themes of duality, opposition, temporality and authenticity
• The role of technology in the shaping or re-shaping of musical conventions, including the channels of production, distribution and collaboration
• The diversity of musical training and backgrounds
• Influence of other genres considered indigenous (metal; Tuomas Holopainen and Nightwish)

Projected timeline for contributions:
Proposals of 500 words maximum – 1 August 2019
Full article submission (8000 words maximum) – February 2020

All contributions will undergo double-blind peer review. Publication is slated for December 2020.

Please email the guest editors (GunnarIversen@cunet.carleton.ca; P.Kaapa@warwick.ac.uk; k.l.moffat@stir.ac.uk) to discuss potential contributions.

Wallace on Screen: The Krimis Films

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Speak to Germans of a certain age and the chances are that they will remember a series of films opening with a voiceover proclaiming ‘hier spricht Edgar Wallace’ (‘this is Edgar Wallace speaking’). A total of 32 films were made as part of a series that has become known as “Krimis” films. Still shown on television and available on DVD and Blu-ray the films have preserved Wallace’s reputation in Germany while he is largely forgotten in his homeland.

Not the first German adaptations of Wallace’s novels. Five German-language adaptations are known to have been produced between 1927 – 34 (there may have been others).  Why did a Danish-German production company decide to embark on a fresh series of screen adaptations? For a country seeking to banish its past and create a new inclusive sense of nationhood what appeal was there in seeing recreations of 1920s England culled from the work of an imperialist?

During his lifetime Germany was a strong market for Wallace.  German publishers were late in discovering Wallace’s commercial potential. The first translated novel was issued in 1925. Discovering the existence of a massive back catalogue of titles publisher Wilhelm Goldmann traveled to London and met with Wallace to secure the rights to issue translated editions of all title that had been published in the UK.

Prior to 1925, Wallace expressed amusement upon receipt of translated editions of his novels. Success in Germany made him more conscious of the dividends earned from overseas sales. For a man whose profligacy had brought him close to ruin the steady injection of revenue from a new market was most welcome.

In common with most authors of his generation, Wallace had written scathing commentary about Germans during World War I. In peacetime he became more amenable and is reported to have had a deep affection for Berlin. In this new market, he was soon to become a major celebrity. Reports of visits to Germany suggest that hundreds of people would turn up to catch a glimpse of him at train stations.

In the post-war era, sales of Wallace’s books in the UK declined while Germany remained a steady market. With sales in freefall, at least in the UK, the estate sold rights to adapt Wallace’s novels for film and the stage to Anglo-Amalgamated for the UK and Commonwealth and Danish film producer Preben Phillipsen for German-speaking territories.

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Wallace’s novels had been a publishing sensation when first published in Germany. Would German audiences who had grown accustomed to American crime thrillers be willing to view domestically filmed adaptations of English thriller novels?

Produced, at least initially, in tandem with the UK’s Anglo-Amalgamated series, the German adaptations retained the novels period settings. Running until 1972, early films in the series were relatively faithful adaptations of the source material. Later films would be more liberal in what elements would be retained and/or discarded.

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Production commenced with the adaptation Der Frosch mit der Maske (The Frog with the Mask). Early entries in the series were filmed in Danish studios. Later films were shot in facilities based in Hamburg and Berlin.

With box office returns healthier than expected it was clear to the producers and distributors that German audiences would be willing to see further installments. Production was ramped up for further entries in a domestically produced franchised that would ultimately comprise of 32 films.

Dismissed by critics, today the films have a cult following. Posts by fans in forums and Facebook groups discuss production details and celebrate deficiencies. In 2004 nearly two million German people saw a parody film, Der WIxxer, during its theatrical run.

For modern viewers, the presence of unconvincing sets and repeated stock footage may enhance the sense of guilty pleasure when watching a ‘Krimi’ film. What appeal did the films have for the first wave of ticket buying cinemagoers? The films blending of genres and increased self-reflexivity in later productions makes it difficult to classify the series. Incorporating themes and elements from film noir, horror, Golden Age detective fiction, comedy, German Expressionism, and the musical the majority of Krimi films forms conform to a narrative template. Critics and academics have noted repeated elements present in most Krimi films; masked killers, an investigator, comic sidekick, castles and/or mansions, and excessive use of fog.

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The imagined version of 1920s England seen throughout the series has puzzled critics attempting to identify why the films were initially popular. Aside from stock footage, location scenes were filmed in redressed German streets. The England represented in the films never existed.

Commentators have suggested various reasons for the films’ appeal including socially conservative ideology, audience enjoying the appeal of identifying the villain before the investigator and seeing foreign generic forms absorbed into a distinctly German cultural product.

 

Wallace on Screen: The Edgar Wallace Mysteries

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Little read today, Edgar Wallace was a bestselling author during the first half of the twentieth century. Estimates suggest that in 1928 a quarter of all books sold in the UK were authored by Wallace.  In America, his books were reported to be selling 250,000 copies per year.  Germany was, and remains, a strong market for his novels. During his most commercially successful period, he was reported to have sold half a million books in West Germany.

In the post-war era sales of Wallace’s novels declined in the UK. ‘The King of Thrillers’ was regarded as old-fashioned by a generation of war-weary readers who had switched their allegiance to hard-boiled American crime fiction. Wallace’s imperialistic, and misogynistic narratives were out of place in an era that saw the British Empire’s dismantling.

All too aware of declining commercial prospects, Wallace’s estate sought to reinvigorate the back catalogue’s commercial appeal through the sale of options to adapt novels for stage and screen. In 1959 agreements were in place for two film series; Danish film producer Preben Phillipsen acquired rights to adapt Wallace’s novels for German-speaking territories, and Anglo-Amalgamated secured an agreement to film ninety books for English speaking territories.

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The 1960s cinemagoing experience differed significantly from its modern day counterpart. A pre-multiplex era may on cursory examination signal fewer films being made available to the ticket-buying public. This was an era when the number of cinemas was greater than today. Whereas today people go to see a single film, in the 1960s and earlier, audiences went to the cinema for an evenings entertainment. In addition to the main feature, cinemagoers viewed a supporting film (usually referred to as a B-movie).

To stimulate the UK’s film industry and protect it from being suffocated by American imports, the government legislated to increase the number of domestically produced films screened in cinemas. In order to meet quotas and qualify for any available subsidies, producers churned out B-movies secure in the knowledge that they would be able to secure some form of distribution for their product.  Disdained by the industry, largely forgotten, many British B-movies were locked away in vaults after their initial exhibition and never screened again.

In recent years seasons at the BFI, Talking Pictures broadcasts, DVD releases, and academic studies have brought renewed interest to the British B-movie, its stars, directors, production companies, and modes of distribution.

Despite the industry’s ambivalence about supporting features, evidence suggests they may have had a core group of dedicated fans. Cinemagoers deciding which “fleapit” to visit for their night of entertainment may have been swayed by the selection of advertised support features on offer. One series of films that received prominent front of house promotion was The Edgar Wallace Mysteries.

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Cinema attendance in the UK peaked in 1947.  In the following years as attendance fell a number of cinemas were demolished or converted into bingo halls.  To protect the domestic industry the Harold Wilson’s government introduced a tax on cinema tickets, known as the Eady Levy. Funds raised were collected by HM Customs and Excise and passed onto the British Film Fund Agency. Revenue was distributed between British film-makers, the British Film Institute, the Children’s Film Foundation, the National Film Finance Corporation, and funds were to be allocated for filmmakers training.

The Eady Levy was a key piece of legislation at a time when doubts were being raised about the British film industry’s long-term viability. By the 1960s the Eady Levy was helping to sustain a culture of second feature filmmaking that included crime dramas, exploitation films, horror, travelogues, and sex comedies. At this time the UK film exhibition and distribution industries were dominated by two chains, the Rank Organisation and the Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC).

In 1959 Producers Nat Cohen and Stuart Levy secured the rights to adapt Edgar Wallace’s novels. Cohen and Levy’s production company Anglo Amalgamated is today best known for being the initial producer of the Carry On franchise, and the controversial Michael Powell film Peeping Tom. Despite significant forays into mainstream production, the company’s bedrock was low budget crime B-movies. Owning its own studio, Merton Park, the company’s assembly line approach to production churned 130 films. With production costs subsidized by the Eady Levy revenue the producers realised they could generate extra funds by selling content to the then emerging international television market. To this end, they created several series that would be exhibited in UK cinemas as support features and then sold to overseas television networks. Among this batch of productions were Scotland Yard, The Scales of Justice, and The Edgar Wallace Mysteries.

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Initially exhibited at ABC cinemas, forty-seven films were produced as part of The Edgar Wallace Mysteries. Merton Park Studios was famed for its efficiency. Able to shoot an entire film in 8-10 days, reports suggest its directors were expected to achieve 10-14 camera setups a day. To minimise production costs and speed up the process Edgar Wallace’s novels were updated to take place in the then present day. Despite previously recorded declining sales of the novels, the films were well received by the public, exhibitors, and critics. A cover version of the series’ theme tune by pop group The Shadows reached number 5 in the hit parade. Following theatrical screenings in the UK and commonwealth, the entire package of films was sold to American television where it was screened as Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre.

Viewed today, the films’ use of suburban locations presents images of a country that was still recovering from World War II. Bomb damaged buildings are occasionally seen in the background of shots. The juxtaposition of 1920s thrillers and then contemporary locations creates a discontinuity which suggests that in the pre Swinging London era the nation was trapped by the legacy of its past and unsure about how to define itself in a post-colonial era.

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The “quota quickies”, an earlier form of British B-movie, tended to cast stage actors. Their theatrical performances were required to compensate for static camerawork. The Edgar Wallace Mysteries cast screen character actors. Part of the appeal of watching the series today is spotting actors who would later find acclaim for playing very different roles (Michael Caine, Harry H Corbett, John Thaw, William Hartnell, Wilfred Brambell, Bernard Lee, Paul Eddington).

B-movies are a part of British screen history that has been overlooked for far too long. Series like The Edgar Wallace Mysteries are invaluable documents worthy of greater analysis.

The Edgar Wallace Mysteries is available to order from Amazon.