Nostalgia City Mysteries

Mark S. Bacon

Category Archives: death

A sample of deadly holiday gifts

Santa’s helpers, a sugar plum fairy, cozy carolers and children at the fireside are the usual cast of characters for holiday scenes.  But for any mystery fan, a lurking shadow is all that’s needed for an enjoyable winter read.  Here are some Christmastime homicides.

A Christmas Tragedy

by Agatha Christie

This “Kindle short” story finds Miss Marple at a resort wondering if a man is about to murder his wife.

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries

Edited by Otto Penzler

Sixty holiday-themed crime short stories by such authors as Sara Paretsky, Ed McBain, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, John D. MacDonald and John Mortimer.

A Christmas Tragedy++

Christmas Is Murder

by C. S. Challinor

An English manor house in the country during the holidays, a blizzard and a body.

Christmas Carol Murder

by Leslie Meier

When the owner of a mortgage company who is profiting mightily from other’s misfortunes is found dead, suspects abound.

The Christmas Secret

by Anne Perry

Unsavory secrets swirl around an English village vicar during the holidays.

Silent Night: A Spenser Holiday Novel

by Robert B. Parker and Helen Brann

Parker’s longtime agent, Brann, completed this unfinished manuscript.  Spenser helps the operator of an unlicensed shelter who has been receiving threats.

Parker's Silent Night

Murder She Wrote: Murder Never Takes a Holiday

by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

Two holiday-themed mysteries, “Manhattans & Murder”and “A Little Yuletide Murder,” are combined in one volume.

Cornell Woolrich’s 110th birthday; Dark stories, fast pacing


Master of the noir suspense story, Cornell Woolrich was born 110 years ago today.  Having created one of the greatest collections of suspense novels and short stories ever written, he died in 1968, depressed and wheelchair bound.

My Nov. 20 blog article summarized his work: He wrote more than 25 novels, numerous screen plays, dozens of short story collections and his stories and novels were the source for more than 125 movies and TV dramas.   His most well-known work, the short story, Rear Window, was the basis for a 1954 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name.   Another short story, The Boy Cried Murder, was the basis for three movies: 1949, 1966 and 1984.

Sadly, many of his works are out of print and nearly forgotten.  The latest movie taken from a Woolrich novel was the 2001 production “Original Sin,” based on the novel, “Waltz Into Darkness.”   Many of his movies are unavailable on DVD although some occasionally show up at film festivals.

A few websites provide information on Woolrich and the availability of his movies and books.  A primary source is  That’s the name of the site, but not its web address.  See the link below hosted by and avoid going to the site with his name on it. (It seems to originate somewhere in Asia.)

The site has a beautiful collection of vintage Woolrich book covers, posters for a sampling of his movies, a brief biography and links to buy a selection of his books on Amazon.  Some of the books are pricy, some not.  Most are used.  When looking for Woolrich novels and short story collections, take note that he also wrote under two pen names: George Hopley (his middle names) and William Irish.

Cornell Woolrich was not a prose stylist with the sledgehammer metaphors of Raymond Chandler.  Black CurtainThe secret to Woolrich’s stories is the tension, the unanswered questions, the average guy who finds his world turned upside down and begins a headlong search for reality.

His “Black” novel series from the 1940s includes “The Black Alibi,” “The Bride Wore Black,” “The Black Path of Fear,” “The Black Angel” and “The Black Curtain.”   In the latter title, Frank Townsend suffers a nasty blow to the head when a portion of a building’s brick roof coping falls on him.  He dusts himself off and walks home only to find that his apartment is vacant and that his wife moved months before.   He manages to track down his wife who is overjoyed–and a little shocked–to see him because he’s been missing for three years.  The balance of the book puts a unique twist on an amnesia tale.  It’s a story of love and murder moving at a breakneck pace.

Woolrich’s stories, set in dark urban surroundings of the 1930s and 40s, hook you at the beginning and pull you into worlds that he imagined and you can live in for as long as the story lasts.


Essentially a fan page, titled, this site has book covers, movie posters, Woolrich archive materials and more.

Many of Woolrich’s stories became radio dramas.  This site has collection of the programs in audio format.   Cary Grant and Joseph Cotton are among the famous names giving voice to the suspense shows.

This biography of Woolrich calls his work “endlessly descriptive.”

Listing of episodes of TV dramas such as “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” featuring Woolrich stories.  The shows are available for download/viewing.

The Woolrich page on Facebook has some colorful pictures of his book covers and 945 “likes,” but nothing’s been posted for nearly three years.

Preview my book, but buy it anyway

My Kindle died.  It was just two years old.  If you lose a paperback you’re reading, you can buy a new one.  Lose a well-used Kindle and it’s like losing a library.

I know, all my books with my highlighting and extensive annotations are safe in the cloud somewhere–I hope–and I can retrieve them on my computer via Kindle software.  But I don’t want to sit at my desk to read a book; that’s why I bought a Kindle.

My Kindle was a second-generation model, now called a Kindle Keyboard.   It died when I abandoned it temporarily to read a printed book, what a friend calls a tree book.  It seemed to be frozen, so I charged it for hours but to no avail.  I discovered a simple procedure that can sometimes resuscitate a frozen Kindle.  You slide the on button and hold it in position for 20 seconds.   That didn’t work either.Kindle bare type Es  3368

Naturally, after two years the warranty was as dead as my Kindle.  When I reported the death to Amazon they offered me a couple of new models (that carry advertising) at a modest price reduction.  I will just buy a new advertising-free one.  The Paperwhite model offers a lighted screen and a purported two-month battery life.  But it doesn’t have any buttons.  Touch the side of the screen and the pages turn.  Touch it at the top and you get a menu.  Often I accidentally turned pages on my Kindle that had dedicated buttons.  Will eliminating buttons make it easier?

Actually, I don’t mind having to buy a new one.  Considering the hours of pleasure I had reading dozens of books on my old one, an e-reader is a pretty good deal.  The biggest cost comes from the books themselves.  Recently I read a column by someone who compared e-readers to Gillette razors.  For many decades, the company’s strategy was to price the razors low to sell as many as possible.  The profits came from the sale of blades.   The same marketing strategy probably applies to inkjet printers.

E-readers are marvelous machines, but many have limitations.   Wonderfully convenient for reading novels and biographies,  they are ill suited for reading how-to books or any book that relies heavily on charts, tables, graphs or illustrations.   When I bought a new single lens reflex camera, I purchased a manual for it on my Kindle.  The book’s many charts, illustrations and sample photos were muddy and indecipherable.   I wound up buying the book in paperback.  Newer generations of color e-books and tablets have come close to solving this problem.

The other limitation lies in the awkwardness of flipping back to end notes or a glossary.   I read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals on my Kindle, even though I had a paper-bound edition.  At 944 pages, Rivals is not nearly as portable as an e-reader, but trying to access the author’s notes (all 754 of them) as you read invites Valium-level stress.   I was glad to have the printed book.

One reason I’m eager to get a  new Kindle–and possibly one of its greatest advantages– is book previews.  (Nook also offers previews.)  Positive reviews, recommendations from friends and a familiar author’s name are still no guarantee that you’ll enjoy a book.  A preview lets you get comfortable with a story as the author tries to hook you with the first chapters  Even reading a synopsis is not as useful to me as reading a sample.  An author’s style, point of view, and treatment of a subject are all important.

With more indy books competing with the big publishing houses today, competition is keen.  Book acquisition editors and consumers both look for a story that grabs them early on.  I’m guessing that the prevalence of e-book previews is further spurring writers and editors to look for beginnings that grab you by the lapels and impel you to keep turning pages.

I’m a heavy user of previews.  Sometimes my Kindle home page will have a half-dozen or more preview titles.   I can fill an evening reading free previews.   And I can be a tough sell.  I once downloaded a preview of a promising suspense novel.  The story began with protagonist frantically trying to evade someone following his car.  The hero finally raced across a bridge, crashed through a barrier and plunged into a swiftly flowing river.   The car began to sink.  I can’t tell you what happened next; I didn’t’ get hooked.

When I’m the author rather than the reader, the situation can become a bigger problem.   Packing some powerful samples at the beginning of a book of flash fiction should be enough to hook a reader into becoming a buyer.  That was my theory.   In practice it didn’t work out that way.

The Kindle preview of Cops, Crooks & Other Stories covers about 10 per cent of the book.  The preview lets you read the copyright page, the lengthy table of contents (there are 101 stories to list) and my introduction.  End of preview.  No sample stories.

So, please preview my book, but buy it anyway.

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