Mystery readers know Kathy Reichs as the creator of Temperence Brennan, the popular successor to Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta for fans of forensic mysteries. Now when it comes to forensics, I admit to being as clueless as the guy who returned a scarf after Christmas because it was too tight. But Dr. Reichs, whose new best seller is "Cross Bones" (Simon & Schuster, 400 pages, $25.95), knows her stuff.
In the world of medicine, she is known as Dr. Kathleen Reichs, an internationally recognized forensic anthropologist. She has traveled to Rwanda to testify at the United Nations tribunal on genocide, helped identify individuals uncovered in mass graves in Guatemala, and spent many dark days performing forensic work in New York after the attacks of September 11, 2001. She performed a similar service for the U.S. Army when she examined the remains from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Although I'm an admirer of Dr. Reichs's eight novels about Tempe (also a forensic anthropologist), I'm just too squeamish for all that medical stuff, and I skip it - which is a little like going to Peter Luger's Steakhouse and ordering only the creamed spinach and home fries.
So I expect, in true macho form, to cover my eyes when Dr. Reichs's new television series, "Bones," airs this fall. Produced by 20th Century Fox Television, it will be shown, not surprisingly, on the Fox network on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. The program will feature Tempe Brennan, who writes mystery novels about a fictional character named - Kathy Reichs.
Later this month the 2005 Grant Allen Award will be presented to William Deverell, the author of more than a dozen crime novels, including "Needles," his first, which took Canada's $50,000 Seal Prize; "Trial of Passion," which won the Arthur Ellis prize for Canadian mystery writing and the Dashiell Hammett award for literary crime writing from the International Association of Crime Writers; and "April Fool," his most recent. He also was the creator of the popular television series "Street Legal," which was produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation from 1987 to 1994.
The Grant Allen Award? Who, you might ask, is Grant Allen? Well, since you ask, I'll tell you.
Allen, born in 1848, was the first Canadian to write mystery fiction professionally. A prolific author during the Victorian era, he sometimes produced as many as four novels a year. Among his important contributions to crime fiction were Colonel Clay, the first con-man "hero" in the genre (predating the iconic Raffles by a couple of years), who made his debut in "An African Millionaire" (1897). He also created two of the earliest female sleuths in the history of the genre, Lois Cayley in "Miss Cayley's Adventures"(1897) and the titular character in "Hilda Wade" (1900), which was completed after his death by his neighbor and close friend Arthur Conan Doyle.
Allen was born on Wolfe Island, the largest of Ontario's famous Thousand Islands, which now hosts Scene of the Crime, an annual mystery festival. For more about the festival, go to its Web site; www.sceneofthecrime.ca; e-mails may be sent to [email protected]. The mailing address is: Wolfe Island Scene of the Crime Festival, c/o M. Lollar, 1010 Highway 95, RR#3, Wolfe Island, Ont., Canada K0H 2Y0.
If a fight breaks out in your vicinity, the guy you want on your side is Jack Reacher, the idealized former military policeman who is the rugged hero of nine excellent novels by Lee Child. As Damon Runyon once said, it may be that the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong - but that's the way to bet.
Reacher, whose most recent adventure, "One Shot" (Delacorte, 384 pages, $25), is every bit as exciting as the previous eight, has seemed like a natural for the movies ever since "Killing Floor" appeared in 1997. It looks like it may finally happen.
As soon as Reacher made his first appearance, Polygram took an option on him. Since studio executives seem to have the same work ethic as the Teamsters, and are paid almost as well, nothing happened. Then New Line picked up the option and, being part of the same workforce, nothing happened again. Or is it still?
Now, however, Paramount is on a buying binge. (It recently paid a staggering $4 million for a Robert Ludlum thriller, "The Chancellor Manuscript," which was published in 1977.) The studio has acquired the rights to the cool loner and swears it will make a Reacher motion picture.
We'll see. Reaching for movie stardom may be tougher than the snipers, kidnappers, and political extremists that he's had to deal with in the past.
Has there ever been a better, more satisfying series of books than the Nero Wolfe novels of Rex Stout? They suit young and old, male and female, even - and I can name no other series for which this is true - fans of hard-boiled fiction and those who favor cozies.
There haven't been any new books recently (unlikely, since Stout died 30 years ago) or movies, so there hasn't been a "hook" for me to write about. Nonetheless, if you are a fan of these literate detective stories (and you certainly ought to be) you should know about the Wolfe Pack, which you can join with hundreds of fellow aficionados in celebrating the great detective and his satellites.
The Wolfe Pack may be reached at P.O. Box 230822, Ansonia Station, New York, N.Y. 10023. Membership is $25 for two years, which also gets you eight issues of the Gazette, the quarterly journal devoted to Wolfian matters.
I'll leave the final words to John D. MacDonald, who, in "The Only Girl in the Game," wrote: "Life is the process of finding out, too late, everything that should have been obvious to you at the time."
Mr. Penzler is the proprietor of the Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan and the series editor of the annual "Best American Mystery Stories." He can be reached at [email protected].