BITING OFF MORE . . . (My 2022 Resolutions)

Here it comes – the moment when all the bloggers you visit try and entice you to keep coming back with our promises of things to come. Some of my plans are rather amorphous: I hope to do some spiffing up of the site itself so that Ah Sweet Mystery will be better organized, sport a new, original graphic and just be more fun to wade around in. Heck, I might even figure out how to properly center the titles under my images. (Fie on thee, WordPress!)

The past twenty-one months have been an object lesson for me that lots of free time does not a productive citizen make. I admittedly got caught up in the malaise and moodiness that seem to be prevailing side-effects of a world-wide pandemic. Lethargy does not improve focus; ironically, it doesn’t even provide a sense of restfulness and peace. Today, however, I sit here, staring at the cloudy skies outside, vaccinated and boosted, having accounted in my last post for what I accomplished blog-wise. I also have purchased an exercise bike and am in the middle of a bathroom remodel with a contractor who also likes to teach me better ways to eat and provides sage advice on how to live a better life. (All good, but it looks like a six-week project will take four months . . . )

So while I vow to meet up with more friends (fitted out in my new N95 mask), play more – and better – bridge (hopefully live), and continue to improve my home and retirement life, all I’m going to burden you with today are my Blogging Resolutions. The theme this year is “Aim High,” which is another term for “Promise Too Much and Apologize Later.” Of course, if I don’t accomplish some of this list, you will never trust me. At least, we can look at my resolutions as a blueprint of the year to follow. 

ONE:  CLASSIC DETECTION, PART I: A Deep Dive Into Two Favorites

I started A Carter Dickson Celebration, my chronological exploration into the mysteries of John Dickson Carr’s alter ego, three years ago on Christmas Eve 2018. Since then, I’ve averaged three books a year. Thus, I pledge that in ’22, I will cover at least The Reader Is Warned (1939), And So To Murder (1940) and Murder in the Submarine Zone (a.k.a., Nine – and Death Makes Ten – 1940). 

I’m also excited to begin my recently announced REBRANDING project to re-read and analyze all the mystery novels of Christianna Brand. Since three seems to be the magic number, let’s commit to covering Death in High Heels (1941), Heads You Lose (1941) and Green for Danger)

TWO:  CLASSIC DETECTION, PART II: Meeting Some New/Old Authors

This is where I hope Book Club will help me out, since, fortune smiling, I will be covering ten to twelve books this year with that robust group of fellow GAD lovers. Who knows exactly where this will take me beyond Baynard Kendrick’s The Odor of Violets, our January book? I know I have a whole slew of new “old” authors on my shelves clamoring for my attention, partly due to the generosity over the past few years of my Secret Santa. These include Herbert Brean, Frances Crane (three by her!), Jocelyn Davey, Elizabeth Ferrars, Mary Fitt, Patricia McGerr, Jean Potts, Holly Roth, and Derek Smith. Thanks to my friend Kate’s praise, I’m looking forward to trying my first Juanita Sheridan and Bruce Graeme. And of course, my pal JJ has me chomping at the bit to dive into the adventures of D.A. Doug Selby and the PI team of Lam and Cool, courtesy of Erle Stanley Gardner. 

I can’t tell you exactly where my teeming TBR pile will take me . . . except to offer two actual promises which I must keep, since one is a promise of very long standing and the other is a result of another blogger’s largesse. And so, sometimes this year, I promise that you will see reviews of Eric Harding’s Pray for the Dawn and Nicholas Wilde’s Death Knell

THREE: INTERNATIONAL DETECTION

The word on the street is that LRI’s next release will be a newly translated Paul Halter novel, so there is that to look forward to. I’m also excited to get my mitts on not one, but two translated cases featuring Seishi Yokomizo’s beloved detective Kindaichi, coming from Pushkin Vertigo (Village of Eight Graves has already been released, and Gokumon Island is due out in June.) I’m especially excited for the latter, which is loosely based on And Then There Were None and is one of Yokomizo’s most highly regarded titles. There’s also a third mystery featuring zombies: Death of the Living Dead is written by none other than Facebook friend and GAD enthusiast Masaya Yamaguchi, and translated by the brilliant Ho-Ling Wong. Who knows what other chances we will find next year to see how our favorite genre is filtered through different cultures? 

FOUR: MORE KRIMES FOR KIDS

Looks like in ’22 I will enjoy three new titles from my favorite kids’ series, Adventures in Trains next year. Look for a review of Danger at Dead Man’s Pass in January, and then Sabotage on the Solar Express will be released February 22 and a sixth, as-yet-untitled adventure in October! Death Knell, mentioned above, is a YA title from 1990. Plus, I’ll be looking at two different series featuring young Victorian heroines, Aggie Morton and Myrtle Hardcastle. Sometimes it feels like the young people are having the most fun with murder!!

FIVE: BOOKS FROM THE LIVING (Including Some Friends of Mine)

The first review of the new year, dropping on the 1st, will be the latest by James Scott Byrnside, author of three Rowan Manory impossible crime novels, this one beautifully designed (including a mapback cover!) and featuring a new detective. I’m also very excited about the upcoming release of The Twyford Code, the second novel by Janice Hallett, author of The Appeal, arguably my favorite read of 2021, at the end of January. I’ve also got plenty of books sitting here from people I’ve broken bread with, including Dolores Gordon-Smith, Christine Poulson, and Martin Edwards and those with whom I’ve had some great deep-dive discussions, like Nick Cardillo and John Goddard, that I have a hankering to get to. Finally, there’s one upcoming title that I have no business announcing and so I won’t – but I’m incredibly excited to read it. 

SIX: THEN AGAIN, MAYBE I’LL JUST CRASH AND WATCH TV

The online film classes I’ve taken over the past eighteen months have gotten me through some frustrating times, and they will continue, at least for the first half of the year. Beginning in January, we’ll be looking at some great film noirs of the 1950’s, and if you think the films we covered last year from the 40’s were bleak, they’ll feel like Ealing comedies compared to what came next. There’s also the upcoming, long-delayed (due to cannibalism!) release of Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile in (maybe?) February. Already, the Christie fans on Facebook are in a tizzy of negativity, but after enjoying Branagh’s journey aboard the Orient Express, I’m keeping an open mind. Plus, it fits in with my personal plans, as I will be directing a production of Christie’s own adaptation, Murder on the Nile later this year. 

Jim Hutton as Ellery Queen

I’m also planning to do an episode-by-episode exploration into the sadly short-run Ellery Queen Mysteries series that starred Jim Hutton and David Wayne and ran only one season (1975-76).  It was written by the terrific writing team of Richard Levenson and William Link, on whom I will shine a fond light next year. With a book of their short stories that came out this past fall from Crippen & Landru and a look at a few of their best TV-movie mysteries (Rehearsal for Murder, One of My Wives Is Missing and Murder by Natural Causes) to while away some hours, what’s not to love?

Yes, I know – these resolutions are a lot, probably more than this conspicuously slow reader can handle! But as I said, at Ah Sweet Mystery (look for me on Twitter @ahsweetmystery), we Aim High, and if I can get it together in ‘22, I’ll cover all this and more, including an article I want to write about the magnificent rogues gallery of Agatha Christie’s murderers. And if I only make a dent in this massive list, well . . . check my resolutions for 2023!

To all of you who have stopped by – Have a fun, healthy, and happy New Year! May you experience more joy and brotherhood in 2022 than the past two stingy years have afforded you. I don’t mean to end on a goopy note, but I’m reminded of the lyrics of one of my favorite David Friedman (no relation) songs: 

We can be kind
We can take care of each other
We can remember that deep down inside
We all need the same thing
And maybe we’ll find
If we are there for each other
That together we’ll weather whatever tomorrow may bring.

Go out there and be kind to those who disagree with you and show no kindness when they do. Okay, be firm but kind. Heck, we’re mystery lovers: maybe we can kill them with kindness . . . 

Mom and I wish you all a Happy New Year!