Wednesday, January 14, 2009

R.I.P. Danger Man

Just last night I was watching an episode of "Secret Agent," the early 1960s spy ITV television program ("Danger Man" in the UK) with my family. Then today I learn of the passing of Patrick McGoohan at age 80.

I first discovered McGoohan when I was a half-pint devotee of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color every Sunday night in Black and White. McGoohan appeared in two Disney films that I remember well: "The Three Lives of Thomasina" (based on Paul Gallico's novel), and The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh (based on the swashbuckling character of Russell Thorndike's novels).

As a teenager and college student, I rediscovered McGoohan as "Number Six" in the mind-bending science fiction spy program "The Prisoner."

Apparently AMC is putting together a miniseries remake of The Prisoner starring Jim Caviezel as Number Six and Ian McKellen as Number Two. I look forward to it, but my guess is that most of the mysteriousness of the show, as well as McGoohan's angst, will be missing.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Another Hero Gone!

I've just learned from Bill Crider's blog that the Mystery Community has lost another master. Donald Westlake, creator of the "Parker" novels as well as the "Dortmunder" comic-capers passed away on New Year's Eve.

My strongest memory of Don Westlake is from the first time I met him in person, at the Seattle Bouchercon in 1994 where he moderated a panel on Laughter. He shared the podium with Marissa Piesman, Taylor McCafferty, Parnell Hall, and a newcomer to the mystery world, S.J. Rozan, whose first novel had just come out.

Parnell had laryngitis, and to compensate he brought a cream pie (gasping that without a voice he was stuck with visual humor). He hinted that the pie was destined for Don's face. But as the suspense built, Don elbowed Parnell, and the pie wound up on Parnell's face.

I have an MP3 recording of that panel, and if I can figure out how to do it, I'll post it on this blog.

I'll also remember Donald Westlake for the stories he and Lawrence Block would tell about their apprentice years pumping out soft-core porn novels in the early sixties.

Farewell Don. You brought this reader a lot of smiles. I have a feeling you're still laughing up there somewhere.