Today (March 3rd, as I write this) is my 66th birthday. I am not looking for congratulatory e-mails or Facebook postings, but I do have a Paypal account for those wondering exactly how to help me celebrate.
Any birthday past forty inclines a person toward reflection, and I’m no exception. I am incredibly lucky. I haven’t had a real job since I taught college half-time in the early ‘70s, and my previous job had been sacking groceries. Yes, I’ve made money playing rock music, and obviously I bring in enough to keep the lights on around here by my writing. But both of those began as my hobbies, and having them turn into something more has been a blessing.
Career goals, many of them, have been reached or are nicely in progress. Nate Heller has worked the JFK case, the entire opus is back in print, and anything further is a lagniappe. I’ve written something that generated a major motion picture (ROAD TO PERDITION), which gives me a shot at being read after the writing has stopped. Nolan and Mallory and the Disaster series are completed. Quarry has made a rather remarkable comeback. There are other series that have decent shapes, should I never write another entry – four Eliot Ness in Cleveland, three Jack and Maggie Starr’s. I have completed the six substantial Mike Hammer novels from Mickey’s files, and two other non-Hammers. As with Heller, developing further Hammer and Spillane projects falls into the bonus area. I wrote my father’s wartime story (RED SKY IN MORNING) and a book about Wyatt Earp (BLACK HATS), and some thrillers, too, like the forthcoming SUPREME JUSTICE. I’ve written movies and directed a few – here I wish I’d done more and am still striving.
I have a respectable shelf of non-fiction works covering pin-ups, the history of mystery, men’s adventure mags and two (so far) Spillane critical/biographical titles. Goals remaining in that area include a full-length critical bio of Mickey (with my Spillane collaborator Jim Traylor) and of Eliot Ness (with writers/researchers Brad Schwartz and George Hagenauer) – those are already in early stages. A successful series continues with Barb on the ANTIQUES novels, which will number at least eleven, by current contract – very rewarding to do something in collaboration with Barb and that is so overtly funny.
I can look back on comics work that includes fifteen years on DICK TRACY, the longest run of a private eye comic book in comics history (MS. TREE – thanks, Terry!), and of course ROAD TO PERDITION (thanks, Richard!) and its prose and graphic-novel sequels. Thanks to movie and TV tie-ins, I got on the New York Times and USA Today’s bestseller lists, and was able to work in genres otherwise unavailable to me. I have won a number of awards and had quite a few nominations, though the Edgar remains elusive (up again this year, though), and that ugly little statue stays a career goal – Jon Breen has been nice enough to suggest in print that I should receive a career Edgar, which is more than a goal…more like a dream.
But I am in a position to look back and say I’ve earned my keep on the planet. I came here to write stories and play a little rock ‘n’ roll. So far it’s going very well.
And my personal goals achieved make my career accomplishments look like nothing at all. In my shallow way, I decided to marry a beautiful nineteen-year-old blonde. Now, all these years later, I remain married to her, and she is still stunningly beautiful, but along the way has proven to be funny, smarter than me, loving, talented and just about every other positive adjective you can think of. I have a son who is so smart and talented and such a great writer that I should be jealous…but he’s the one writer who I don’t mind being better than me. No grandkids yet, but a wonderful daughter-in-law. I had great, supportive parents who made all this possible.
Lots of friends, but it’s sad to think of how many are gone. A week doesn’t go by that I don’t think of actor Mike Cornelison and rockers Paul Thomas, Bruce Peters, Chuck Bunn and Terry Beckey. The only upside is realizing that such good friends as my writing partner Matt Clemens, researcher George Hagenauer, the guys in Crusin’, cartoonist Terry Beatty, writer pals like Ed Gorman and Bob Randisi, and filmmaking partner Phil Dingeldein, are all alive and well (and in some cases fat and happy).
For a guy who mostly lives in his converted-bedroom office in a little town in Iowa, I have so many friends! My agent Dominick Abel, Jane Spillane, Carl Amari, are just a few of my rich work-related relationships. Mickey Spillane was my son’s godfather! I am friendly with Stacy Keach, Patty McCormack, the Seduction of the Innocent guys, and on and on. Dangerous starting this list, but if you’re not on it, you are very much in my heart. Especially the editors out there buying my stuff.
Here’s a birthday card of sorts I received.
That’s it for now. I’m taking the rest of the day off.