Quarry Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

February 10th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins

Last week’s update was written before the news of the HBO/Cinemax pick-up of the QUARRY series (we ran a kind of news bulletin last week).

I have received a lot of public and private congratulations for QUARRY making it to TV. A few people who’ve got in touch are surprised that I’m not jumping up and down in elation, but the truth is that the feeling is more one of relief.

You see, we (I refer to Barb, Nate and me) have known that QUARRY was picked up for series for over six months. At least, I was told it had been picked up, and assured it was picked up, but was also told not to say anything about it in public. I know enough about disappointment in the TV/movie game to realize that until an official announcement is made, anything can happen. And that “anything” is usually bad.

I didn’t tell anybody about ROAD TO PERDITION the movie until Barb and I had been to the set and seen Tom Hanks and Paul Newman standing in front of a 35mm camera.

So it’s been nerve-racking – especially considering that the pilot was shot in August 2013.

The TV project I mentioned (without naming it) a while back was the writing of my script for QUARRY – episode 5, although my understanding is that elements of my script may appear in other episodes. I have done my rewrite and I have been paid. That was when this started feeling really real. The two writers who adapted the novels into a TV format – Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller – have been wonderful to me, and great to work with. Everybody attached to the show has first-rate credentials. QUARRY is in good hands.

Fans of the novels need to understand, however, that the concept of this eight-episode run (this may change if another season comes along) is to look at the start of Quarry’s hitman career. Aspects of Quarry that have been chiefly back story in the novels are the focus of the eight episodes, which start with Quarry’s return home from Vietnam and includes the Broker recruiting him into crime.

Also, the Southern setting – the show takes place in Memphis and will shoot in Louisiana and Tennessee – gives it a flavor of its own. Initially, that setting had more to do with finding an economically feasible location, but that region’s richness (particularly in the world of music) has found its way into the series.

Of the novels, the first one – QUARRY (originally THE BROKER) – seems to have had the greatest impact on the TV series. But that novel charts the ending of Quarry’s personal and working relationship with the Broker, while the TV series explores its beginnings. Those of you who follow the novels likely know that in the more recent Hard Case Crime books, I’ve gone back and explored the Quarry/Broker story in THE FIRST QUARRY and QUARRY’S CHOICE (also the short story, “Quarry’s Luck”).

The most ironic thing about the TV series is also one of the most gratifying: it’s a period piece, concentrating on the Vietnam aspect of Quarry’s background (that Quarry was a PTSD Vietnam vet and a sniper has taken on new resonance, thanks to Clint Eastwood). I say “ironic” because when the series began, it was decidedly contemporary and the Vietnam theme could not have been more current.

For the record, Quarry was created in the fall of 1971 when I was attending the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop, where the first several chapters were discussed in class and mostly disliked (though those who liked it really liked it). On December 24, 1971, I got word that the Nolan novel BAIT MONEY had sold, and two weeks later that the Mallory novel NO CURE FOR DEATH had sold (both written at the Workshop, under Richard Yates). I put QUARRY away, at about the half-way point as I recall, and wrote sequels to both those books. I’m fuzzy on when I completed QUARRY – whether I returned to it, after the Nolan sequel (BLOOD MONEY) and the Mallory sequel (THE BABY BLUE RIP-OFF) were completed, or if I waited till I’d written three more Nolan novels that were contracted by Curtis Books. But I believe by 1974, it was finished and sold maybe a year later, finally published in 1976. I was again asked for three more books (from Berkley Books) and the first four Quarry novels appeared and disappeared without much notice. (Only EQMM reviewer Jon L. Breen noticed them, and saw potential in their author. He’s been a booster of mine ever since, bless him.)

Then the books began to gather steam as a cult-ish thing, leading to one more novel in the ‘80s (QUARRY’S VOTE, originally PRIMARY TARGET) and three short stories in the ‘90s. So while there hasn’t been a steady stream, Quarry has been active in every decade since his creation.

The short story “A Matter of Principal” got a lot of attention, appearing in several anthologies and leading to an award-winning short film of the same name from my screenplay and then the feature film THE LAST LULLABY, which I co-wrote. The novel THE LAST QUARRY reflected my screenplay (minus the co-writer imposed upon it) and was presented as contemporary, with Quarry a man in his fifties. It was intended as the most perverse ending to the series possible: a happy one.

The unexpected success of THE LAST QUARRY led me to head back in time and do what we call in the comics business “continuity inserts”…although I don’t pretend the continuity is flawless. What the hell – Rex Stout couldn’t keep track of Nero Wolfe’s address and phone number.

The last thing I ever expected to be doing was writing a new Quarry novel in 2015, let alone doing that with a Quarry TV show casting its pleasant shadow. I have, incidentally, completed that book, QUARRY IN THE BLACK, which is another story about Quarry in the Broker years. I should say “completed,” because I have to sit down today and probably tomorrow and read it again and do tweaks and catch typos and continuity glitches.

Anyway, to all of you who expressed your thanks and/or delight about this QUARRY series happening, thank you very much.

* * *

The TV news was all over the Internet last week. You don’t have time to read all of the stories and I don’t have the inclination to post all of the links (actually Nate does that, and he won’t have that inclination, either). But here are some of them.

Comics Mix is the rare place that puts the emphasis on the creator of Quarry (you know…me).

Here’s another.

And another.

Here’s a local one from the Quad Cities, which doesn’t even rate as the columnist’s top story (a prophet in his own town kind of thing).

Some, like this one, hit the Vietnam aspect harder.

The AV Club, not surprisingly, gets somewhat snarky about it. I remember when I was young and smart…well, I remember some of it.

The “American Sniper” connections led to this kind of coverage.

And finally…what’s this doing here? A really sweet review of THE MILLION-DOLLAR WOUND!


Tags: , , , , , ,

5 Responses to “Quarry Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”

  1. Joe Menta says:

    Again, Max, congrats on “Quarry”. Quick question: Was the 2013 pilot ever shown? Or was it just meant as a tool to sell the idea, and now that it’s done that they’re going to start from scratch and shoot a new pilot incorporating ideas, actors, etc., that have occurred to everyone since then? Or, is the 2013 pilot now going to be the first episode, with the subsequent episodes now green lighted to shoot? I know, “questions, questions!”. Lol, but inquiring fans want to know.

  2. Max Allan Collins says:

    The pilot was never wholly edited and scored. A rough cut led the execs at HBO/Cinemax to want to do the series, but to do some recasting (for reasons never shared with me). I frankly do not know whether the material shot for the pilot that doesn’t involve the recast players will be edited into the first episode, or whether they will start from scratch. My gut is the latter. Most of the secondary cast was retained, I should point out. Some of the actors who are not part of the series may have had availability issues, due to the long passage of time between pilot and now.

  3. Joe Menta says:

    Thank, you, Max, for illuminating some of the “nitty gritty” of the process, which is always interesting to me. As well as the “tweaks” to the original material you’ve mentioned, it’ll also be interesting to see “Quarry” incorporate normal series tropes like a regular supporting cast, which as we know was never a part of the books (apart from the broker, who most of the time seemed to appear off camera). Changes are fine, though, as long as it still feels like “Quarry”. And I bet it will. Of course, future “Quarry” novels will now have an extra bit of challenge: you’ll have to come up with stories to compete with and even try to stand above the regular weekly episodes millions of people will be watching. A fun challenge, though, right?

  4. Max Allan Collins says:

    That the series is set so early in Quarry’s career inspired me to write QUARRY’S CHOICE as well as the just completed QUARRY IN THE BLACK. I thought that the new Quarry novels, on the stands when the show is on the air, should be more compatible than the “list” books I’d been doing. It’s been fun to explore the relationship between the Broker and, in BLACK, I was able to bring the Boyd character on screen for a significant appearance (he’d only been in QUARRY/THE BROKER, and briefly, though he’s frequently mentioned in other books). Boyd, incidentally, is called “Buddy” in the TV show, because the name “Boyd” has become so associated with the JUSTIFED character of that name. Ironically, the Dewey Crowe actor from that show is Buddy/Boyd.

  5. Brian Drake says:

    Max, I think the idea of the show covering Quarry’s pre-book background is a great idea (for a first season!) and maybe after that Quarry can get a new list follow, which is, I think, still one of the best gimmicks in crime fiction.