Pre-Bouchercon Edition

October 6th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins

Next week I’ll have a report from Bouchercon for you. For now, I have a few random thoughts to share.

The last few work days have been consumed by going over the copy-edited THE BIG SHOWDOWN (the second Caleb York). As I’ve made clear here, I despise copy editors (except for those who follow these updates). This one has taken a light touch but still is comma happy. Copy editors need to know that there’s a difference between “hard cold eyes” and “hard, cold eyes” and that an author chooses between them for effect, Chicago Manual of Style be damned (I don’t own a copy).

The copy-edited manuscript of BETTER DEAD arrived today and Barb won’t even let me open the fat, forbidding-looking package until we get back from Bouchercon. She knows that just thumbing through to see what the copy editor did will send me into a frenzy worthy of Hitchcock.

Copy editors, of course, serve a valuable purpose, particularly in the area of continuity – like a character who starts out blond and becomes brown-haired, or a cousin who mysteriously transforms into a brother. I also appreciate any copy editor who alerts me to word repetition and/or phrases that don’t seem to track. But I like these pointed out for my revision, not revised for me.

They are very young, most of these copy editors, and I am not. Therefore I have to explain to the copy editor of THE BIG SHOWDOWN the meaning and derivation of “grew like Topsy,” although Google could have easily done the trick.

I ran into this kind of thing as early as the mid-‘80s when I had to explain who or what “Jack Armstong, All-American Boy” was to some precious young thing.

I trust some day, probably too soon, some copy editor will query an author about the meaning and derivation of the phrase “road to perdition.”

* * *

Last year around this time, I wrote a scathing review of the season opener for SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. I seriously doubted that – after following the show since its inception, through thick and sometimes very thin – I would keep watching. As it turned out, I did, and the season wasn’t bad and sometimes was wonderful.

This year’s season opener was excellent, and was stolen by a comedy newcomer named Hillary Clinton. Even host(ess?) Miley Cyrus did well in sketches, her Disney sitcom training coming through – she is definitely at ease in front of the camera. She was also the musical guest, wearing Emperor’s-New-Clothes outfits that could not distract us from noticing that her voice resembles that of an octogenarian smoker somewhere in Florida rasping out, “Bingo!”

One of the sketches was about Taylor Swift’s “squad,” which I guess is celebrities (or in my parlance, “celebrities”) who are summoned to come up out of the audience to wander about the stage while she sings. I know who Taylor Swift is, I know what she looks like, and I’m sure I’ve heard some of her songs…but I couldn’t connect her to any of them if my life depended on it.

As it happens, the Taylor Swift “squad” phenomenon is the subject of a piece in this week’s ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. I’ve talked here before about how, once or twice a year, some national magazine suddenly makes me realize how out of touch I am – usually it’s ROLLING STONE. EW wins out this time.

Here are some of the “celebrities” in Taylor Swift’s squad: The Weekend (a human being called “The Weekend,” due next week on SNL), Andreja Pejic, Fatty Wap (a human being called…), Rachel Platten, Gigi Hadid, OMI (a human being…), Lily Aldridge, and Walk the Moon (a human…?).

In fairness, I had heard of a few squad members: Ellen DeGeneres, Nick Jonas, Matt LeBlanc and Mick Jagger. Watch for them on HOLLYWOOD SQUARES 2021.

The SNL sketch was a take-off on zombie movies, cleverly suggesting that eventually everyone on the planet would be invited on stage at a Taylor Swift concert. But let’s stay with EW for a while.

Most of the movie and TV stuff I could track. The music section is always rough on me, because I used to pride myself on following the music scene and now I can’t recognize the “oldies” on Sirius XM. The last new band I got excited about is Weezer, introduced to me by my son Nate when he was in high school. Nate is in his early thirties. Once your kids are out of high school and out of the house, you will likely cease to be in touch with contemporary pop music except the occasional big deal like Lady Gaga (who is already an “oldie,” I believe).

Even more depressing is EW’s “10 Great Fall Thrillers.” You may be aware that this is my field – books, suspense, etc. I had heard of exactly one of the ten authors (Lee Child). Now you might remind me that I read almost no contemporary fiction, making this largely my fault, and you would be right. But usually I have a sense of the successful writers in my line of endeavor. And this strikes me as one area where I can’t just sit back and let the world pass me by.

But before I either sit back or sit up, let me bitch about the dreadful visuals in EW. Not long ago they went to an orgy of small print, mixed fonts, floating sidebars and arbitrary color. It now looks like a really wretched web site. And, by the way – there’s nothing an aging baby boomer likes more than trying to read tiny black type on a purple background.

* * *

Our pal Mike Doran made a very funny comment about old rockers emerging on PBS fund-raisers “looking like John Houseman.” In fairness to old rockers, I should point out that Flo and Eddie always looked like John Houseman. So did most of the Grateful Dead. On the other hand, Creed Bratton of “The Office” was once a long-haired cutie-pie when he was in the Grass Roots.

Also, the Happy Together concert featured some very well-preserved rockers – Mark Lindsay looked great (at least from the cheap seats) and he’s in his early seventies, and the Cowsills (some of whom were kids back in the day) had a youthful vibe. Both the Vanilla Fudge and the Zombies, who I saw in recent years, were vital-looking and eternally youthful.

But, yeah, Mike – there are a ton of John (Rock and Roll!) Housemans out there….

* * *

Here’s a nice review of A KILLING IN COMICS. The Jack and Maggie Starr series is getting a nice lift from the Dover reprints.

Check out this piece on how to build suspense in fiction – I’m quoted.

Finally, here’s a short, sweet review of QUARRY’S CHOICE.


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11 Responses to “Pre-Bouchercon Edition”

  1. Tom Zappe/St Louis says:

    I have never cared in the least for Miley Cyrus but I also thought her sketch work was good. Her musical performances, however, left me in a state of “huh?”. Coming up on my 67th escape from the gallows, I usually fast forward through the musical acts after giving them the five seconds of audition they are due, but seriously, what was MC trying to prove doing by doing material that Lady Gaga would have to work hard at ? Doesn’t she have a manager of some sorts? I think that Hilary would have been more interesting to listen to.

    Maybe next time Miley could perform some numbers with her dad like Bonnie Raitt used to do.

    I just re-read ASK NOT and it was a arresting as the first time through.

  2. Joe Menta says:

    I write our company magazine and when I get my proof-read copy back from the designer/printer, it’s always an extra day’s work putting everything back to the way I had it. They add commas where I didn’t have them, remove them where I had them, and perform other annoyances. I think I’m finally getting them trained just to fix outright mistakes and not make mere style changes. Of course, sometimes we disagree on whether something IS an outright mistake or a preferred style.

  3. Bill Crider says:

    Speaking of copyeditors, you do mean Taylor Swift instead of Faith Hill, don’t you?

  4. Max Allan Collins says:

    Bill, I’m not convinced there’s a difference. But I’ve asked Nate to correct it.

    And I’m fine with receiving editing advice from a former college professor. Just not a 20-year-old copy editor.

  5. John Judge says:

    Okay, somebody else already asked you about the Taylor Swift thing. I only picked up on that since I saw the video of Jagger coming on stage to sing “As Tears Go By” with her.
    Which guy on the Grassroots cover is Creed Bratton? I looked it over for a while but am clueless.

  6. Max Allan Collins says:

    Creed is lower right.

  7. Max Allan Collins says:

    The correction has been made. Bill Crider has shown the error of my ways in thinking I don’t need a copy editor, but confirmed that I am out of touch. My confidence that I knew who Faith Hill was and that I would recognize her was incorrect — in my partial if pathetic defense, I was seeing Taylor Swift in my mind. She has that distinctive photo-shopped look even in person.

  8. Mike Doran says:

    Thanx and a tip of the Hatlo hat (take that, copy editors!) for the call-out.

    As I may have mentioned a time or ten, I have just passed my 65th birthday, which waved me on without so much as a word.

    In my advancing dotage, I have been accumulating way too many DVDs of ancient series (just now I ordered up a set of MRS. G GOES TO COLLEGE, with Gertrude Berg, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, and (in some episodes) Peter Lorre), to say nothing about circa-1965/66 issues of ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE (that was when I started reading it; I was still in high school at the time, and the other kids my age thought I was high-hatting it).

    Sometimes, I find myself looking at those ’50s pop stars on YouTube, both then and now (or whenever PBS taped the special).
    When Glen Larson passed on, the songs he performed with the Four Preps were given a lot of belated play – old Dick Clark clips and later PBS clips (they were looking more like the Four Perps by then).

    I’ve had a few EW moments lately myself, just with the magazine and its increasingly arcane layout. Right now, EW and TV GUIDE are about neck-and-neck for impenetrability, and the subjects are no help.

    Once again, it occurs to me that when I was a lad, back in the ’50s, I was allowed to develop a sense of history, thanks to books and television. There was no such thing as ‘demographics’ to tell me that I shouldn’t be interested in things that predated my birth.
    I’ve been at this well before, haven’t I? Sorry …

    I ought to say something about the ‘stars’ of the current age, but the truth is, I have trouble telling some of them apart.
    Think about it: have you ever seen Johnny Depp and Leonardo DeCaprio in the same place at the same time?
    I think that the producers of BLACK MASS missed a bet by not casting LDC as Whitey Bulger’s politico-brother Billy (who I think is the more interesting character in that family, but hey, that’s me …).

    I’m starting to natter here, so I’ll stand down for now.
    To the next meeting at C&S …

  9. Max Allan Collins says:

    Depp, who has been terrible in a bunch of terrible movies lately, is excellent in BLACK MASS, a first-rate true crime flick.

    By the way, Mike, I must caution you for being funnier than me here — it’s just not polite. For example, “Four Perps” may be funnier than anything I ever came up with.

  10. Bill Crider says:

    I really like the music of the Four Preps (or Perps), which proves that I’m very old, indeed. But I did know who Taylor Swift was, thanks to a few websites that I peruse. I think I’ve missed out on Fetty Wap, however, not that I’m worried about it. It is Fetty Wap, not Fatty Wap. We old English teachers just can’t help ourselves.

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