Archive for the ‘Message from M.A.C.’ Category

M.A.C. (Barbara) San Diego Comic Con Schedule (And More)

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

This week’s update will mostly be the SDCC schedule promised above, and some links to reviews and an article from Brad Schwartz and me about Ness and Capone that you may enjoy.

Crusin’ has been active this summer, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever take on this many gigs again. This is the point in the picture where the grizzled movie star says, “I’m getting too old for this shit,” and a helicopter blows up.

Most of our gigs are outside and the Iowa weather (or rather excuse for weather) has lavished us with all the heat and humidity aging rockers could ever dream of. But I’m enjoying playing with the line-up that includes longtime members Steve Kundel, Brian Van Winkle and newbie Bill Anson. The Labor Day weekend induction of the band into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame will make a nice conclusion for my years of playing rock on a more or less regular basis. This does not mean we won’t do occasional gigs, when the event seems right.


Playing in the park at West Liberty on Sunday July 15 as the County Fair kicks off.

As for SDCC, I am trying to get a good chunk of Caleb York #4 done before I leave, plus putting together trade material for my comic art collecting jones. Unfortunately, Nate and Abby are not going with us this year (grandson Sam, either), and it’s likely Barb and I will attend in future only when we’re guests with somebody else paying the way. Much of what I have gone to the convention for in past years has either faded away – the RiffTrax boys don’t come anymore, and my favorite book dealer, Bud Plant, an old friend, will not be there after decades of attending – or is inaccessible. Don’t you think I’d like to see the panel with the Breaking Bad reunion? Yes, yes, and yes, but hell no, if I have to stand in line – perhaps overnight – to see it.

I am thrilled, however, that the convention is honoring Mickey Spillane’s Centenary. I am being interviewed about Mickey and Mike Hammer and me, and have done a big article for their program book, with an emphasis on Spillane’s comics work.

If you see me there, say hello – you’ve spotted an endangered species.

SAN DIEGO COMIC CON 2018 M.A.C. SKED
NOTE: If you are attending SDCC, check your program guides about these times and room numbers – they may have changed, or I may have screwed them up!

Thursday, July 19:
11:30am-12:30am “You’re Wrong, Leonard Maltin!” Discussing movies on social media has become a blood sport instead of a forum for debate. Leonard Maltin and his daughter Jessie, who host the “Maltin on Movies” podcast for the Nerdist network, are willing to take on all comers who have a gripe over one of Leonard’s reviews. Marquis of Queensbury rules will be enforced, but anyone who wants to have a lively discussion is welcome to spar (verbally) with America’s best-known film critic. Max Allan Collins will join Leonard to defend Deadpool 2. Rm 24AB

12:30pm-1:30pm In this special anniversary discussion, Titan Publishing’s Andrew Sumner sits down with writer Max Allan Collins (Quarry’s War, Road to Perdition) to discuss the life and legacy of Mickey Spillane on what would have been his centenary year. They delve into the history of his most famous creation, Mike Hammer, along with his return to comics in an all-new Titan series based on one of Spillane’s original plots. Room 24ABC

2pm-3pm signing, Titan, Booth 5537

Friday, July 20:
2pm-3pmInternational Association of Media Tie-in Writers: Scribe Awards – Max Allan Collins (Mike Hammer) will host this year’s Scribe Awards for excellence in tie-in writing. Join nominees/panelists Michael Black (The Executioner), David Boop (Predator), Matt Forbeck (Halo), Christie Golden (Star Wars), Jonathan Maberry (Planet of the Apes), and Sarah Stegall (Deadworld) for a lively look at one of the most popular and yet under-appreciated branches of the writing trade. Room 32AB

Sunday, July 22:
12:30pm-1:15pm Mysterious Galaxy booth #1119, Max and Barbara Collins will both be signing, with a number of titles available. (It’s always a great booth.)

* * *

A. Brad Schwartz – my co-author on Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness and the Battle for Chicago and I have done an article for the Chicago Review of Books on the upcoming Ness fest in Coudersport, Pennsylvania. We talk about Ness and Capone in some depth, so if you’re yearning for a real update/blog this week, check this out.

And check out this great five-minute clip from the forthcoming audiobook of Scarface and the Untouchable with the terrific Stefan Rudnicki (veteran of Quarry audios).

Speaking of Eliot Ness, here’s a nice Dark City review from Paperback Warrior.

Here is an intelligent and perceptive review of Quarry, a book I wrote a long time ago that seems to have something of a life.

The current Caleb York western, The Bloody Spur, makes the big time with this True West magazine review!

Here’s a Mike Hammer #1 comic book review, brief but nice.

And here’s another.

M.A.C.

An Amazon “Nathan Heller” Sale & An Interview

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

Amazon is offering many Nathan Heller titles for 99 cents in their Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle book deals from now till the end of the month (July). Titles include True Crime, Stolen Away, Neon Mirage, Blood and Thunder, The Million-Dollar Wound, Majic Man, Carnal Hours and Angel in Black.

This week’s update is mostly a link to a lengthy interview with me by Mr. Media – Bob Andelman. It focuses rather in depth on my Mike Hammer collaborations with posthumous co-author, Mickey Spillane. Late in the interview I talk about the upcoming Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness and the Battle for Chicago, talking a bit about my co-author A. Brad Schwartz. I also talk (toward the end of the interview) about my talented son Nathan and his career as a writer/translator (of Japanese novels, manga and video games).

Be warned that early on in the interview I got out of focus – not in terms of what I’m saying (in my opinion), but literally out of focus. Last time Mr. Media interviewed me, the angle of my little Skype camera made it look like my ceiling fan was a gigantic beanie-with-propeller cap. This time the little cam blurred me into soft focus, which at my age isn’t all bad.

But I promise you and Mr. Media that I will upgrade my camera before the next interview.

* * *

Here’s a great Mike Hammer #1 (the serialized graphic novel) review from Nerdly.

Here’s another, although head-scratchingly we only get three out of a possible five stars.

Here’s a link to my buddy Bud Plant’s great web site where he’s being good enough to carry Quarry’s War.

Finally, here’s a nice write-up on the upcoming Eliot Ness Fest at Coudersport, PA, where Scarface and the Untouchable will be represented by my co-author/cohort A. Brad Schwartz. The debut of the new HD version of Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life will be presented by Brad as part of the festivities.

M.A.C.

Harlan and Harold

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

So Harlan Ellison is gone. Not dead, because his work will survive. He may not maintain the presence in the popular culture he once had, because he was chiefly a short story writer. Still, he might overcome that, because after all Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury were both chiefly short story writers, and they endure. Hard to imagine “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” disappearing.

In the aftermath of Harlan’s passing, amid expressions of friendship and loss, came those who figured that while the body hadn’t cooled yet, it would be a good time to say that he was overrated and a “gasbag,” as one dweller in the dingy, dreary corners of Facebook put it. These nonentities who must disparage those who have actually contributed will be with us always –- perhaps more shrilly now, in the age of Trump and Social Media.

In my formative years – adolescence and teens – I read mostly crime/mystery writers. I followed only a handful of science-fiction authors, despite a love of comics, films and TV shows in that genre; among those authors were Bradbury and Ellison. I was particularly attracted by Ellison’s introductory material to his short story collections – I found it fascinating and exciting for the writer to come out from in back of his tales. To be a presence.

There’s no question that he influenced me in that regard. I talk about my work in that same way, if not with as much personality or gift for language; but I do it here, and have introduced many of the reprints of my work and the collections of shorter material.

I also enjoyed his fiction itself, very much, and was aware of his byline on TV scripts on such shows as Burke’s Law, The Outer Limits and Star Trek. Seeing his name on the screenwriter credit of a TV episode always made me sit up. And in my college years I loved his writing about TV, which covered his own experiences in the medium as well as unbridled reviews of various series (collected in The Glass Teat).

I met him in 1973 at a comics convention in Dallas, which happened to be the first such convention I ever attended. Knowing he was the guest of honor, I spotted Ellison in the dealer’s room on the first evening of the show and introduced myself, and told him my first two books had just been published (Bait Money and Blood Money). He congratulated me and asked me to accompany him as he took a stroll around the dealer’s room. He was friendly to me, even warm. Of course, I’d made it clear I was a fan and had brought a book along for him to sign.

Anyway, I accompanied him on his circuit around the room. About half a dozen times, dealers at the show took pot shots at him – picked verbal fights with him (I don’t remember the specific subjects), but were beyond rude. It was like walking down a street in the Old West with Billy the Kid and seeing various punks try to goad him into a shoot-out.

Harlan was soft-spoken, just nodded, said very little to them when he said anything at all. I was confused, knowing Harlan’s reputation for confrontation and not suffering fools. I told Barb about it in our hotel room, not sure whether I was impressed or disappointed.

Throughout the weekend I would stop and chat with Harlan, but we didn’t share a meal or head to a bar or anything – we were just friendly ships that had passed in the night. At the banquet on the final night of the con, with all the dealers and the other guests and many attendees present, Harlan was the scheduled speaker.

I said to Barb, as we sat and dined on rubber chicken, looking around at those who’d verbally assaulted the guest of honor earlier, “How I wish Harlan would take these sons of bitches on.”

And that’s what he did.

Harlan had noted the names of every face that insulted him on that tour of the dealer’s room, and in his keynote speech he reported their rude conduct and called them out individually. Told them it was a hell of a way to treat their guest of honor. And he shot each one of them down, leaving each writhing in a pool of embarrassment.

And I loved it. And I loved him for it, fan of revenge that I am.

A few years later, at a San Diego con, Harlan was going into a ballroom for a panel, accompanied by reps of the con. I paused, gave him a smile and a little wave, not thinking he’d even remember me. Then he called out, “Al! I can’t talk to you right now! We’ll get together later!”

We didn’t. I don’t believe we ever met face to face again, but over the years the damnedest thing happened: out of the blue he would call me. He treated me as if I were one of his closest friends, and as the years and these lovely sporadic calls kept coming, I began to feel that way myself. He made it clear he liked my work and that was extremely gratifying – little in a writer’s life is better than being admired by one of your favorite writers, particularly one who was a formative influence.

We did not agree on Mickey Spillane. He had a low opinion of Mickey typical coming from a progressive writer of his era. But he knew I loved Mickey and his work and he respected that.

One afternoon in my office at home I got a call from Harlan. Mickey’s The Killing Man, his first Mike Hammer in some time, had just come out.

“Al! Did you write this?”

“No. I’ve never ghosted Mickey. That’s his work.”

“Great! Now I don’t have to read it.”

He hung up.

Later he revealed to me that he had a standing order at his regular bookshop to set aside any novel of mine that came out. Only once did he criticize me.

“Al, stop using, ‘He shook his head no.’ Shaking your head is no.”

“Not all shakes of the head mean no, Harlan.”

“Fine. Then characterize those head shakes that way. Otherwise, it’s no!”

“Okay,” I said. “You sold me.”

“And can you watch your word repetition closer, please? You’re a better writer than that.”

Most good fiction writers try to avoid repeating words in the same paragraph or even on the same page (excluding articles like “a” and “the,” of course, and character names). Barb catches most of mine on her edits.

So I said to Harlan, “I admit I do that more often than I should. I try to catch them. But Harlan, a lot of words fly out of here in a year, and sometimes I slip. I’m trying to make a living.”

“Okay,” he said. “I can accept that.”

He was always gracious to me, friendly and funny, and very frank. His anecdotes about Hollywood, frequently ending with him trying to strangle an executive, were priceless. But a year or so ago, he confided that his failing health was something he wasn’t sure he could live with. He said sometimes he contemplated the choice Hemingway had made.

“Don’t do that,” I said, as if he were using too much salt on his food. “Hemingway taking his life colored his work forever. You don’t want that following you around after you’re gone.”

He allowed this was probably good advice.

I was troubled by his admission, but touched that he’d share something like that with me. Yet wasn’t that what had attracted me so as a teenager? This writer who came out from behind his fiction to confront you with his humanity?

And yours?

* * *

Lately I’ve read a number of books about improv comedy and Second City. If you follow these updates regularly at all, you know that I am a huge SCTV fan. When there was an SCTV reunion in 2009, as part of a 50th anniversary Second City celebration, Barb and I spent big bucks to attend the show, which included Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short and Dave Thomas on stage together. Ramis performed with them, and also directed the performance. He had been a cast member the first season and head writer the second.

I embarrassed myself thoroughly bugging and fawning over any SCTV cast members I happened to encounter, and that was most of them. Why Barb remained married to me after such unconscionable fan boy behavior, I have no idea. But I was a teenage girl in 1964 talking to the Beatles – that bad. Maybe worse.

I’d met Ramis a few years before at a film festival in Chicago. That time I behaved myself, pretty much, getting introduced to him by a mutual friend. He was very gracious, quiet but nice, and he smiled when I mentioned how far I went back with him – to Swami Bananananda and kid show host Ol’ Muley (“These are the worst drawings yet, boys and girls”). We also talked about Stuart Saves the World, his Stuart Smalley movie with Al Franken; I told him how much I liked the film and that I wished it were out on DVD (later it was).

At Second City, though, I first flagged Ramis down the night of the reunion show and tried to remind him that we’d met (I don’t think he remembered) but he was friendly and expressed concern that they hadn’t had enough rehearsal time. He gave me an autograph, as well (I was on the hunt).

Throughout the weekend, I saw him a number of times, basically saying “The reunion was great” and hello, but it must have seemed to him that I was everywhere, maybe even stalking him (I wasn’t – it was sheer coincidence). Finally I caught him alone for a moment and apologized for bugging him (even as I bugged him again) and rather desperately said, “I just wanted to let you know how much I love Groundhog Day. It’s one of my favorite movies and it’s my son’s favorite movie, period. It’s a great, great film, it’s like…It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“It is,” he said with an enigmatic smile. “It is a wonderful life.”

I of course meant that his film Groundhog Day is on a level of importance with Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. But I am still not sure if he was agreeing with me, or saying his film was a variation on that film, or maybe just that…it’s a wonderful life. As in, it’s wonderful being alive.

I’m still thinking about that ambiguous reply, particularly now that I know a year later he would contract autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, and be gone in 2014.

The books I’ve read recently about this remarkable actor, writer and filmmaker include Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story by Chris Nashawaty, and Ghostbuster’s Daughter: Life with My Dad, Harold Ramis by Violet Ramis Stiel. The former is fascinating and covers the birth of The National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live and (to a lesser extent) SCTV, with the Caddyshack material starting about midway. It gives a good picture of Ramis at that important time of his life.

His daughter’s book I admit having some problems with, but I would still recommend it to fans of her dad. The book is her memoir, and only really interested me when it was dealing with Harold Ramis himself, although it did that frankly and with insight.

* * *

Here’s a really nice review of the first issue of the Mike Hammer serialized graphic novel from Hard Case Crime Comics (and Titan).

Here’s another good one.

And another.

Finally, here’s a review of Quarry’s Vote.

M.A.C.

Untouchable in Blu

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

This weekend I watched the “check disc” for the forthcoming Blu-ray of Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life. I was very pleased. We had gone to some trouble and expense to shoot in HD (at the time something rather new, particularly for low-budget productions), and having the feature appear as intended, looking rather beautiful, is gratifying. It’s made bittersweet by seeing the amazing performance of Michael Cornelison, who passed away in 2011. The loss of this key collaborator on my film and TV work remains painful.

Mike and my great friend and collaborator Phil Dingeldein are featured on the commentary, which listening to is also bittersweet…and I wish I hadn’t dominated it so. But I tend to do that in such situations.

The Blu-ray has everything on it that the DVD did, and “An Inconvenient Matter” – the short film that was the last collaboration between Collins, Cornelison and Dingeldein – is also in High-Def for the first time. It’s an overtly film noir piece written by Chuck Hughes, my fellow Iowan and the screenwriter of Ed and His Dead Mother, a cult fave. This is the only time to date I’ve directed a script I didn’t write, and it was fun and interesting. There’s a Collins/Cornelison/Dingeldein commentary on that, as well.

Obviously, the advance buzz about the “magnum opus” (as the publisher describes it), Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness and the Battle for Chicago by A. Brad Schwartz and me, inspired this release. The book is out in August, but the Blu-ray will bring up the rear in October.

You can pre-order the disc at Amazon (and I wish you would).

Phil and I are exploring a new film project around the second Mike Hammer play, The Little Death, that is scheduled for January 17 – 27, though if it sells out like the previous one did, an extra week may be added on. This will again star the wonderful Gary Sandy, and I am negotiating with legendary producer Zev Buffman to direct it myself. All concerned are hopeful that I will be able to direct a film version, somewhat in the style of the Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life feature.

More as that develops.

Speaking of Mike Hammer, the first issue of the serialized graphic novel, The Night I Died (developed from some of the same unpublished Spillane material that inspired The Little Death play) will be in comic book shops this week. A number of sites feature an advance look at the comic book, and this link will take you to one.

* * *

Crusin’s summer/early fall season (we mostly lay off in the later fall and winter) continued on Sunday with an appearance at the Muscatine Art Center’s annual Ice Cream Social. It was a fun, informal event, and the crowd liked us just fine, though I would be surprised if the ice cream and pie didn’t get even better reviews.

Our next appearance is in Muscatine at the Missipi Brew in their beer garden on the Fourth of July, which is on July 4 this year, interestingly. This can be a grueling event for us, particularly if we draw a hot day/evening. It’s also one of the longer shows we do, at least three hours. Lately we’ve been limiting ourselves to one- and two-hour gigs.

This does get more physically taxing, the loading in, setting up, tearing down and loading out in particular. How much longer I will be able to indulge myself in my rock ‘n’ roll fixation remains unclear.

* * *

Here is a very nice Quarry in the Black review. The cover of that one – I believe the great Glen Orbik’s last, completed by the very talented Laurel Blechman – is popping up all over the Net. It’s much admired, and I’m pleased to have acquired the original for my office (in my home with its sophisticated security system).

Here’s a little write-up about my long-ago Digest Dolls card set.

Finally, here is a really nice review of Scarface and the Untouchable in Publisher’s Weekly.

M.A.C.