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

Quarry – September 9!

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

The first of eight episodes of QUARRY will be on Cinemax on September 9 at 10 p.m. (I assume that’s eastern time).

Obviously this has been a long time coming, but I think the wait will have been worth it. Already the series has resulted in Hard Case Crime reissuing the first five books, with a new book coming in October (QUARRY IN THE BLACK), a four-issue comic book series early next year, and another novel (QUARRY ON TARGET) that I will write later this year.

The news about the series and its debut is all over the Internet – probably a couple of dozen write-ups. Here are several that should serve to catch you up.

The Early Word has something of a publishing slant. Collider has advance images, and Den of Geek is nicely opinionated.

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A big Kindle sale is coming up later this week, featuring assorted titles of mine in the Mystery, Thriller & Suspense category. Each book will be $1.99. The sale begins July 1 and runs through July 31.

Here are the specific titles:
[Note from Nate: For your convenience, I’ve linked the Amazon logo to each book’s Amazon page, and the text title to each book’s info page on our website.]

CHICAGO LIGHTNING
WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER
SUPREME JUSTICE
THE TITANIC MURDERS
THE LONDON BLITZ MURDERS
THE HINDENBURG MURDERS
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS MURDER
THE PEARL HARBOR MURDERS
TRUE CRIME
THE MILLION-DOLLAR WOUND

Beginning 7/1/2016, go here:
https://www.amazon.com/b?node=13819722011.

If you go there before that date, the page may not show the new promotion, or it may be empty. If that’s the case, check back on July 1, the official start date.

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The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame discussion continues. Here’s a great comment from Mike Dennis that you may have missed:

I’m on board with Pat Boone, Max. For exactly the reasons you cite. He singlehandedly opened the door for R&B artists who couldn’t get their records played on white radio stations by recording their songs himself. And of course, those R&B artists collected lots of money in songwriting
royalties.

As far as the 1958-63 (Elvis/Army – Beatles invade US) era is concerned, I’ve thought about that. It was not the most fertile period for rock & roll. Think about 1958. Rock & roll was in danger of disappearing altogether. I’m sure you remember. Radio DJs were breaking records on the air, clergymen from coast to coast were pounding their pulpits over this sinful, new music. It was not a given than the music would survive, rather it was held together by a loose gathering of young artists and the eager teenagers who had fallen under their spell. The adults couldn’t stand it.

Then Elvis entered the Army, Jerry Lee Lewis self-destructed on his disastrous tour of the UK, and Buddy Holly died in February of 1959. That was really the end of the period where this raw, exciting music was being made by mostly young Southern boys, independent of each other, music crafted and honed in the dirt-road joints of the emerging South. The songs, and the artists who recorded them, were a natural outgrowth of a post-World War II America, reflecting (like the film noir that rose during that period) all the alienation that existed in the country at that time.

The songs spoke only to young people, while the artists were generally sex-crazed hillbillies sent out on the road with no adult supervision. Elvis was the King of Rock & Roll. Jerry Lee Lewis was supposed to inherit the throne following his British tour. Holly represented the music’s sensitive side. But with all three of them gone by early 1959, there was a vacuum at the top. The major record companies saw their opening and moved in. They swiftly rounded up a stable of compliant, cute, barely-talented artists who were willing to do what they were told for a shot at stardom. Rock & roll songs were no longer written on the back of napkins or on paper bags, they were written in the Brill Building by calculating, businesslike songwriters whose job it was to turn out hits that had been scrubbed clean of sexuality.

Also, I’m glad you pointed out the role of the Wrecking Crew in the making of so many great records. I would like to note there was a British version of the Wrecking Crew — I’m not sure if they had a slick name like that — that played on most of the British Invasion records. One noteworthy example is the Kinks’ first two records, YOU REALLY GOT ME and ALL DAY AND ALL THE NIGHT. The opening buzzsaw guitar chords were played by Jimmy Page, not Dave Davies as is commonly thought. I met Page in 1966, right after he joined the Yardbirds and he told me all about those sessions. Until then, he was a first-call studio player in London and he and a few other guys played on all the British Invasion records (all, that is, except the Beatles, the Stones, and maybe a couple of others).

That said, I still don’t consider Buffalo Springfield as anything more than a one-hit wonder. Laura Nyro was a great songwriter, as you pointed out, but I don’t think she’s worthy of induction in the R&RHOF. There are artists I would like to see in the Hall, like Johnny Rivers, the Monkees, and the Association, but as long as the Hall is itself not worthy of having them, I’m not going to get too upset over their omission.

Mike, thanks for this articulate, insightful mini-essay. Much of what you say I agree with, but I think you (in a way characteristic of some who highly value Elvis, Jerry Lee and Buddy Holly) underestimate some of what was going on in the between-Elvis-and-the-Beatles years. Some very exciting stuff was happening, on the east coast particularly. You know I am a big Bobby Darin fan – his version of his own “Early in the Morning” is far superior to the rushed Buddy Holly cover, and Darin cut many strong rockers backed by great Atlantic Records session men. I would also cite artists like Bobby Vee and Bobby Rydell (two more of the much-maligned “Bobbys” and neither on a major label) as real rock artists.

Then there’s Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, and I can’t agree about the Brill Building output – not when we’re talking Bacharch & David, Goffin & King, Mann & Weil, Pompous & Shuman, Greenwich & Barry, Leiber & Stoller. A lot of that was anything but scrubbed of sexuality.

You mention 1958. Rock was not disappearing – not with the Everly Brothers, Ricky Nelson, Danny and the Juniors, the Coasters, Little Anthony and the Imperials, and – oh yeah – a guy named Chuck Berry…all charting. From ‘59 to ‘62, there were many greats and near-greats making hit records: Lloyd Price, Ritchie Valens, Dion and the Belmonts, Freddy Cannon (“Woo!”), Ray Friggin’ Charles, Jackie Wilson, Johnny Cash, Del Shannon (opened for him!), the Shirelles, Gary U.S. Bonds, Joey Dee and the Starlighters, and Gene Pitney. Not chopped liver! And not a major record company artist in the bunch.

The supposed dearth of rock post-Elvis and pre-Beatles strikes me as highly exaggerated. I wonder how many people like me – I’m now the ancient age of 68 – lived through all of these eras of rock and loved every one.

A couple of footnotes. The Buffalo Springfield played at the Masonic Temple in Davenport, Iowa, within a year of when my band the Daybreakers played there, when we opened for the Rascals and Gary Puckett. Buffalo Springfield was amazing and brave – they played extended, very loud solos prefiguring what every band would be doing in a year or two, and alienating much of the Iowa teenage audience. And my God was the fringe on Neil Young’s leather jacket long!

Same venue, same year. Gene Pitney and several other acts, including the Turtles (opened for them twice!), appeared in a kind of caravan-of-stars format. Pitney tore the place up, his vocals just towering. Then half-way through the set, he spoke for the first time, telling the audience in a hoarse voice, almost a whisper, that he apologized for doing so poorly, but he had a bad cold and was fighting laryngitis. Then he sang THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE.

* * *

Finally, MS. TREE fans may enjoy this fun, smart podcast in which two comic book experts review (favorably) the story “One Mean Mother.”

M.A.C.

I’m on the Tee-Vee!

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Actor Rick Gonzalez will play Wild Dog on ARROW

Plenty of people have been congratulating me on the addition of the character WILD DOG, the costumed hero Terry Beatty and I created in 1987, to the CW TV series ARROW. When I was preparing to put this update together, I decided to see how big a splash this news had made on the Internet. I stopped counting at 31 links to that news and to summaries of the WILD DOG comics from DC.

So I thought you might like an inside look at how this works for a creator of a comic book character. For example, you may be wondering how exactly DC informed Terry and me of this exciting news. The answer: they didn’t. You may be wondering how rich Terry and I will get from this wonderful windfall. The answer: we won’t.

Other comics creators in a similar situation have told us we can expect $100 for our trouble. I don’t know if that’s a C-note for each WILD DOG episode, or for his overall use. I also don’t know if Terry and I have to split that C-note.

Maybe we should haul out a Ouija board and see what Siegel and Shuster think.

* * *

Tyler Hoechlin will play Superman on SUPERGIRL

In addition to the WILD DOG news, I’ve been popping up all over the Net due to the casting of Tyler Hoechlin as SUPERMAN on the CW series SUPERGIRL. (I am Trump huuuuuuge on the CW!). Tyler, as many readers of these updates surely know, played Michael Jr. in ROAD TO PERDITION. Many of the write-ups about Tyler’s good news point out that he’s played a comic-book hero before, which is how I managed to worm into a lot of the stories.

I remember vividly meeting Tyler on the set of ROAD. He was a smiling, friendly young man, and he got a kick out of it when I told him, “Don’t mention this to Tom Hanks, but you are the hero of this movie.” He was always a sunny, slightly shy presence at the various premieres of the film, and I am happy for his ever-expanding career.

In slightly related news, I received advance copies of the novel version of ROAD TO PERDITION, the complete book at last, something like 30,000 words longer than the previous paperback, with all of my dialogue and action restored. Brash Books has done a lovely job on it. Look for it in November (I’ll be signing copies at this year’s Bouchercon in New Orleans).

Here’s a link to one of the many “Tyler Hoechlin as Superman stories” that hit the Net this past week.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette published this terrific BETTER DEAD review.

By the way, Amazon (and other reviews) of BETTER DEAD, MURDER NEVER KNOCKS and ANTIQUES FATE would be much appreciated it. There’s an amusing BETTER DEAD review at Amazon that accuses Nate Heller and me of being left-wing loons – I’ve gotten a lot of that for SUPREME JUSTICE and FATE OF THE UNION, but this is a Heller first.

Finally, this nice WAR OF THE WORLDS MURDER review also popped up, appearing a couple of places.

M.A.C.

Cruse Control

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

I realize, as the writer entrusted by Mickey Spillane to complete his Mike Hammer novels-in-progress, that I have a good number of conservative fans. Few if any of them are concerned that my views are too left-leaning for the task – I don’t write my point of view when I’m doing Mike Hammer, I write his.

Also, I try not to indulge in politics here. I don’t want to alienate readers, or collaborators who might hold other opinions.

But I would be remiss not to share an opinion in the aftermath of the Orlando tragedy. Here it is: you don’t need an assault rifle to kill a deer, unless Bambi has one, too.

* * *

My first Crusin’ gig post-heart-surgery went well, if not perfectly. It was a hot, humid afternoon in Muscatine, Iowa, though a nice breeze rolled in off the river. The event was open to the public, designed as an after-work event for downtown merchants and businesses. Our host, the First National Bank, did a great, fun job creating a 1970s class-reunion vibe. On the slight downside, this tended to make us background music and not the main event.

I was a little frustrated that I had to curtail my showmanship because of my limited stamina – I feel like I’m just playing and singing, and that’s only half of the job. And during the last half hour of the two-hour gig, I seriously ran out of gas. I don’t think it was terribly (if at all noticeable) by the audience, but I knew it and so did Barb. But I made it. It was a start.


Brad Schwartz and M.A.C.

That was Thursday of last week. On Friday and Saturday, Brad Schwartz and George Hagenauer – both making considerable treks to join me – met at my house to work on the joint Eliot Ness/Al Capone non-fiction book we are doing. We sold the book, based on a proposal and sample chapter, a year ago, and this was our first face-to-face since. There’s a reason for that.

I learned on the set of QUARRY in New Orleans that we’d made the sale…and the night before I’d suffered congestive heart failure. So it’s taken a while for me to get in shape for such a meeting.

But these two guys know their subject inside/out. We talked strategy and scheduling and much more. We also watched two movies about the Capone case – the embarrassingly lousy SPECIAL AGENT (1935) with Bette Davis and George Brent (and Ricardo Cortez as the Capone figure!), and the very, very good UNDERCOVER MAN (1949) with the always top-notch Glenn Ford, directed by Joseph Lewis of GUN CRAZY fame. The latter film is practically a schematic for THE UNTOUCHABLES TV series, though the hero is not Ness but the over-rated IRS agent, Frank Wilson.

* * *

The Rock and Hall of Fame discussion rolls on. Witness Micheal Tearson’s comment:

As for the R&R Hall, that’s been kind of a bugaboo for me. I had to deal with it constantly while I was working on Sirius/XM’s Deep Tracks channel which was pretty closely aligned with the Hall’s own channel (same administrator for quite a while). It became my view that the Hall has long since lost any focus on R&R as more and more artists with little or nothing to do with rock & roll have been honored. My top omission would be Procol Harum (Love is another). I’d also argue they have been very harsh on prog rock by skipping Moody Blues, Yes and ELP, all of whom have had very influential careers.

And “robbiecube”:

As much as I think the RRHOF is a scam, when acts I dig get ignored as disco & rap acts are inducted, I need to vent. And by vent, I mean list the acts I believe should already be in the hall;

Blue Oyster Cult / Procol Harum / Thin Lizzy / Kate Bush / Rory Gallagher / MC5 / Motorhead / Mose Allison / Grand Funk Railroad / Johnny Rivers / X / XTC / Pretty Things / J. Geils Band / Husker Du / The Jam / Deep Purple.

I think Michael’s remarks show that each generation has its own valid complaints about which acts have been forgotten. I certainly can see his prog rock choices as worthy ones.

As for Robbie, I think the same (slight) generational difference is afoot. But I would certainly be in favor of Kate Bush, XTC, Johnny Rivers and Deep Purple. Personally I find a few of the choices less than worthy – J. Geils, Thin Lizzy, Grand Funk – but that’s just taste. And some are just outside my range of musical knowledge – I have heard of Husker Du, but that’s all, and Procol Harem (mentioned by both correspondents) is only “Whiter Shade of Pale” to me. My bad, as the kids (used) to say.

But it certainly indicates how the Rock hall has missed the boat on a ton of significant artists.

* * *

Here’s 10 hitman novels everyone should read (oddly, only one of them is a Quarry, making the other nine pretenders).

Here’s a fun, intelligent look at WILD DOG (although the otherwise well-informed writer refers to my DICK TRACY stint as “short” – fifteen years?!?).

SUPREME JUSTICE is on a top ten list of Supreme Court novels.

Finally, here’s an uncomplimentary look at THE EXPERT. Worth a read, and stick around for my comment.

M.A.C.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Risking straining your patience, I thought perhaps I should report in on my health status. I’ll pause here for you to say “Goodie goodie” and clap your little hands.

Anyway, after three and a half months since the open-heart surgery, I seem to be doing well. I have completed both my physical therapy and occupational therapy. I’m told my hand, post-stroke, is at about 90%. I fatigue somewhat easily and usually am pretty wasted by mid-evening, though I stay up till midnight. We’re walking twice a day in our neighborhood (I would jump off a bridge before mall walking).

Work goes well. I reported here that Barb and I completed ANTIQUES FRAME, which I started working on about two weeks after getting out of the hospital. After that, I started working on the new Reeder and Rogers political thriller, EXECUTIVE ORDER, and got a third of the way through when I realized the plot needed work. My cohort Matt Clemens has been rewriting his story treatment and I’ll be back at the novel myself in probably a week or two. While Matt did that, I tackled the new Mike Hammer, THE WILL TO KILL. I should finish that this week.

In addition this coming weekend George Hagenauer and Brad Schwartz are coming to Muscatine for an overdue meeting about our joint Ness/Capone biography-in-progress.

A milestone for Barb and me, in several senses, was our trip June 1st and 2nd to scenic Galena, Illinois, a favorite haunt of ours. It involves a lot of walking but also eating (there are 67 restaurants in this town of 3500). We scheduled this trip months ago, figuring I should be in shape to handle it when it rolled around – a fairly long drive and an overnight – and I did fine. We were celebrating our 48th wedding anniversary. What a lucky bastard I am.

Another milestone is coming up – my first Crusin’ band job since the surgery. It’s June 9 outside the First National Bank at Muscatine, open to the public and free. We play 5 to 7 pm. We’ve been rehearsing quite a bit and had a three-hour session Saturday afternoon, which I managed to survive.

Speaking of rock ‘n’ roll, I want to deal with two comments that last week’s update elicited, due to my mini-rant on the Zombies, Monkees and Vanilla Fudge not being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Here’s what mystery writer (and audio artist) Mike Dennis had to say:

Max – don’t worry over the Monkees and Vanilla Fudge not making the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. It’s a bullshit outfit, created solely to produce the annual induction TV show, and as a side benefit, snag a few tourists into their building to see Jimi Hendrix’s leather pants or whatever. Other than the expected greats — Elvis, Beatles, Stones, etc — the Hall is straining more and more each year to find someone worthy of induction. In recent years, they’ve stooped to one-hit wonders: Buffalo Springfield, Laura Nyro, and others. Who’s next? Norman Greenbaum? Ronny & the Daytonas?

It’s all bullshit and not worth getting upset about.

There’s much wisdom in what Mike says here, although I think arguments could be made for both Buffalo Springfield (surely one of the most influential ‘60s bands) and Laura Nyro (a great songwriter). But the Hall is indeed bullshit. Trouble is, it’s all rock fans have – it’s our Cooperstown. So we have to make noise about the injustices.

Here’s what my good friend (and former Crusin’ sound man) Charlie Koenigsaecker had to say:

To me the most egregious omission in the Rock HOF would be Love, followed close behind by the Monkees and Zombies.

The MC5 should be in also and I would not look askance at the Fudge. For those who regard the Monkees as a mere vocal group whose musical accomplishments were buoyed by the talents of others, would they have the same reservations regarding the Coasters or the Supremes or the Four Tops or any other group who neither wrote their own material or played on their own records? Plus the Monkees eventually did both write and play on a lot of fine recordings.

I agree with everything Charlie says here, including that the MC5 and Love should be in the Hall.

My point of view here is, I think, one that has a certain amount of credibility. I grew up with rock ‘n’ roll. Saw Elvis on Sullivan. Owned a 78 of “Hound Dog.” Went nuts over Bobby Darin. Saw the Beatles on Sullivan (the Fudge too). Played in rock bands at the peak of the ‘60s/early ‘70s and opened for scads of famous acts.

Here is some of what’s wrong with the Hall of Fame, mostly flowing from a snobbish, narrow view of the history of rock merged with a politically correct bent that allows rap and country in when many key rock artists are omitted.

Where the hell is Pat Boone? I remember very clearly that he and Elvis were, for a long time, the only games in town. Boone gets shit for covering r & b records, but those original records were banned from mainstream radio and it was Boone who popularized them and opened the doors (and made Little Richard and other black artists a ton of money). The guy sold millions of records, and made rock palatable for White America. It’s called history. Deal with it.

The period between Elvis going into the Army and getting out again (or possibly up to the emergence of the Beatles) is mostly ignored by the Hall. It’s a tough call with the popular likes of Paul Anka, Frankie Avalon and Fabian, who are artistically pretty shaky. But what about Bobby Rydell? Has Jan Wenner ever heard “Wild One”? What about Bobby Vee? So many great records, and a top-notch live performer. He’s in the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, by the way (like my band, The Daybreakers).

Charlie’s point about the Monkees being pilloried for not playing on their records is well-taken. During the ‘60s many great bands were not allowed by their bigtime labels to play on their own records (usually after playing on the first album or so) because it was better for those bands to be out touring and more efficient to use studio musicians for the instrumentals on the records…mostly the Wrecking Crew.

Who, incidentally, played on the records of such Hall of Famers as the Mamas and Papas, the Byrds and the Beach Boys.

One of those Wrecking Crew-ghosted bands – who played on their own first two albums, and their later ones as well – is the Association. They are often dismissed as a vocal group with a folky California sound (Mamas and Papas anyone?) but “Along Comes Mary” is one of the best, most driving singles of its era, and “Never My Love” is one of the two or three most played-on-radio records of the ‘60s…including the Beatles’ output. Slow songs need love, too.

I could easily build a case for Paul Revere and the Raiders, who inspired so many local garage bands. And laugh if you like, but Gary Lewis and the Playboys made a ton of great records. And, I mean, if you’re going to induct Laura Nyro for writing “Eli’s Comin’,” how about a slot for Three Dog Night? And where the hell are the Turtles/Flo and Eddie?

And that’s just the ‘50s and ‘60s. Don’t get me started about Warren Zevon’s absence.

Snobbishness and no sense of history earns the Rock Hall the “bullshit” label that Mike Dennis gives it. But, again – it’s what we’ve got. It is wonderful to see the Dave Clark Five being honored. It’s a thrill to hear Cat Stevens sing and play again.

But rock deserves better. And so do we. And so do a lot great bands and artists.

M.A.C.