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

Hammer, Quarry and TV’s Frank

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

This coming Thursday (Sept. 1) at the Fleur Cinema & Café in Des Moines, I’ll be hosting a screening of both my documentary, MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE, and the classic Mike Hammer noir, KISS ME DEADLY. Seeing the latter on a big screen will be a treat. The documentary goes on at 6:30 and the film at 7:30. I’ll do a Q and A after, and there should be some books on hand for me to sign.

Here’s more info.

My L.A. stringer Leonard Maltin – think of him as an older, wiser Jimmy Olsen – took and sent me the pic posted here this week, the first reported QUARRY sighting in L.A. The billboard is on Vermont Avenue some blocks down from the old Parker Center.

The premiere of the series will be September 9 at 10 p.m. eastern (10:00-11:15 p.m.). Other CINEMAX playdates, also eastern time: Sept. 9 (11:20 p.m., 12:40 a.m.), 10 (9:00 p.m., 12:35 a.m.), 11 (5:35 p.m.), 12 (11:00 p.m.), 13 (2:05 a.m.), 14 (10:00 p.m.), 15 (9:00 p.m.) and 29 (6:40 p.m.).

As indicated above, the first episode is 75 minutes and plays like a particularly strong indie crime film. I anticipate some fans of the novels will have to adjust to the Memphis setting of the series, but let’s face it – the Broker was born to have a Southern accent.

* * *

I have shipped to Thomas & Mercer the third Reeder and Rogers political thriller, EXECUTIVE ORDER, which concludes the Branches of Government trilogy begun by SUPREME JUSTICE and continued with FATE OF THE UNION. This was a tough one, as my co-conspirator Matt Clemens will no doubt confirm. For one thing, it was only the second novel I worked on after my heart surgery, and the first was an ANTIQUES novel for which Barb delivered me a great, easy-to-work-with rough draft. We ran into some plotting difficulties with EXECUTIVE ORDER that had me starting it, then interrupting it to write the Mike Hammer novel, THE WILL TO KILL, while Matt re-worked his story treatment to accommodate the new plot elements.

It was a bear.

The final stage of preparing the manuscript is a read-through that takes a day or two and consists of me marking up a hard copy, with Barb typing in the tweaks and corrections. This one had so much rewriting and tweaking and cutting that I admit I have no sense of the book at all, whereas usually I have a real feel for what’s been accomplished. The read-through took three days – it’s a big book, 450 manuscript pages and 80,000-plus words – and today I feel punchy as hell. But sometimes you take your best shot and cross your fingers.

I have a feeling that some of my readers – I might even say “fans” – who are Nate Heller and Quarry followers have not partaken of these political thrillers. Fact is, the first two Reeder and Rogers novels are among my bestselling books, ever. SUPREME JUSTICE has done 300,000 copies. So however punch-drunk I may feel about EXECUTIVE ORDER after the big fight, it’s should be worth a read if you like my work.

* * *

For some reason, fans are always asking writers what they are reading. They seem to want validation for their own tastes, and expect me to say, James Lee Burke or James Ellroy (or some other James whose books I can’t read), and I really don’t get it. If I were talking to Alfred Hitchcock (and I realize that would probably require a Ouija board), the last thing I’d ask him is what movies he watches.

What I read is rarely fiction, since I’m living in the world of fiction every work day – it’s called a Busman’s Holiday, kids, and I’m not interested. Lately I’ve read THE FIFTY-YEAR MISSION about the first 25 years of STAR TREK, SEINFELDIA about the SEINFELD TV series, CURTAIN UP about Agatha Christie’s plays, FOREVER AMBER: FROM NOVEL TO FILM, two NOIR CITY annuals, and COLUMBO UNDER GLASS, a critical study of the series.

But the greatest book I ever read, including MOBY DICK (but excluding of course my own body of work), is TWENTY-FIVE MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 FILMS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE IN NO WAY WHATSOEVER by Frank Conniff – TV’s Frank! The book, at 104 pages, is somewhat shorter than MOBY DICK and doesn’t have a single whale in it.

Speaking of MOBY DICK, Barb and I just watched the John Barrymore film version from 1931 and were a trifle surprised to find that it has a happy ending. Ahab not only kills the white whale, he goes home dancing on his peg leg to his sweetheart. I guess I should have put SPOILER ALERT in front of that.

The above discursive paragraph is designed to prepare you for TV’S Frank’s book in which he doesn’t really discuss any of the films that he is supposedly showcasing. He instead goes off on free-form riffs (yes, I said riffs) that careen from one hilarious absurdity to another, and if you’re MST 3000 fan enough to buy this book, you’ll have no trouble hearing TV’s Frank’s distinctive dissipated bored baby tones. Discussing being offered the job on Mystery Science Theater of watching old movies, he says, “I stepped up to the plate in my head and accepted the challenge.”

Here are a few more examples:

(Supposedly discussing SIDEHACKERS but instead talking about PSYCHE-OUT with Jack Nicholson): “PSYCHE-OUT is like an episode of the late-sixties DRAGNET series but with only the hippies and no Sgt. Joe Friday to berate them for being a bunch of freak-show screw-ups. Now that we have the technology, somebody should digitally restore this film so that it includes Sgt. Friday. Any film about hippies dropping acid seems incomplete without him, but I’m of the opinion that every movie would benefit from having Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday as a character.” Me, too, Frank!

(Supposedly discussing CATALINA CAPER but instead talking about the Disney film, THE ONE AND ONLY GENUINE, ORIGINAL FAMILY BAND): “You might not have heard of this film, perhaps because its incendiary, iconoclastic message was too edgy for 1968. This was a film that declared, ‘you may think you’re cutting edge, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Stooges, MC Five, Blue Oyster Cult, but we’re the One and Only Genuine, Original Family Band, motherfuckers!’”

(Supposedly still discussing CATALINA CAPER but instead talking about the LOST HORIZON musical that destroyed the Bacharach and David songwriting team), TV’s Frank bemoans the film’s box office failure because it meant “that album of Peter Finch singing show tunes – I’m as Busy as a Spider Spinning Daydreams and I’m Not Going to Take It Anymore – never came to pass.”

(Supposedly discussing ROCKET ATTACK U.S.A. but instead contemplating atomic Armageddon in general): “A New York City decimated by a nuclear war would kind of suck, but it might at least be slightly more affordable to live in. And walking amid radioactive wreckage in Brooklyn would no doubt be a depressing experience, but at least there would be no hipsters around, except maybe zombie hipsters, or as they’re also known, hipsters.”

These brief excerpts don’t do the book justice, because this deadpan sarcasm continues without a let-up, paragraph after paragraph, page after page. You certainly have my permission to read Burke or Ellroy, if you must; but you owe it to yourself to experience 104 pages of TV’s Frank.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Jon Landau says in the advance praise on the back of the book: “I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”

* * *

Here’s a brief but much appreciated positive review of ANGEL IN BLACK.

This is a terrific review of A LONG TIME DEAD, the Mike Hammer short story collection coming out September 6. But there’s an odd goof – Mickey Spillane is credited throughout as creating a private eye character called…Mickey Spillane!

And here’s a cool interview with Damon Herriman, who plays Quarry’s partner, Buddy. In the novels, this character is called Boyd, but because of Walton Goggins on JUSTIFIED, Boyd got changed to Buddy. Ironically, Damon Herriman had a major role on JUSTIFIED – Dewey Crowe.

M.A.C.

Road Coming Plus Movie Walkouts

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

The Brash Books edition of the complete ROAD TO PERDITION novel is now available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes & Noble in either print or e-book form.

It’s something of a dream come true for me to have my original version out there in the world, after having been forced back in 2002 to cut its 75,000 words to around 40,000, in addition to be made to rewrite it substantially to make it further conform to the film. This is the definitive edition of the prose version of what is undoubtedly my most famoeus and successful work. Read more about it at Brash’s web site.

* * *

This Sunday Barb and I achieved something very special, a personal best: we walked out of two movies on the same day.

We watched forty-five minutes or so the new BEN-HUR, which I would describe as a travesty except a perfectly good word like “travesty” shouldn’t be wasted on this. Where to begin? A nothing score. Unneeded narration. Cheap-looking sets and costumes. Embarrassing dialogue. Slow pace. I felt sorry for actor Jack Huston, who was so memorable as a disfigured hitman on BOARDWALK EMPIRE. His Messala, Toby Kebbel, is an unattractive thug. The carpenter who, in the process of making a table or something, offers up some philosophy is…Jesus! Get it? Jesus.

Leaving a movie called BEN-HUR without staying for the chariot race is like leaving DEEP THROAT before Linda Lovelace gets examined by Doctor Harry Reems. But we left, scurrying across the hall with our 3-D glasses still on, to catch KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS.

Now, some of you may have seen that film and loved it or anyway liked it, and lots of reviewers are gaga over it. But none of you suffered through 45 minutes of the new BEN-HUR before starting KUBO. KUBO is visually lovely, very poetic, and its use of stop motion over computer animation is most winning. But it’s also precious and full of itself, and is nothing approaching a story, at least not in the first hour. I would think for most children under twelve it would be mind-numbing. (My son Nate, with his bent for Japanese culture, may disagree with me.) There is a monkey, voiced blandly by Charlize Theron, who wore its welcome out quickly with us. The film is from Laika, the studio that produced PARANORMAN (which I liked very much) and BOX TROLLS (which I did not, though my smart friend Terry Beatty loved it…he may love this one, too).

As regular moviegoers, we are getting very worn down. I would suspect we have become cantankerous geezers if we didn’t find so much to like on TV. We just watched the excellent second season of THE TUNNEL, the British/French take on the nordic noir, THE BRIDGE, as well as a six-part Australian JACK IRISH mini-series called “Blind Faith” starring Guy Pearce. Both of these intelligently and skillfully use the police procedural and private eye melodrama respectively in ways that seem fresh and not at all dated, focusing on contemporary themes and subjects. The JACK IRISH is available on DVD and Blu-ray in the USA, but I got THE TUNNEL from Amazon UK (the first season has just become available here).

On an entirely different note, VICE PRINCIPALS with the great Danny McBride and the also great Walton Goggins is easily our favorite series currently airing – it’s very dark and yet somewhere deep down there is a beating human heart, in a world where the teachers are far more childish than the students.

Coming soon: QUARRY on Cinemax on September 9.

* * *

Speaking of QUARRY, here is a positive UK review of the first novel, though the reviewer doesn’t quite get it….

And here’s a really great, perceptive QUARRY review from (wait for it) New Delhi!

Finally, give a listen to this interesting, interview-packed look at novelizations, featuring (among others) my pal Lee Goldberg and, well, me.

M.A.C.

Losing Face

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

I’ve never paid much attention to Facebook.

I have two pages, because Facebook imposed a second one on me, but mostly what I have is an “author” page. I use this, in an admittedly kind of half-assed way, as a promotional tool. I’m more serious about my web site, and my weekly update/blog, which I often re-post at Facebook.

I’m also part of my band Crusin’s Facebook page, where we announce upcoming gigs and such.

Last July 4, Crusin’ appeared outdoors at the Missipi Brewing Company in Muscatine, after which some nice pics and a few short videos from that gig wound up on Facebook, on the newsfeed or “home” or whatever it’s called. I went over to that area to see those pics and vids, and became exposed for the first time to all of the stuff posted there.

Now, because I am a professional writer, and want to sell books, my policy is to accept any friend request, whether it’s anybody I actually know or not. If it’s somebody who buys my books, as far as I’m concerned that somebody is automatically a friend! The result is that I have a wide range of people whose posts I see, from all walks of life and of various political persuasions.

I was appalled by much of the tone that I saw in the political posts. Mostly I was seeing cats and dogs and vacation pics and food and what-have-you, the stuff of daily life for just about all of us. But the political posts were alarming.

Not in every case – some folks on either side of the political spectrum presented their views clearly, and sometimes even backed up those opinions with facts. Of course, “facts” are relative, since both sides tend to use the sources they trust. Me, I wouldn’t trust Fox News to tell me what time it is. But lots of people get their news there. And anybody on the other side of the aisle who thinks Rachel Maddow or Lawrence O’Donnell is providing an unbiased read on the news is kidding themselves.

While I don’t love opinion-slanted news, I get it – some people like salt, some like pepper, and many of us turn for our current events to whichever 24-hour news channel and/or opinionated website best suits our palates. In a Presidential election year, however, things get very salty and way peppery.

From my slightly left of center perspective, the stuff from the far right is the most disturbing. But I see screwy stuff from the left, too, with lots of cheap shots everywhere – ugly photos of Hillary or Trump with some dumb biased joke or cheap-shot insult laid on top. I learned the hard way that these folks don’t want to engage in a debate – they want to preach to the choir and get a resounding “Hell, yeah!” and go on to the next falsehood or exaggeration about the hated other side.

I got caught up in this crap for a while – and it is crap, as well as a waste of time. In particular, when somebody on the right would post what I knew to be a hoax – like the stuff about the late hero Captain Khan being a jihadist (!) – I’d provide a link to a debunking of that hoax. It took me a while to realize that the people posting these things didn’t care if the stories were a hoax. In one case, when I pointed out that a list of democratic goals (supposedly written by a famous leftist) was a well-known fake, I was told by the poster that it didn’t matter. That Democrats believed all this stuff, anyway, so that justified posting it.

When you’re dealing with people whose beliefs are so ingrained that facts don’t matter, you should smile politely, nod your head, and make a hasty exit. I am doing that now. I have had acquaintances – not friends, but people I know at least in passing – who have asked me why I always support terrorists, accused me of being a socialist, and attacked me when I suggested that Democrats were Americans, too. I have had angry ALL CAPS rants leveled at me that make me wonder if I’ve been talking to a drunk or a madman or a disturbing combination of both.

The funny thing is I’ve restrained myself, unleashing my sarcasm only once or twice, and then in a watered-down fashion. I’ve learned that trying to talk reasonably to people who are nearly illiterate but passionate about expressing themselves (I’ve been called a “trader” when I rather think “traitor” was the intention) is a pointless and even dangerous exercise.

There are people out there who hate Hillary Clinton with a passion that is frightening. Anything negative about her and her husband is believed. That she and Bill are responsible for enough murders to make Jack the Ripper look like a piker. That the Clinton Foundation is a corrupt wholly self-interested moneymaking machine. That she purposely allowed four brave Americans to die in the Benghazi screw-up. That’s she’s a liar and a criminal and must be locked up. It’s not enough to disagree with her policies or to find her untrustworthy. She must be the devil (as Donald Trump has called her).

And Trump has been similarly demonized. It’s not enough that he’s shown ridiculously poor judgment by denigrating in this campaign women, Mexicans, the disabled, war heroes like John McCain, and the current President (the “founder” of Isis). The left still has to make a cartoon demon out of him, a mobbed-up insane pedophile racist with a yen for his own daughter.

The left and right have become bitter enemies, without an ounce of respect for each other, and it’s a national tragedy – the worst example of America’s team mentality, of its “us against them” tendencies. The only thing remaining of our British heritage is that we are a nation of football hooligans.

The bottom line about Facebook is that, unless you are interacting with an actual friend and not a Facebook “friend,” you are talking to who-knows-who. The person may be violently dangerous or an insane drunk or a sweet nun with a dark side. Who knows?

I don’t.

And I’m not playing that game anymore.

* * *

Crusin’ had a very nice gig at the Pearl City Plaza on Sunday afternoon/early evening. Nice crowd, very responsive, and we even had encores. After some time off due to my medical capers, we are coming back strong.

For those of you in the Eastern Iowa area, we will be at Ardon Creek Winery on August 26 from 6 pm to 9. Wine only improves the Crusin’ experience.

More info here.

M.A.C.

A Really, Really Expensive Box of Milk Duds

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

As regular readers of this update will know, my wife Barb and I are dedicated moviegoers, and almost always see at least one movie a week. A typical weekend will have me working on Sunday and then, as sort of reward, catching a late afternoon show at the Palms, a very nice multi-plex here in Muscatine, Iowa.

Those readers will also know that the missus and I have been known to walk out of movies. I mentioned, a while back, that Barb and I were watching a really terrible Italian western at home one evening not long ago, and I said, “Honey, back in the ‘70s, would we have walked out of this movie?” And she said, “No…but then we had our whole lives in front of us.”

Barb usually has long since decided to bail before I’ve given up on a movie. She patiently rests her eyes, waiting for me to catch up with her disgust. Occasionally it takes us, or anyway me, a long time to realize I’m throwing time away on an unworthy film. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (which a good number of people liked) just wore me down with its constant over-the-top battles and contrived conflict, but we stayed probably a good hour before jumping ship. The awful Seth Rogen Christmas comedy (make that “comedy”), THE NIGHT BEFORE, was until this weekend the film that took us the least amount of time before walking out – fifteen or twenty minutes.

But the loser and new champion is BAD MOMS, or as Barb described it, “That was a really, really expensive box of Milk Duds.” We left around the ten-minute mark. We had chosen the film because SUICIDE SQUAD looked like the kind of film we’d wind up writing a suicide note after seeing – the unpleasant imagery of the preview was already more than I wanted rolling around somewhere in my brain. We considered JASON BOURNE, but nothing about the trailer indicated it would include anything we hadn’t already seen three or four times before in the franchise. And BAD MOMS had a decent Rotten Tomatoes rating (63% fresh, 78% favorable from audiences).

Also, BAD MOMS had Kristen Bell in it, second-billed. Both Barb and I are VERONICA MARS fans in particular and Kristen Bell fans in general – I even sat through every episode of her Showtime series, HOUSE OF LIES, despite finding the lead characters incredibly unsympathetic and even unpleasant. We suffered through the really crappy Melissa McCarthy movie, THE BOSS, chiefly because Bell was in it.

But BAD MOMS is so offensive – not in the sense that its would-be raunchy humor offended us, rather that it was an insult to the human race – that we left before the second-billed Bell even appeared on the screen. Reviews indicate that this female version of THE HANGOVER (by the same writers) has a funny, mostly improv performance by Kathy Hahn, who also hadn’t made it on screen before we left. Have to take their word for it.

Mila Kunis plays a Mom with two dreadful children who don’t appreciate her, and a boorish husband whose depiction made me feel like I was Martin Luther King at a Stepin Fetchit film festival. The life on screen, in a supposed suburb of Chicago, had no resemblance to human experience. Kunis, beautifully dressed, works at an office where she seems to be the boss, claiming to be the oldest one there at age 32, yet is also described as a parttime employee who’s been there six years. Clark Duke of HOT TUB TIME MACHINE, either a fellow employee or Kunis’ boss, immediately tells Kunis and another female employee about a creepy, overtly sexual dream he had, something that would get him fired or sued at any real company. Kunis is shown dropping her kids off at school and carrying in a giant paper-mache head of Nixon that she made for her son for a school project. Please explain to me what’s funny about that, and why we should like a mother who does her son’s homework for him (the title BAD MOMS is supposed to be ironic…see, they’re good moms but off on a HANGOVER-type spree, or would have been if we’d stayed around for it). Also at school is a trio of country club women (led by Christina Applegate) whose lot in life appears to be standing at the curb in front of the school to dis Kunis. Kunis’ husband is an unshaven fool who laughs at his wife when she struggles into the house carrying armloads of groceries, says he had a hard day at work because he had two conference calls and a nap, gobbles the elaborate meal she makes without thanks, gives his son a high five for getting a D on a test, and – caught masturbating in front of his computer with his pants down – tells his wife he’s checking his prostate.

Barb went out so quickly she might have been fleeing a fire. I called down the hall to her, “What time is the Apocalypse?”

By the way, a lot of people were laughing at this stuff, inexplicably…and some had their young children with them. There was a Trump rally feel to it.

A bad movie you walk out on is like a really, really bad dream from which you force yourself to wake up.

* * *

Let’s conclude with a prayer for the future of mankind in general and America in particular, and a look at this very nice BETTER DEAD review.

M.A.C.