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

Today’s the Day! (Later is Good, Too.)

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
The Big Showdown
Hardcover:
E-Book:

The Legend of Caleb York
Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Antiques Fate
Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

The day this appears (April 26) is the pub date of the second Caleb York novel, THE BIG SHOWDOWN, in hardcover, and also of THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK in mass-market paperback (co-bylined with the great Mickey Spillane). On this same big day, the new Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery, ANTIQUES FATE, appears in hardcover. A week from now (May 3), the new Nate Heller will be out: BETTER DEAD (more about that next week).

These are all books I’m pleased with. I think THE BIG SHOWDOWN has one of the best, moody scenes of action/violence – a shoot-out in a rainstorm – that I’ve ever come up with. ANTIQUES FATE may be my favorite of the Brandy and Vivian Borne novels, with its faux-British setting reminiscent of MIDSOMER MURDERS and Miss Marple’s St. Mary Mead. It’s also very funny. No brag, just fact, as we western novelists are wont to say. Or is that want to say?

You may think that novels are flying out of my computer as if it were haunted. Actually, last year was one of my least prolific ones, due to the health problems that turned up in May. The only book I wrote during that period was MURDER NEVER KNOCKS (a Hammer, as usual working from Spillane material), and I also managed to do the short story “A Dangerous Cat,” which appears in the current Strand Magazine. The novel was written in the weeks after the treatment in which my heart was jump-started like an old Buick, to get rid of the irregular heartbeat that had turned up with my condition – for maybe a month I felt a lot better.

I wrote “A Dangerous Cat” later, feeling fairly shitty actually, but the story needed writing. It represented the last Hammer fragment that I’d set aside for short story purposes, and writing it would give me a Hammer collection (eight stories) – Otto Penzler is publishing it later this year as A LONG TIME DEAD.

The books that are coming out today (if you’re reading this on the day it appears) predate the health problems, and give something of a false impression about my apparently prolific 2015. But I am happy to report that I am back at work here in 2016, and in fact Barb and I have already delivered the next Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery, ANTIQUES FRAME. She had been working on her draft throughout the medical adventures during which she was my incredible support system – the last bits of it were written by her in my hospital room. The rapid comeback my right hand made allowed me to get to work after two or three weeks at home.

Currently I am working on the third Reeder and Rogers political thriller. My cohort Matt Clemens is wrapping up his draft while I start mine. So far it looks like SUPREME JUSTICE and FATE OF THE UNION will have solid company. By the way, SUPREME JUSTICE recently hit the 100,000 books-sold mark. This does not count 175,000 books generated in the Kindle First program. Most of those copies were e-books, a fact I have trouble caring about.

Much of this year will be dedicated to getting back on deadline, as much as possible. I have no way to know how quickly the recovery will go, although so far – at nine weeks – I’m told by doctors and physical therapists that I’m doing very well. The biggest obstacle to getting my work done are the essential twice-weekly occupational and physical therapy sessions, which last 80 minutes. Or I should say the biggest obstacle is my reduced stamina and increased fatigue – after the physical therapy, I invariably have needed a nap of an hour or two. Takes a bite out of the writing day.

But things are improving. I had my first band practice (Crusin’) last Tuesday – an hour was about all I could manage, but I managed. We’ll practice again soon and play a two-hour gig in June. This weekend son Nate and his bride Abby visited with our incredible grandson, the criminally cute Sam Collins, in tow. Nate and Abby – currently living in St. Louis – are exploring coming back here to Iowa.

Realtor Suzi Webb (great name) – a good friend from my high school days – arranged a tour for us of half a dozen houses. I went along and, despite a lot of stairs, held up fine. Okay, I took and hour and a half nap after – but just a few weeks ago that adventure would have been out of the question.

For those of you who haven’t stopped reading yet, let me say that I never expected to discuss these health issues here. But my son has always encouraged me to look at behind-the-scenes stuff, and me reporting on how the writing is going seems pretty basic.

* * *

a ten minute interview I did at the last Bouchercon (in Raleigh), specifically focusing on B’Con memories and my general attitude about the annual event.

Here’s a fun review of TWO FOR THE MONEY, the Hard Case Crime omnibus of BAIT MONEY and BLOOD MONEY.

And here’s a list from a lawyer selecting 10 “Great Novels About the Supreme Court.” One of them is SUPREME JUSTICE!

M.A.C.

Nice to be Nominated (Nicer to Win)

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

I’m happy to announce that I’m a double nominee in this year’s International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers “Scribe” awards. Both are collaborations with Mickey Spillane. Here’s the entire list of nominees, with ours highlighted.

BEST ORIGINAL NOVEL – GENERAL
Elementary: The Ghost Line by Adam Christopher
Kill Me, Darling by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan: Desert Falcons by Michael A. Black
24: Rogue by David Mack

BEST ORIGINAL NOVEL – SPECULATIVE
Deadlands: Ghostwalkers by Jonathan Maberry
HALO: Last Light by Troy Denning
HALO: New Blood by Matt Forbeck
Pathfinder: Forge of Ashes by Josh Vogt
Shadowrun: Borrowed Time by R. L. King
Star Trek The Next Generation: Armageddon’s Arrow by Dayton Ward
Star Trek Seekers 3: Long Shot by David Mack

ADAPTED NOVEL – GENERAL AND SPECULATIVE
Backcountry by D. E. McDonald
Batman: Arkham Knight by Marv Wolfman
Crimson Peak by Nancy Holder
MANOS —– The Hands of Fate by Stephen D. Sullivan
Star Wars: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden

SHORT STORIES
Mike Hammer The Strand “Fallout” by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Shadowrun: World of Shadows “Swamp of Spirits” by Jason M. Hardy
The X-Files: Trust No One “Back in El Paso My Life Will Be Worthless” by Keith R. A. DeCandido
The X-Files: Trust No One “Dusk” by Paul Crilley
The X-Files: Trust No One “Non Gratum Anus Rodentum” by Brian Keene
The X-Files: Trust No One “Statues” by Kevin J. Anderson

AUDIO
Dark Shadows “Bloodlust” by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells and Joseph Lidster
Dark Shadows “In the Twinkling of an Eye” Penelope Faith
Doctor Who “The Red Lady” by John Dorney
Doctor Who “Damaged Goods” by Jonathan Morris
Pathfinder Legends “Mummy’s Mask: Empty Graves” by Cavan Scott

Did you see how many X-FILES stories were nominated from the anthology I also contributed to? Oddly, what I wanted to submit was my X-FILES story “House on Hickory Hill,” but the original printing saw that story (and many others) filled with typos and other mistakes. So I decided to wait for the second printing. When it didn’t come out in time for me to submit, I sent the Mike Hammer story instead…so maybe that was a good thing! Happy accidents are clearly the best kind.

Speaking of awards, Barb and I attended the 25th annual Iowa Motion Picture Association awards, held in scenic Pella, Iowa, where windmills reign and the tulips were (nearly) in full flower. The ceremony/show was held in the Pella Opera House, a lovely old restored theater. I won the Award of Excellence for my “Heller” pilot script, in the unproduced screenplay category, as well as (and this was a big surprise) the President’s Award for outstanding career achievement.

Earlier that day I appeared on a “Past Presidents’ Panel,” bringing together five of us who had served in that position. A lot of stories going back to the mid-‘90s were shared, as well as thoughts on changing technology over the years. I made the point that content is king, and the delivery system is ultimately irrelevant.

IMPA 2016
Presidents’ Panel: (l to r) Doug Miller, M.A.C., Marty Jorgensen, Kent Newman

I was active for many years in the IMPA – I served as president three times – and the trip to Pella (where Wyatt Earp was raised) was a joy because Barb and I got to see so many old friends. I particularly want to acknowledge Shirley Long, the “glue” of the organization, who received a life achievement award (now named for her!). I know she had a lot to do with my similar President’s Award.

But the weekend was also a test. We initially went to Des Moines for some R & R that included the great Ohana Japanese steak house in West Des Moines, where our favorite chef Ken was so glad to see me aboveground, he comped us. Then the next morning, on to Pella, about an hour away. Two nights away from home in two hotels. This was our first over-nighter since the surgery two months ago.

How did I do? All right, I guess – Barb was pleased. I continue to tire easily, and between the Past Presidents panel and the evening festivities, I took a short nap. How short? Two hours. And I was very tired on the trip home, and my right hand felt thick and useless, the stroke side of things asserting itself.

Today (Monday as I write this) I feel much better. It’s important to get back to my life, to get things as back-to-normal as possible, without being stupid about it. The next big challenge is a band gig in June (first post-surgery rehearsal is this week). Rock ‘n’ roll…er, I mean, ROCK ‘N’ ROLL!!!

* * *

Here’s another great e-mail (this one from Ken Hollister) about the Mike Hammer novels that I’d like to share with you:

I just started reading Murder Never Knocks, and it occurred to me that I should contact you to express my gratitude for continuing to finish Mr. Spillane’s work.

I have been a fan of Mickey Spillane since the 1980s, when the television series with Stacy Keach introduced me to Mike Hammer. Since that time, I’ve scoured second-hand bookshops to find Spillane’s books; a treasure hunt, so to speak. Fortunately, the Internet has made this easier, but it’s still been difficult – but the enjoyment I’ve received from reading Spillane’s novels has been worth the effort.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the several books you’ve done, as well as the “radio novels” from Blackstone Audio, and your commentary on the Blu-ray release of The Girl Hunters. I am happy to see that this is the “original” Mike Hammer, and that the character hasn’t been re-invented. I hope there more of Mr. Spillane’s work that you’re completing.

After I finish reading Murder Never Knocks, I’ll be starting to read your Quarry series. I’m looking forward to them, and I hope they bring me as much enjoyment as your collaborations with Mr. Spillane.

It’s really gratifying to hear, out of the blue, from a reader who really “gets” the Spillane collaborations.

Also, if you’ve read and liked MURDER NEVER KNOCKS, please post a review at Amazon. Bob Goldsboro’s new Nero Wolfe, STOP THE PRESSES!, has 46 reviews – we have 8! Are you going to let Wolfe and Archie pimp out Mike Hammer?!? (Even if STOP THE PRESSES! is a typically fun Goldsboro continuation.)

Incidentally, if you’ve posted a review of MURDER NEVER KNOCKS (or any of my books, really) on your own site, please also post it at Amazon.

* * *

Here’s a fun QUARRY review from a new reader (who is also a crime novelist).

And here’s a radio piece where I (and Lee Goldberg and several distinguished others) are interviewed about movie novels and TV tie-ins.

M.A.C.

Heart and Soul: Bonus Features

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

Here’s a special treat that none of you have been asking for: brief reviews of every movie I watched while I was hospitalized.

Early on, when I learned open-heart surgery was in the cards, I bought a small portable Blu-ray player. Beyond its obvious use, during the upcoming hospital stay, I knew it would be cool to have on trips where early-to-bedder Barb could go to sleep in our hotel room while I watched something on the Blu-ray player, listening through headphones and not bothering her. Getting that Blu-ray portable was smart of me.

Here’s where I was dumb. Instead of picking DVDs and Blu-rays (from my stupidly large collection) that were either old favorites or which had a lot of potential, I filled a little CD case with oddball stuff I hadn’t got around to yet, and that I was pretty sure Barb would have no interest in.

But it was Barb who soon realized I was making my hospital time even worse by torturing myself with crap movies. I guess when you almost die, you have less patience for spending time pointlessly. So here’s a rundown on a bunch of movies that you should avoid. I’m using the Leonard Maltin four-star system, just don’t look for any four-stars. I usually am loathe to write bad reviews of movies. But since I loathed these movies, I’ll make these exceptions.

SMART GIRLS DON’T TALK (1948) – * ½. Pitiful excuse for a film noir with Virginia Mayo (her character all over the good-girl/bad-girl map) supported by Bruce Bennett and Robert Hutton, two of the dullest leading men on record.

CHRISTMAS EVE (1947) – * ½. Two of my favorite (if limited) actors, Randolph Scott and George Raft, in a sort of anthology movie that is among the dreariest Christmas movies ever made. After this contemporary misfire, Scott made only westerns. Good choice!

THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT (1953) – *. Worst John Ford movie ever. A personal favorite of his, and the pits – cornball smalltown humor, sentimental slop, and incredibly racist attitudes even for its era (Stepin Fetchit co-stars). A remake of a much earlier Ford starring Will Rogers. Full disclosure: the only one of these terrible movies I didn’t make it through.

CAPTAIN CAREY U.S.A. (1950). 1 ½ *. Incredibly dull, slow-moving Alan Ladd almost-noir. Don’t believe the “U.S.A.” – it takes place in a studio-created Italy. Somebody betrayed Ladd during the war and he wants to get even. I watched the thing and I’d like to get even myself.

THE CROOKED WAY (1949) – 1 ½ *. I’m a fan of John Payne, whose MIRACLE ON 34th STREET performance is pitch-perfect. Here he’s earning a paycheck as an amnesiac in a rote would-be noir that remembers only to hit every cliche, hard. I wish I could forget it.

YOU AND ME (1938) **. Probably the most interesting of these movies, but nonetheless an oddball misfire from director Fritz Lang. It’s a musical starring George Raft! Neither Raft nor co-star Sylvia Sidney sing. A Greek chorus of lowlifes, courtesy of Kurt Weill, recalls THREEPENNY OPERA, but nothing here was worth Bobby Darin covering. Bob Cummings plays a gangster!

MAN IN THE SHADOW (1957) 1 ½ *. Brain-numbingly predictable modern-day western in which the whole town stands up against a sheriff (Jeff Chandler) who wants to stand up against the rich guy who owns the place. That the rich guy is Orson Welles in a fake nose somehow only makes it worse. Written by STAR TREK scripter Gene L. Coon, who should have known better.

ASSAULT ON A QUEEN (1966) **. Conceived as a nautical take on OCEAN’S 11, and based on a Jack Finney novel, this one has Frank Sinatra very much in TONY ROME mode. Fine, but then the plot turns out to be about using a recovered Nazi sub to rob the Queen Mary. Sinatra participates because he likes the way Virna Lisi looks. I don’t disagree with that, but I wouldn’t try to knock over the Queen Mary for her, particularly in the company of an unbearable Tony Franciosa.

No Man's Woman

NO MAN’S WOMAN – (1955) *. This by-the-numbers low-end crime melodrama (calling it noir is a stretch) holds a strange fascination by playing like an early PERRY MASON episode, right down to Marie Windsor’s femme fatale racking up an array of suspects in the early reels for after she gets murdered. Just about every actor here appeared on a MASON, but without Raymond Burr, William Hopper and Barbara Hale, the result is lacking somehow.

THE ANGRY HILLS – * (1959). Barb actually brought me this at the hospital (it had arrived in the mail) because she was concerned about the effect lousy movies were having on me. Much looked forward to by me, it’s the rejoining of KISS ME DEADLY’s director (Robert Aldrich) and writer (A.I. Bezzerides). And it stars Robert Mitchum! And it blows!
During World War Two, reporter Mitchum wanders around Europe to deliver a message to somebody. The Warner Archive DVD must be the European cut, because there’s a lengthy topless dancer scene that doesn’t mitigate the agony.

CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN – (1958) **. Slow-moving, unexciting rip-off of THE MUMMY. Standard B schlock from notorious team of director Edward L. Cahn and producer Robert E. Kent. Another STAR TREK writer, Jerome Bixby, shares the guilt. Why do I do this to myself?

BEACHHEAD – (1954) **. Tony Curtis gets out-acted by Frank Lovejoy as they portray two soldiers during World War Two, who openly hate each other, yet are somehow selected to cross enemy territory together to deliver a message (Robert Mitchum wasn’t available). They pick up a cute love interest along the way (Mary Murphy of THE WILD ONE) but I still fell asleep in the middle of it and didn’t bother going back to see what I missed when I woke up.

SPELLBINDER – (1988) **½. Probably my favorite of these movies, which is the faintest of praise. An okay ‘80s horror flick with Timothy Daly doing a nice job as a regular guy who falls for gorgeous coven escapee, Kelly Preston. Think of it as ROSEMARY’S BABE, with a predictably downbeat ending.

A LOVELY WAY TO DIE – (1968) **. A goofy, crazily sexist private eye mystery that is almost enjoyable, thanks to the high energy of Kirk Douglas. But it goes on forever…well, an hour and forty-one minutes, which is long enough. Remember when a helicopter chasing a car was exciting? Me either.

And you thought you’d heard about the worst horrors that greeted me during my hospital stay!

* * *

Here’s a terrific MURDER NEVER KNOCKS review.

Jeff Pierce at the Rap Sheet wrote about the pending publication by Brash Books of my complete ROAD TO PERDITION novel. Scroll down for it.

Here, from Open Book Society, is a review of the recently re-published QUARRY’S CUT.

My pal Bill Crider wrote this great piece about QUARRY’S VOTE, also recently republished.

Finally, here’s a terrific ANTIQUES FATE review from the great Ed Gorman. The book is out soon!

M.A.C.

Heart & Soul Pt. 3

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Before we get to the third (and final) episode of my hospital capers, I’d like to share with you the kind of e-mail that makes my days. Here goes (from “R.G.”):

“I recently discovered one of your novels in the new section of the local library. To my surprise it was a Mike Hammer mystery. I have to tell you that I’m now on my third one in the last week. I actually still have all the original paperbacks from Spillane that I purchased for sixty cents many years ago as well as all the Brett Halliday from that era. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to have found you. You would swear that Spillane had finished these manuscripts himself. I had already found finished manuscripts from William Johnstone and Robert Parker but the Spillane books are incredible. I can’t wait to read the rest of them. Thank you so much for your talent.”

This kind of response is what makes it all worthwhile.

Now, part three of HEART & SOUL (some links after):

During my hospital stay, and for a week or so after, I had occasional crying jags. I am told there’s a medical term for that, which I don’t remember, though it’s specifically tied to the fact that your heart is physically removed from your body. I wouldn’t call this depression, more like emotions gone generally out of control, and in fact some of the crying was of the “I love you so much” variety (addressed to my wife, not random nurses).

Late in my stay, I had an odd experience with a crying episode. My breakfast arrived, and while it was worth crying over, that wasn’t the trigger. All I’d ordered was a biscuit with grape jelly, orange juice, and orange jello. Shortly after I finished this feast, a nurse came in and said, “You weren’t supposed to eat your breakfast before I checked your blood sugar.” Then she took the blood sample anyway, and shortly I was told that my blood sugar was very high (no kidding) and I’d be getting an insulin shot.

Understand that I hadn’t been diagnosed with diabetes. But on several occasions, when my blood sugar registered high (the orange Steak-and-Shake shake I had Barb sneak me may have been one culprit), I was given insulin. This was just one of a pin-cushion parade of blood tests and blood draws and I.V,’s and shots that I was subjected to during my stay.

Well, I kind of flipped. Of course after that breakfast my blood sugar was high! I indignantly refused the insulin. Then, as I was preparing to shower, I started to cry. No doubt part of it was the problem with my hand, which at that point was pretty useless, but mostly I was frustrated with the blood sugar fuck up. One of the Occupational Therapy females arrived to help me with my shower and found me in tears. Megan, her name is, and she was sympathetic beyond words. Really talked me down off the ledge, bless her.

“I can’t take this bureaucratic shit,” I said, sobbing. “I hate bureaucracies in general, but this hospital bureaucracy is crushing me.”

Now, upon reflection, the hospital wasn’t all that bureaucratic. They had a schedule they kept, for giving you meds and drawing blood and so on, and my physical therapy (which I valued) was also structured. So mostly I think I was just riding an emotional roller coaster. I can look at it now and know two things: (a) it was no big deal, and (b) I was shattered anyway.

I believe reporting this incident to Barb convinced her more than ever that I would do better at home. My heart surgeon wanted me to stay for another week of physical therapy, but he had no idea how the endless hospital nights were dragging me down. The doctor who ran fifth-floor rehab approved my dismissal, but asked me to stay another night, to get the paperwork done. Even one more long night was hard to face, but I of course went along.

This gave the O.T. and P.T. females a day to give me final testing, and I did well on the P.T. stuff, although on the O.T. side, my hand was not progressing quickly. I was taken to a faux kitchen area to make sure I could bend down and secure pots and pans and use a microwave. Megan (again) wanted me to show her how the dishwasher worked. I said, “Sure,” and called out to Barb nearby, “Honey? Are these clean?”

Finally one of the O.T. females walked me over to a computer with keyboard and said, “You’re not leaving till you type something.” I typed “ROAD TO PERDITION by Max Allan Collins” and “TRUE DETECTIVE by Max Allan Collins.” You will be proud to hear I did not break into tears.

There were goodbyes with various nurses and nurse’s aides. One aide named Laura had a talented son in high school who got very excited when he learned I was his mom’s patient. Turned out he was a buff on famous disasters like the Titanic and the Hindenburg, so Barb rounded up copies of the entire disaster series for him. That was a nice boost for my ego, or anyway it was till I realized I couldn’t sign them for him. I did read something of his and dictated to Barb my glowing comments.

Suddenly I was in our car, being driven. The oddest thing was being reminded that we were in Rock Island, Illinois, a mere forty miles from home. It had felt like another planet. Or anyway, Chicago.

Home seemed unreal to me, but I was so glad to be there. Barb got a bench for me to sit on while showering, and rented me a claw-foot cane. I slept in my living room recliner and Barb slept on the nearby couch, so she could walk me to the bathroom should I have to get up in the night. As a middle-aged man (and for me to be middle-aged, I’ll have to live to 136), that means only about a half dozen trips per night.

Soon it became clear I needed to use the upstairs guest room, which allowed Barb to sleep in our master bedroom and put the bathroom a few steps away from me. The claw-foot cane became unnecessary at this point.

For several weeks, I had in-house therapy with both O.T. and P.T. professionals – they were great, mostly giving me exercises I could do at home (I‘m still doing them). A nurse came and gave me a medical onceover every couple of days. Oddly, she turned out to be a new neighbor of ours from two doors down.

I felt okay. My incision was bandaged in a Frankenstein’s monster manner, as were the seven incisions on my inner thighs. But I was alive. I never got the “good drugs” everybody said I could look forward to, unless you count Tylenol. The worst thing was a kind of spongy quality to my walk – it was like I was on a diving board, narrow and bouncy. But my hand responded fairly quickly to the exercises. I worked toward getting my signature back and it took only a few days.

The smartest thing I did – with Barb’s blessing – was order the new keyboard (musical not computer) I’d had my eye on prior to going in the hospital. I found immediately that I could play quite a lot, and for an hour or so a day I worked at it. For getting dexterity back, this was a Godsend. I’m still at it.

After the first week or so, Barb and I began taking the occasional meal out. We took very tentative day trips (in part so we could listen to MURDER NEVER KNOCKS read by Stacy Keach) to Davenport and Iowa City. We also went to a few movies. Barb stayed right with me, then as I got some confidence, she finally dropped me off by myself at the Davenport Barnes & Noble while she went to Von Maur to buy a girl friend an Easter present. At B & N, I spent my fifty-buck Christmas gift certificate and did not fall on my ass – a triumph!

From the start, the biggest problem has been getting my stamina and strength back. Just today I started twice-a-week eighty-minute P.T./O.T. out-patient sessions, and they are working me hard. Good things will happen.

As I wind this up, let me make a couple of points. Some of you have understandably expressed concern about me having had a stroke – hey, it was a mild one and I’m recovering quickly. This is the main thing – a little time in the hospital underscores how many people on this planet have it worse than you do.

Let me close by talking about Barb, or rather demonstrating what kind of wife and friend she is. I’d been home about four days, living on the first floor. She announced that we were going up the stairs to my office. I said, “Nothing doing.” She wouldn’t hear of that, knowing damn well I was avoiding it. She walked me into my office and the surroundings of my work life swallowed me and spit me out. She held me as, yes, I had a crying jag.

The last one.

* * *

Here’s an interesting QUARRY’S CUT review.

Lovely review here of CHICAGO CONFIDENTIAL specifically and the Heller series in general.

Finally, here’s a splendid review of MURDER NEVER KNOCKS. Have you read that yet? Have you posted an Amazon review? Get busy!

M.A.C.