Crusin’ to the Hall of Fame

January 9th, 2018 by Max Allan Collins

I am very pleased to announce that my band Crusin’ has been named to the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. The current line-up will be inducted on Labor Day Weekend at Arnold’s Park, Iowa (more on this later). My previous band, the Daybreakers, which performed from 1966 through 1972, was inducted to the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

That both of my bands have been chosen for this honor means a great deal to me – just having two bands from Muscatine, Iowa, in the Hall of Fame would be impressive. That two members of the first band (myself and the late Paul Thomas) formed the second one is really special and an accomplishment I’m proud of.

I have requested that all of the past members, as well as the current line-up, be inducted into the Hall, and that request will be honored.

Here is a new bio of Crusin’, for those of you who came in late (or who have memories like mine).

M.A.C.

CRUSIN’ TO BE INDUCTED INTO THE IOWA ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HALL OF FAME

Steve Kundel, drums; Bill Anson, guitar; Max Allan Collins, keyboards; Brian Van Winkle, bass.

The Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Association’s Hall of Fame will include Crusin’ in its class of 2018. The band will perform at the induction concert on September 1 in Arnold’s Park, as will others of this year’s honorees.

Crusin’ was among the first — if the not the first — ’60s-revival bands anywhere. The band was founded by keyboard player/lead singer Max Allan Collins, leader of the Daybreakers, the celebrated Muscatine, Iowa, combo (1966 – 1972) whose cult single, “Psychedelic Siren,” is one of the most anthologized garage-band recordings of the 1960s. The Daybreakers were inducted into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

Led by bestselling mystery writer Collins (Road to Perdition), Crusin’ continues to present its engaging mix of classic rock and their own ’60s-style originals. The current line-up includes Collins and longtime Crusin’ members, drummer Steve Kundel and bassist Brian Van Winkle, with recent addition guitarist Bill Anson. Bill is a veteran Muscatine musician who over the years has been in groups with Crusin’ members Chuck Bunn, Steve Kundel and Jamie Hopkins.

Crusin’ began in 1974. After the Daybreakers broke up in 1972, several members continued recording together and occasionally performing in coffee houses. Meeting socially, Collins and Paul Thomas (bass player in the final Daybreakers line-up) bemoaned the disco and other unappealing music then on the radio. Both expressed an interest in starting up another rock band, but neither could tolerate the current fare.

The success of the film American Graffiti and of such 1950s acts as Sha Na Na seemed to indicate that a Sixties revival band might also do well, even though that decade was only a few years in the past. Collins and Thomas brought in drummer Ric Steed, veteran of a number of area bands, and guitarist Lenny Sloat, who had been in two well-respected Muscatine mid-’60s combos, the Coachmen and Depot Rains. Their first performance at Muscatine’s popular disco, Warehouse 4, was a smash, with the band immediately booked back on a regular basis.

The quick, surprising success of Crusin’ at local clubs inspired the band to go fulltime, and Sloat opted out. Bruce Peters — the Daybreakers guitarist thought by many to have been one of the Midwest’s greatest rock showmen — was appearing as a solo act at the Improv and other clubs in LA when he wasn’t filling in with Van Halen and other top West Coast bands. Collins and Thomas convinced Peters to come back and join them, and the result was explosive — audiences who had enjoyed the band’s oldies were knocked out by the showmanship and charisma of the new line-up.

In the mid-to-late ’70s, Crusin’ was perhaps Eastern Iowa’s most popular band of any kind, playing to packed houses at such notable clubs of the era as Muscatine’s Warehouse 4, Grandview’s Talk of the Town, Burlington’s Ramp, Davenport’s Al’s Lounge, Conesville’s Thirsty Camel, and especially Dodgeville’s Pub, where for several years Crusin’ played every other weekend to capacity crowds on both Friday and Saturday nights in the Pub’s cavernous “Old Town” setting.

When health problems took Peters out of the group, Iowa City guitarist Rob Gal came in, infusing the group with his New Wave sensibilities. And when Collins left for a time to better pursue his blossoming writing career, the band continued as a three-piece, first as Crusin’ and then as the Ones. This version of the group was enormously successful on the Midwestern college circuit, releasing an LP that won heavy college-station airplay, with the group several times voted Iowa City’s most popular band in radio station competitions.

In the late ’80s, Collins returned and the band appeared under both the Crusin’ and Ones names — depending on the venue. “I Feel Better,” a Gal-penned tune from this period, became a regional hit thanks to Iowa City exposure.

Shortly thereafter, Gal moved to the Atlanta area, performed and recorded with the nationally known band “The Coolies,” and became a successful record producer. Collins and Paul Thomas kept going as Crusin’ with various members — including original Daybreakers bassist Chuck Bunn (who passed away in 2011), but always with Collins and, until his death in 2006, Thomas. The band has performed not only in Eastern Iowa but in Omaha, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Oakland, and Chicago, opened for national acts at Davenport’s Col Ballroom, and twice appeared at the famed Williamsburg, Iowa, World’s Biggest Beach Party.

Over the years, the band released three vinyl LPs, a gold-vinyl EP, and three CDs, most recently a live CD, Rock ‘n’ Roll Happened. Crusin’s recording efforts have been widely praised by music-magazine reviewers: Goldmine called the band “eminently danceable and always listenable”; and Option (reviewing their 1991 CD, Bullets!) raved of “a breezy pop-rock sound that recalls the best of the late ‘6Os.” Their track (“Little Bit Me, Little Bit You”) for Here No Evil, the nationally released 1992 Monkees tribute album assembled by old bandmate Gal, was singled out for praise by reviewers. They frequently performed live on Muscatine FM station KFMH for popular, controversial DJ Steve Bridges (a 2017 Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee).

In recent years, Crusin’ has contributed around a dozen original songs to Collins’ independent feature films Mommy (seen on Lifetime TV with Crusin’ performing on camera), Mommy’s Day, and Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market, all available on DVD.

Crusin’ has appeared in concert with such nationally prominent acts as the Turtles, the Young Rascals, the Buckinghams, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the Grass Roots, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Mary Wilson and the Supremes, Bobby Vee, Peter Noone, Chubby Checker, Freddy Cannon, Tommy Roe, the Kingsmen, Johnny Tillotson, Rare Earth, the Crystals, the Mamas and Papas, Bo Diddley, Iggy Pop and the Romantics.

Their current show is a fun, unusual mix of classic rock, delving deeper into the ‘70s and ‘80s than before, with a sprinkling of originals spanning the group’s many years and many recordings.

Several other talented musicians have been members of Crusin’. Andy Landers, rhythm guitar, is a fulltime performer and recording artist as both a solo act and leader of Mainstreet Struggleville out of Olympia, Washington. Stellar guitarist Jim Van Winkle took over for the late Paul Thomas and was with the band for over a decade. Dennis Maxwell, now in Scottsdale, Arizona, was one of the original Daybreakers; for several years he played bass and guitar with Crusin’. Father and son DeWayne and Jamie Hopkins were both drummers with the band in the ‘90s. DeWayne is the only member of Crusin’ to go on to be mayor of Muscatine.

Quarry New Year!

January 2nd, 2018 by Max Allan Collins

This has been a significant year for Quarry. Though his series on Cinemax ran only one season, it was well-received, even acclaimed, and a very good, interesting take on an origin story for the character.

I am very pleased with the Quarry comic book (actually serialized graphic novel), Quarry’s War, the second issue of which is out this week with two variant covers. I have a new artist, Edu Menna, who I think does a fine job. In fact, I would rate this single issue among the best comic books ever to bear my name.

Here’s a preview of both covers and the first few pages.

Additionally, for those of you who are into audio books, Stefan Rudnicki does a great job narrating Quarry’s Climax. His voice is gruffly rich and quietly wry. He really “gets” Quarry, and as publisher of Skyboat Media, he’s one of the great friends of this series. Get it here (or directly from Audible).

Quarry also makes an appearance in Otto Penzler’s The Big Book of Rogues and Villains. Here’s a review.

This has been a year of incredible highs and a few lows. Quarry on Cinemax was a real treat, and I am particularly proud and humbled (well, not that humble) to be a Mystery Writers of America “Grand Master.” My wife Barb assures me that even though 2017 is over, I am still a Grand Master. She also doesn’t seem terribly impressed about it….

Thanks for all your support – buying the books, cheering me on in my medical adventures, writing comments here…all appreciated.

Finally, Bill Crider – we love you!

M.A.C.

Cowboy Christmas

December 26th, 2017 by Max Allan Collins

As Christmas miracles go, the finale of the following is decidedly minor, although the whole experience felt major, with some nice surprises along the way.

For the past three years or so, as long as I’ve been involved in getting the Spillane/Collins “Caleb York” series up and running, I have been pestering my PR contact at Kensington Books about trying to get me into True West magazine. There are only two major magazines about the old west (and western movies), True West and Wild West. Both are quite good, and both do some book reviewing. True West seems to lean somewhat more to pop culture-type material, which is my own leaning obviously, and they do a monthly last-page-of-the-issue with various people (actors, authors, musicians and assorted friends of the real and reel west). That interview slot seemed like a great place to introduce myself as a western writer to a big audience – a long shot, but why not try?

I brought this up to Karen, my hard-working PR person at Kensington, who agreed that this was a long shot but worth trying. As the months passed, we didn’t get anywhere. When Barb and I went to Killer Nashville, we had a couple of nice meals with Karen, and I really, really pushed for True West. She would try. But we did know it was a long shot, right?

Finally True West expresses interest – huzzah and hooray! One of the editors wants to interview me – in person. Where do I have to go? Utah? Montana? New Mexico? Arizona? Texas? No, the editor wants to come to me. This sounds incredibly ambitious of him, until I learn he lives in Iowa City. About thirty-five miles away.

All this time one of True West’s editors has been in my backyard! Has been living in the town where both Nate and I went to college (not at the same time), and where Barb and I routinely travel once a month or so for a nice meal at one of any number of terrific restaurants, and for me to drop by Daydreams comic book shop and one of the best bookstores anywhere, Prairie Lights, where I’ve done readings half a dozen times over the years.

I offer to go to him, but editor Stuart Rosebrook wants to come to me. Wants to get a look at Muscatine. We meet at Elly’s, a soup/sandwich/salad place (very good) with a wonderful view of the Mississippi. Stuart and I hit it off immediately – we talk movies and books and Wyatt Earp for several hours, and even manage to eat lunch in the process. I am also interviewed, but mostly we just luxuriate in our mutual interests.

Turns out Stuart is, among other things, the book editor at True West, and the guy who does the monthly back-of-the-issue interview, which is what I’m going to get (yipee!). We spend so much time talking about our shared enthusiasms that he has to follow up with e-mail questions.

Perhaps most interesting is that Stuart’s father turns out to be Jeb Rosebrook, a very successful screenwriter for movies and TV. Among many other things, he wrote Junior Bonner, which starred Steve McQueen and was directed by Sam Peckinpah, no less. He wrote the s-f cult favorite, The Black Hole, for Disney, and his TV writing credits include The Waltons and The Yellow Rose TV series with his friend Sam Elliott (he also produced). His many TV movies include I Will Fight No More Forever (Emmy nominated), Hobo’s Christmas, Mystic Warrior, The Gambler II and The Gambler III. In recent years he’s returned to writing novels, his previous one (Saturday) being decades ago and predating his film and TV work.

At our first meeting, Stuart says his father and mother are coming for a visit over the Christmas holidays. He suggests we get together, so I can meet his dad. The idea of sitting down with a real pro – a guy who wrote for Sam Peckinpah, worked any number of times with Sam Elliott, and wrote dialogue for Jack Kelly’s Bart Maverick (!) in the second Gambler movie, well…it’s enough to make me temporarily put aside my hermit-like ways.

As a nice cherry on the sundae, when Stuart tells his dad about me, turns out Jeb has read my work, and liked it!

So, as the photo that accompanies this piece will indicate, we got together. We had a lovely Christmas Eve eve feast at Peking Restaurant in Muscatine with Stuart and his wife Julie, 21-year-old son (also named) Jeb, 16-year-old daughter Kristina, as well as Jeb and his wife Dorothy. Turns out I’m not the only writer who married a beautiful blonde.


(L to R) M.A.C., Jeb Rosebrook, Stuart Rosebrook

The evening was really a delight, and I hit it off with both Jebs and really everyone at the table – even Barb! Sitting between Stuart and his father, I had a conversation that covered so many topics of interest to me that my head is still spinning. Jeb, who at 82 is younger than you are, is at work on a trilogy of novels (the first two are available now from Amazon, The Charlemagne Trilogy). He has been reading Nate Heller, so I brought him Better Dead, but also Road to Purgatory.

About that. Everybody at the table had done their homework – the night before, Barb and I re-watched Junior Bonner, a charming character study about rodeo life that is quite unlike anything else Peckinpah ever did; and the Rosebrooks watched Road to Perdition. Everybody had good things to say about both films. Kristina, not a regular consumer of R-rated fare, liked Perdition but the violence was a little extreme for her (she better stick with Junior Bonner for her Peckinpah fare!). I brought along (to have them signed) Junior Bonner on Blu-ray and DVDs of The Yellow Rose (complete series), I Will Fight No More Forever, and the collected Gambler TV movies. Barb and I signed an Antiques that Stuart had brought along, and Jeb gave me generously signed copies of three books of his, two of which are in the ongoing trilogy.

Now this is fun. I signed Road to Purgatory to Jeb; he signed his novel Purgatory Road to me. Great minds.

Comes the surprise ending. Stuart had asked to borrow one of my laser disc players because he had a Japanese laser disc of Junior Bonner that he wanted to screen. He has, for some time, been trying to find the original version of Junior Bonner with the song “Arizona Morning” over the opening credits. But the home video release in the United States has (as sometimes happens with such releases) a different song substituted over the opening. If you go to the Amazon reviews of Junior Bonner, you’ll find many fans of the film complaining about the home video release not including the real opening song.

Well, I have three laser disc players, so I just gave one of them to Stuart. He was happy to have it, though neither of us were optimistic about the chances of the Japanese version being the original cut.

The next morning, the Christmas miracle: the Japanese laser disc had the original version with the real opening credits song! Jeb Rosebrook hadn’t heard it for years, and listened to it on the laser disc at least twice. And Stuart was delighted, a Holy Grail found, and that’s the minor but major Christmas miracle.

Another is that Stuart delivered to me an advance copy of the February issue of True West with my back-of-the-book interview. It is perhaps the best single piece on me I’ve ever read. Stuart did a masterful job of distilling and arranging quotes from me into something coherent and informative, from a several hour rambling conversation with me and a few e-mail answers to follow-up questions.

Watch for that issue! Its cover has Dennis Quaid as Doc Holliday in the underrated film, Wyatt Earp.

Happy holidays, everybody!

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Looking for a way to spend your Amazon gift cards? Check out Skyboat Media, which has just released the audio of Quarry’s Climax (I’ll talk more about this terrific release soon).

Here’s info about Back Issue #102, which has a wonderful article about Wild Dog. I’ll talk about this more in an upcoming update.

And here’s a nice write-up about Otto Penzler’s Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, which includes my “A Wreath for Marley,” probably my favorite of all my short stories.

M.A.C.

Movies Are Your Best Entertainment!

December 19th, 2017 by Max Allan Collins

Here’s a video I did to promote the prose Perdition saga in the great new Brash Books editions. If you don’t have them, what are you waiting for? A good use for your Amazon gift cards.

And now for Christmas, I thought I would share more opinions about movies with you, all wrapped in a big red bow. You’re welcome.

My son Nate has mentioned frequently my demented taste in film (some of which he shares). When I’m gone, he threatens to mount a web site where every day he will grab one DVD or Blu-Ray or maybe even laser disc at random, and review it. Might be The Big Combo or it could be The Invisible Ghost with Bela Lugosi (both were directed by Joseph Lewis, after all).

To demonstrate what he is talking about, here some movies I’ve watched on home video lately. These include a few movies I saw as awards screeners that I receive as a WGA member. Most I bought. Also, a few theatrical releases are tagged on at the end. All are mini-reviews.

Dolores Claiborne (1995) – really good Stephen King movie with no supernatural aspect, stylishly directed by Taylor Hackford. Great character study and sorta mystery starring Kathy Bates and Jennifer Jason Leigh (of Road to Perdition fame).

Death Rides a Horse (1967) – one of my two favorite non-Leone Lee Van Cleef Italian westerns (the other is The Big Gundown). With John Phillip Law as Clint Eastwood. A new, slightly longer Blu-Ray from Kino. Saw it in the theater twice.

T-Men (1947) – excellent noir directed by Anthony Mann about undercover fed Dennis O’Keefe. O’Keefe is way underrated. Black-and-white cinematography by genius John Alton (I, the Jury). Starts with a stilted intro by Elmer Irey, one of the guys who took credit for taking Capone down and dissed Eliot Ness. See him brought to earth next year in Scarface & the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness & the Battle for Chicago.

The Laughing Policeman (1973) – interesting if dreary police procedural with Walter Matthau in a mostly humorless portrayal and Bruce Dern in a rare heroic role, though he’s casually sexist and sadistic, anyway. From a nordic noir novel. 1973 is starting to feel like a long time ago.

Battle Cry (1955) – wonderful Hollywood-ized Raoul Walsh-directed adaptation of the forgotten Leon Uris bestseller. Great soap opera of men training where my dad did in San Diego; an incredible cast – Aldo Ray, Tab Hunter, Anne Francis James Whitmore, Anne Francis, Van Heflin, Dorothy Malone…did I mention Anne Francis? L.Q. Jones appears under his real name playing a character called L.Q. Jones, which he then took as his stage name. Tons of familiar male actors making early appearances. Final half hour of battle finally arrives and is compelling.

Annie Get Your Gun (1957) – from VAI, a Blu-Ray of Mary Martin and John Raitt in a TV “spectacular” of the famous Broadway show. Great performances from the stars and lots of fun. Native American stuff and male/female interaction that will amuse you, especially if a humorless gal is in the room watchin’ with you. Assuming you survive.

Thieves’ Highway (1949) – gritty noir about trucking written by A.I. Bezzerides (Kiss Me Deadly!) from his novel, Thieves’ Market. Excellent villain performance from Lee J. Cobb, striking female lead in Valentina Cortese, and Richard Conte fine as a nice guy who is dumb enough to make you talk back to the screen. Hey, everybody in the sleazy bar! Look at all the money I just got! Director Jules Dassin tells us how much he hates capitalism, right before he packs his bags and heads overseas.

Since You Went Away (1944) – surprisingly effective home front soaper from producer/scripter David O. Selznick, directed by John Cromwell. Teenage Shirley Temple (disturbingly appealing – I’m pretty sure Roy Moore has this one on his fave flicks list) and Jennifer Jones convincingly go from kids to young women while Claudette Colbert reminds us why she was a movie star. Moving and generally unmanipulative for this kind of thing. Great cast also includes Joseph Cotten, Monty Wooley, Robert Walker, Lionel Barrymore and Guy Madison. A Christmas movie, by the way, though that doesn’t come in till the last act.

And now some new things….

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – this is an excellent showcase for both Frances McDormand and especially Sam Rockwell, with nice work from Woody Harrelson, too. The movie is challenging because it keeps shifting, challenging your thinking and assumptions, with none of its characters perfect (except perhaps Harrelson’s) and the resolution of its crime story elusive. Lovely writing and direction from Martin McDonagh. One of the two or three best of the year, topped only by Wind River.

The Post – boy, what a disappointing Mr. Show movie! Though they appear in a number of scenes together, David Cross and Bob Odenkirk just never get truly funny. And the story is quite unbelievable – a crooked United States President who tries to stifle and belittle freedom of the press? Some story ideas, even in a comedy, are too outlandish to pull off – just not funny! Supporting players Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep hog the screen from stars Cross and Odenkirk.

I, Tonya – good, quirky docudrama about the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan incident that ignited interest in women’s competition ice skating. Well done, but star Margot Robbie, though very good, is miscast as Tonya, whose petite figure, not quite pretty face, and white trash aura call for a physically smaller, less overtly attractive, less obviously smart actress. Worth seeing.

Star Wars – The Last Jedi. I am thrilled for Mark Hamill, who knocks it out of the park with a genuine star performance. At its best, this is a wonderful movie and audiences will likely love it, and they should. But it’s way too long and overstuffed with very usual Star Wars plot shenanigans, plus a weak performance or two (Laura Dern, anyone?). But Luke Skywalker shines. This series was launched as The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, you know.

So – these were all viewed over a couple of weeks. That’s how we spend our evenings and the occasional at-the-actual-movies afternoon. This is relaxation in Iowa. If you’re nice to me, I won’t do this to you again.

* * *

Bill Morris says Quarry’s Climax is one of the best books of the year – and he’s right. Read here to find me on a list with Joan Didion.

Here’s a nifty little piece about Quarry’s War issue #1.

M.A.C.

aug 19, 2003 visitors since August 19, 2003.