Posts Tagged ‘Appearances’

Report from Killer Nashville

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

Barb and I were guests at Killer Nashville, which was actually held in Franklin, Tennessee, at an Embassy Suites, which was an excellent venue for a conference.

And Killer Nashville – our first time there – is a conference, not a convention, although elements of that are present. Specifically, it’s a writer’s conference. When you do a panel, attendees are frequently taking notes, and the questions from the audience are not from fans but from aspiring writers hoping to learn.

While there are many pros presents – J.A. Jance was the big name – many are indie authors, including a good number of self-published ones. And the major award (of many) is given to the best unpublished novel manuscript submitted. The other awards, this time anyway, went almost exclusively to small press and self-published titles. This conference is designed to nurture new authors and there’s a palpable sense of community, aided and abetted by that legendary Southern hospitality.

Host and conference creator, Clay Stafford, is a gentle and welcoming presence, seemingly everywhere. As one of three guests of honor, I was interviewed for the entire conference crowd after a luncheon on Saturday. Clay won me over by bringing two brimming boxes of my books, including an edition of Saving Private Ryan that I didn’t know existed. He was well-prepared for the interview and I was very loose and, frankly, pretty damn funny.

Clay Stafford, right, interviews M.A.C., left.

The panels Barb and I did – including a collaboration one, which was a dry run of sorts for a panel we’ll be doing at the Toronto Bouchercon – were well-handled by the moderators, and mostly well-attended. The better attended panels were oriented toward writing – i.e., how to create a scene – and reflected the interests of the newcomers and aspiring writers attending.

Barb and I don’t do very many conventions – we try to do Bouchercon, as a sort of one-stop-shopping affair where readers from all over the country can get to us, and until lately we’ve regularly done San Diego Comic Con, when health issues got in the way. But this con/conference was fun and welcoming, and we’d certainly recommend it as an event that is designed less for fans and more for writers who are still learning their craft.

I was presented with a very nice award, the Killer Nashville “John Seigenthaler Legends Award.” The Killer Nashville website describes the award this way:

“The annual Killer Nashville John Seigenthaler Legends Award™ is bestowed upon an individual within the publishing industry who, like its namesake, has devoted his or her life to championing First Amendment Rights, advocating for social change, equality, and fairness, or otherwise defending issues of freedom. Recipients of this award have displayed a steadfast commitment to these ideals, and to mentoring the next generation of authors. This is not a lifetime achievement award, as we expect much more of these individuals in years to come.”

Seigenthaler was a distinguished journalist and activist with ties to Robert Kennedy. That resonates with me because my Writers Workshop mentor, Richard Yates, was a RFK speechwriter.

Thank you, Killer Nashville.

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Crusin’ will appear in a charming outdoor setting at Ardon Creek Winery this coming Friday, September 1, from 6 till 9. For info go to, and check under events (for directions look under “contact us”).

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The forthcoming graphic novel from Hard Case Crime Comics, Quarry’s War – which will be serialized as four comic books before being collected – has received a lot of play on the Net…dozens of hits! Here’s a good example, which includes looks at some of the covers of the comics.

Very nice Carnal Hours review here (a reprint but worth looking at).

Jeff Pierce’s wonderful site, Killer Covers, showcases The First Quarry’s great cover.

There is a fairly nice mention of Quarry’s Climax toward the end of this column from the UK’s Crime Time. But I think the suggestion that I’m doing homage as opposed to real hardboiled or noir is b.s. I am continuing a series I began in 1971, when Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, Mickey Spillane and Ross Macdonald were still writing, and Erle Stanley Gardner was still publishing when he died the year before. If you characterize me as a modern-day imitator of a distant past, I would respectfully remind you that I am the distant effing past…although no one in the distant past would have been able to be as sexually frank and graphically violent as Quarry’s Climax, because I am also the current effing present. I’ll leave the future to the rest of you.


Goodbye, Jerry; Hello, Nashville

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

I already did a brief post on Facebook about the passing of Jerry Lewis. I predicted that along with the tributes there would lots of snark, as some people feel the right moment to dis somebody is right after that person dies.

I understand Lewis was both a complicated man and an inconsistent artist. My late friend Bruce Peters used to say, “The only thing funnier than Jerry Lewis at his best is Jerry Lewis at his worst.” And there’s some truth in that. He could be such a putz when he got in self-trained intellectual mode on talk shows (Martin Short, a fellow Lewis lover, could nail that perfectly). He could be notoriously thin-skinned with interviewers and he indulged in outrageously politically incorrect humor right to the end – Barb, Nate, Abby and I saw him in St. Louis not long ago, and he told an Asian joke that was in terrible taste (but I laughed at it, because at 69 I already understand what it is to be of another era and feel the urge to make your own generation smile and younger people squirm).

But I wasn’t always 69. Once I was six, and seven, and eight, and all the ages along the way through junior and senior high school, years when at the Uptown Theater in Muscatine, Iowa, I saw every movie Jerry made. I saw many of Dean and Jerry’s movies that way, too, but also saw them tear it up on TV, manic magic as performed by no other comedy team in history. Nobody could make me laugh harder, and I still find Dean and Jerry a perfectly mismatched pair. I remember seeing Pardners and being so relieved that Dean and Jerry were obviously still pals and partners and, despite what we’d been told, would never ever split. Right up till the day Dean Martin died I was hoping for a genuine reunion of the two. They were, as I said elsewhere, the comedy Beatles.

Jerry could be cloyingly sentimental in his films. This made some otherwise interesting movies – Cinderfella, for example – occasionally unbearable. And he had a thing for clowns that misses me entirely. On the other hand, his infamous unreleased The Day the Clown Cried seems pretty good to me, based upon the clips and readings from the script that were assembled a while back, despite its legendary reputation as an embarrassing disaster. A guy who could be as overbearing as Jerry, and who represented show business at its most phony/traditional, made a great target for smug people of my generation who turned on the whole Rat Pack crowd as part of our general anti-Establishment stance.

It was easy for us to forget that Jerry was an anarchic presence in a dull decade, he and Dean perhaps the first sign of the rebellion that was to come, a bridling against the cookie-cutter post-war world that would soon know Brando and James Dean. Like Elvis and Spillane, Jerry Lewis – and in his way, Dino, too – were rebels serving up gleeful chaos even as they let us know that all was not calm beneath the pablum-paved Arthur Godfrey surface of ‘50s America.

And when the sixties kicked in – really kicked in – it was tough on Jerry. He famously considered his screen persona to be eternally nine years old, and this worked for a long, long time, because of his naturally youthful looks. But when the hippie era asserted its glassy-eyed self, and the sexual revolution changed movies, he started looking like a guy approaching middle age, and his brand of traditional show biz was soon attracting derision from the Baby Boomers who had loved him. He started making some truly dreadful movies with sex farce aspects – Three on a Couch, for example, and Way…Way Out.

And when he took on the Nazis in Which Way to the Front? (not long after Mel Brooks and The Producers), his comic timing seemed oddly off – as a director, his usual mastery of cutting was absent. And yet there are very funny moments toward the end of that generally dire film – Hitler has never been funnier, not even when Dick Shawn was playing him. Jerry’s willingness to do whatever it took to get a laugh would, even in those misjudged circumstances, shine through. Even his comeback comedy, Hardly Working, for all its sketchiness and awkward product placement, had sublime moments of Lewis hysteria, as when a porthole in an art gallery issues gushing water, with Jerry breaking the fourth wall to ask us if we’d seen that, too.

I always watched the telethons selectively. I wanted to see the parts where Jerry himself was performing or interacting with guests. (I saw the Dean Martin reunion, orchestrated by Sinatra, as it happened.) And I sat through Jerry’s excruciating yet strangely thrilling performance of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at least a dozen times.

So, yes, he was not perfect. But I’m here to tell you that he will join the pantheon of great screen comics. He’ll rank with W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, Chaplin, and Keaton. He’s already outdistanced such contenders as Danny Kaye and Red Skelton (meaning no disrespect to either – I am a guy who adores the Ritz Brothers, after all). I hope Abbott and Costello will last, and Bob Hope, too (his pre-1960s comedies and the Road pictures with Crosby remain hugely entertaining). The Stooges seem impervious, which for Baby Boomers is a sweet surprise, though when we’re gone that may not continue. But I don’t think there’s any doubt that the best of Jerry Lewis will endure.

Like what, you ask?

Well, while the Martin & Lewis films don’t always capture the boys at their best, a handful do – Artists and Models (the comic book movie), Sailor Beware, You’re Never Too Young, The Caddy, Living It Up, The Stooge, Hollywood or Bust and Pardners. That’s quite a few, actually.

For Jerry at the top of his game, try The Nutty Professor, The Ladies’ Man, The Bellboy, The Patsy, and The Errand Boy, all of which he directed and co-wrote. His collaborations with Frank Tashlin are mostly worthwhile: It’s Only Money, The Disorderly Orderly, and Who’s Minding the Store among them. And of course there’s The King of Comedy.

Fanatics, like myself, have everything of Jerry’s on DVD and Blu-ray – including things you can only acquire from overseas. I even have bootlegs of the two (terrible) movies he made in France.

Nonetheless, France was right: he was a genius. Not everything I’ve said here is flattering about him, but make no mistake – I loved this man and his work. For probably twenty years I’ve dreaded the day when I would learn of his passing. I knew part of me would die with him.

So I’ll be as cloyingly sentimental as Jerry and say that he won’t be gone as long as his films are with us, including moments like this:

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I am a guest of honor at Killer Nashville this weekend (Aug. 24 -27). Barb will be along, and we’ll be very active, doing scads of panels. It’s our first time at this event.

I’m receiving a life achievement “Legends” award – read about it here.

Here’s where you can get more general info about the conference/convention.

And here are the panels one or both of us are on:

Friday, Aug 25
2:20pm panel: M.A.C. Bad Boys and Girls (Hickory 20)
4:40pm signing: M.A.C.
5pm Author Readings (Birch MM)

Saturday, Aug. 26
12:30pm Road to Perdition interview; M.A.C. (Birch 34)
2pm panel: Barb; How to Write Cozy Mystery Series (Hickory 37)
3pm panel: M.A.C./Barb; Art of Collaboration (Sycamore 43)
5:10pm signing; M.A.C./Barb (Azalea S8)
7pm Awards Dinner (Birch KNA)

Sun. Aug 27
9:50am panel; M.A.C. Writing the Scene (Sycamore 49)
9:50am panel; Barb One Night: Lovers, Minor Characters (Redbud 50)
10:50am panel; Barb That’s Funny (Sycamore 54)

I have been in Nashville twice before. In 1967, to record “Psychedelic Siren” with the Daybreakers. And in 1994, to scout locations for The Expert with director Bill Lustig.

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Take a look at these nice comments about Scar of the Bat, my Eliot Ness/Batman Elseworlds graphic novel, with a suggestion that it should be animated.

This nice look at Road to Perdition is, as usual, based on its being derived from a comics source.

Finally, here’s a nice review of The Pearl Harbor Murders (actually of Dan John Miller’s audio of it) with an overview of the entire “Disaster” series.


Antiques Frame Just Published

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

This week Antiques Frame, the latest “Trash ‘n’ Treasures” mystery by Barb and me (writing as Barbara Allan), goes on sale. There’s also an audio book, which we’ve sampled but haven’t listened to all the way through, though the narrator this time is much more to our liking.

I realize that certain of my readers may not be inclined to pick up a “cozy” mystery, but some reviewers have realized that the series is in part a tongue-in-cheek send-up of that genre, and also that the novels have a certain edge, even if they aren’t Mike Hammer or Nate Heller or Quarry.

This particular novel has special meaning for me – not because it’s my favorite in the series (that might be Antiques Fate, just out in mass market paperback) but because it represented a real breakthrough for me. Antiques Frame was the first book I (co-)wrote after my open-heart surgery and the stroke I had, just for fun, on the operating table. As regular readers here may recall, I woke up in the hospital to a right arm and, to some degree, right side that were as useful as a broken hinge.

At the hospital I had both physical therapy and occupational therapy, and was helped by a number of terrific people in those disciplines. My right side came back within days – I was walking well and able to do the exercises asked of me, from riding stationery bikes to going up and down stairs. But my right hand remained feeble. The idea of typing with it again seemed abstract. The most disheartening thing was that I had lost my signature.

The doctors and therapists assured me I would get my right hand back, and the doctors especially implied the use would just back on its own. Not true. I had to work hard at it, with exercises ranging from rubber band contraptions to just flat out trying to write my name over and over again.

For a writer, the loss of his or her signature is a blow to the ego, to the very idea of identity. I was determined to get it back. But my biggest fear was losing the ability to type with both hands. Fortunately, almost immediately, I had some ability to use the hand – weak as hell, though. At home I soon found that a computer keyboard is sensitive enough that very faint pressure is all that’s required. My typing style is two-fisted, having trained on (and for a long time using) manual typewriters.

So my left hand was typically strong and my right weak as a kitten. This required backing off on my left. I began writing e-mails and this weekly blog. Very soon I was able to type passably well, and the first project I tackled – still spending time with physical and occupational therapy, for several weeks here at home before going to a facility – was my draft of Antiques Frame.

Again, if you’re a regular visitor here you may know how Barb and I operate on these books. We come up with a title and a basic plot, and sometimes plot the books together and sometimes our plotting session has been good enough that Barb can break down the chapters in an outline of sorts herself. She also does character lists and time lines. The book had been plotted, roughly, before my hospital stay.

She writes a rough draft, usually 200 to 250 pages. I then write my draft of 300 to 325 pages, mostly adding jokes and polishing, plus expanding dialogue. This time she wrote a good deal of her draft in my hospital room on a laptop. As the books are humorous mysteries, I’m not sure how she managed that.

When I began working on the book, I discovered that she had (not surprisingly) done a fine job, but (somewhat surprisingly) the humor quotient was typically high. In my diminished state, I hoped I could keep the thing funny, too. Frankly, I was hoping it would just be in English. But the effort went well, and working on a “Barbara Allan” was the perfect way for me to get back up on the writing horse and write/ride.

My right hand came back within a couple of months, pretty much strong as ever. And several more months later, when the galley proofs arrived of Antiques Frame, I swallowed hard and sat down to read them. I was amazed to find out the book was not only in English, but a solid and very funny entry in the series. It’s a reminder that writers live chiefly in their heads – their physical state is something they have to deal with, obviously, but as long as the mental engine is firing on all cylinders, the rest is incidental.

The other thing I learned is how good my wife has gotten at writing, and how generally wonderful a woman she is – actually, I already knew, but the experience of taking my pass on Antiques Frame was sweet confirmation.

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Barb and I are preparing for our NYC trip for the Edgar awards and my receiving the Grand Master award. That’s on Thursday evening. For those of you in the New York area, here’s the line-up for the Wednesday Edgar-week symposium, which includes Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime interviewing me.
Symposium Schedule

Cost: $95 members; $125 non-members – with a $15 retroactive discount for those who join MWA within 30 days after.

8:30 – 8:50: Registration

8:55 – 9:00: Welcome – MWA’s Executive Vice President – Donna Andrews

9:00 – 9:50: Meet the Class of 2017 – Best First Novel Nominees
Moderator: STEFANIE PINTOFF, 2010 Best First Edgar Winner (City on Edge, Bantam)
Panelists: Flynn Berry (2017 Best First Edgar Nominee – Under the Harrow, Penguin Books)
Bill Beverly (2017 Best First Edgar Nominee – Dodgers, Crown Publishing)
Joe Ide (2017 Best First Edgar Nominee – IQ, Little, Brown & Co – Mulholland Books)
Nick Petrie (2017 Best First Edgar Nominee – The Drifter – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Lili Wright (2017 Best First Edgar Nominee – Dancing with the Tiger – Marian Wood/Putnam)
Heather Young (2017 Best First Edgar Nominee – The Lost Girls – William Morrow)

10:00 – 10:50: From the Writer’s Desk, Part 1
Grand Master Max Allan Collins interviewed by Charles Ardai

11:00 – 11:50: Just the Facts – If you’re not writing what you know, you’re writing what you want to know – and today’s savvy reader will send you a note if you get it wrong, How do writers of fiction and nonfiction crime approach research? When do they know they’ve researched enough?
Moderator: LAURIE R. KING, MWA NorCal Chapter President (Murder of Mary Russell – Bantam)
Panelists: Ruth Franklin (2017 Best Critical/Bio Nominee – Shirley Jackson – W.W. Norton)
Laurence Leamer (2017 Best Fact Crime Nominee – The Lynching – William Morrow)
Kate Summerscale (2017 Best Fact Crime Nominee – The Wicked Boy – Penguin Press)
Caroline (Charles) Todd (2017 MHC Award Nominee – The Shattered Tree – William Morrow)
James Ziskin (2017 Best PBO Nominee – Heart of Stone – Seventh Street Books)

11:50 – 1:00 Lunch Break (On Your Own)

1:00 – 1:50: Nursery Noir – Writers of mysteries for young readers may have the toughest audience of all. How do dark stories translate for the teen and tween set? How do adult writers get into the minds – and hearts – of kid readers?
Moderator: LORI RADER-DAY, MWA Midwest Chapter President (The Day I Died – William Morrow)
Panelists: Brent Hartinger (2017 Best Young Adult Nominee – Three Truths and a Lie – Simon Pulse)
April Henry (2017 Best Young Adult Nominee – The Girl I Used to Be – Christy Ottaviano Books)
Sarah Lariviere (2017 Best Juvenile Nominee – The Bad Kid – Simon & Schuster BFYR)
James Ponti (2017 Best Juvenile Nominee – Framed! – Aladdin)
Billy Taylor (2017 Best Young Adult Nominee – Thieving Weasels – Penguin YR – Dial Books)
Susan Vaught (2017 Best Juvenile Nominee – Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry – Paula Wiseman Books)

2:00 – 2:50 Liars Club – Liars, cheats, thieves, murderers – and, sometimes, those are the protagonists. How do writers create characters that keep readers up at night? How do they create empathy in characters who make bad guys look pretty good?
Moderator: JEFFERY DEAVER, 2017 MWA President (The Burial Hour – Grand Central Publishing)
Panelists: Laura Benedict (2017 Best Short Story Nominee – “A Paler Shade of Death” – St. Louis Noir)
Alafair Burke (2017 Best Novel Nominee – The Ex – HarperCollins)
Robert Dugoni (2017 Best PBO Nominee – The 7th Canon – Thomas & Mercer)
Lyndsay Faye (2017 Best Novel Nominee – Jane Steele – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Alison Gaylin (2017 Best Novel Nominee – What Remains of Me – William Morrow)
Martha Hillier (2017 Best TV Episode Nominee – “Dark Road” – Vera)

3:00 – 3:50: #AuthorLife – There’s no one way to be a crime writer. Agent/no agent. Small press/big five. Plotter/pantser forever. How did these authors get into the life of crime – and what advice do they have for aspiring writers taking a stab at mystery?
Moderator: MARK STEVENS, MWA Rocky Mtn Chapter President (Lake of Fire – Midnight Ink)
Panelists: Megan Abbott (2017 Best Short Story Nominee – “Oxford Girl” – Mississippi Noir)
Patricia Abbott (2017 Best PBO Nominee – Shot in Detroit – Polis Books)
Reed Farrel Coleman (2017 Best Novel Nominee – Where it Hurts – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Tyler Dilts (2017 Best PBO Nominee – Come Twilight – Thomas & Mercer)
Adrian McKinty (2017 Best PBO Nominee – Rain Dogs – Seventh Street Books)
Wendy Corsi Staub (2017 MHC Award Nominee – Blue Moon – William Morrow)

4:00 – 4:50: From the Writer’s Desk, Part 2
Grand Master Ellen Hart – Interviewed by Oline Cogdill

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All the books have been mailed out on our “free books” offer. Just about everyone who requested one got one.

The newly published Executive Order has received some nice notices, like this one.

And another one here.

This article includes me as a mystery writer doing some TV scripting.

Finally, and I kid you not (as Jack Paar used to say), here’s a review of the 1985 trade paperback, The Files of Ms. Tree Vol. 1.


LIVE Podcast Tonight

Monday, August 29th, 2016

M.A.C. has a live podcast where he’ll be discussing his recent and upcoming books (and the QUARRY TV show). Check it out live tonight (Monday August 29) at 9 Eastern / 8 Central.

Here’s the Facebook event page: Link

And where to listen (the archived episode will also be later available): Link

You can call in during the show at (347) 633-9609.