Posts Tagged ‘Appearances’

Prime Eliot Ness! And a Fond Farewell

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

I am pleased to announce that my filmed version of the play Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life is now available in HD on Amazon Prime, and included as part of your membership. Here’s a link so you can watch it at your leisure, and I hope you take time to give it a nice rating (as in five star). [Note from Nate: For non-Prime members, rental is $2.99 and you can own the digital HD for $9.99]

As you may recall, the film is a one-man show with my late friend Michael Cornelison bringing Ness back to life. It was made possible by a grant from Humanities Iowa, several airings by Iowa PBS, and a lot of hard work by my buddy Phil Dingeldein and myself (and many others).

This is very gratifying, and of course is the work that led directly to the current non-fiction book, Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, & the Battle for Chicago by A. Brad Schwartz and me.

Coincidentally, I got this news while I was in Las Vegas with Brad making two appearances in support of our book at the Mob Museum. The museum itself is a terrific facility, and those who run it are outstanding. I was blown away by how much of what is on display relates to various things I’ve written, from Dick Tracy to the Nathan Heller saga and the four Eliot Ness in Cleveland novels. A wall of photos and descriptions of organized crime killings was virtually a greatest hits of my literary output (Willie Bioff, Mad Sam Destefano, etc.). I will include some highlights by way of photos, including my co-author and me in front of the actual St. Valentine’s Day Massacre wall as well as with the real machine guns used in that, uh, celebration. More photos may follow.

Because our appearance was in conjunction with the 90th anniversary of the massacre, and the seventh anniversary of the Mob Museum opening, the attendance reached record proportions. Both of our appearances were well-attended, as were book signings in the Mob Museum gift shop.

What’s interesting to me is how attitudes in Vegas have shifted on the mob influence that built the modern “sin city.” Back in the ‘80s, researching Neon Mirage – the Nate Heller novel about Ben “Bugsy” Siegel and Vegas – I encountered some resistance to my research into what was then seen by many as an embarrassing aspect of local history. That has definitely changed, as Vegas embraces its colorful past.

Brad did an excellent job, utilizing power point presentations (Baby Boomers – that’s “slide show” to you) and I was frankly not at my best at the first presentation, very tired from travel and a long day. The subsequent presentation, however, found me back on my game and Brad just as good as before. If we get a link to the video of it that the Museum made, I’ll provide it in the next few weeks.

Interestingly, nobody asked me a single question about CSI, which of course was set in Vegas, with my five years as its licensing writer (novels, video games, jigsaw puzzles, graphic novels, often with Matt Clemens) not rating a single inquiry. CSI seems to have retreated into the past, at least the Las Vegas past.

All in all, it was a great trip, and there’s a reasonable possibility we’ll be asked back next year to talk about The Untouchable and the Butcher (the sequel to Scarface and the Untouchable, currently in progress) and the new Nate Heller (Do No Harm, the Sam Sheppard murder case, due out in about a year).

* * *

My fellow classmates at Muscatine High School will be saddened to learn of the death of Steve Kochneff, a beloved figure in our collective past and one of my best friends from those years. As had been the case with Jon McCrea (who became the partial basis for Quarry), Steve was someone I stayed in touch with over the years. He spent much of his life in L.A., pursuing the Hollywood dream, and he and I and Barb often got together there, to catch up, meeting usually at the great deli restaurant, Cantor’s.

At MHS, Steve was a genial madman, an eccentric with a unique comic wit, very popular and known for his creativity and his athletic ability. His father had been a much-loved and successful basketball coach, and Steve – who was tall and lanky – was a center on our MHS team, and excelled in that role.

But Steve also was known for mounting crazy comic skits. He and I were collaborators on these. He would come to my house and we’d hole up in my room with me at the typewriter and Steve pacing and throwing around ideas. This was very much like the old Hollywood cliche, short only of Steve puffing on a cigar. At the height of the James Bond craze, we did a Goldfinger take-off skit at a pep rally about a villain called Purple-and-Gold-Finger (purple and gold being our school colors – why the villain bore the school colors is lost to history and my fading memory). The kids loved it.

I was always a little jealous of Steve’s popularity around the school, since we were collaborators and he got the credit, or anyway the love. I was too intense and needy, and Steve was just a big guy with a great laugh and a wide smile, and all that love came pouring in, unbidden. As with so many high school stars, those days were probably the best of his life. In years to come he would be jealous, in a very sweet and even supportive way, of the success I’d achieved in the arts, staying home in Iowa when he had made the Hollywood trek.

I have talked about how I wrote novels in high school and tried to sell them – writing all summer, marketing all year (unsuccessfully), and my career is based on that enthusiastic early obsessive behavior. Only Steve Kochneff was capable of topping me. He wrote a Laugh-In script a year or so after graduation and drove out to Hollywood to deliver it. My memory is fuzzy on this, but I believe he eventually did do some work on the show.

Over the years he had a lot of projects and many were interesting, and I believe some were stolen from him. He created potential shows, with scripts, for a comedy about female wrestlers, a cop show about a motorcycle-riding Hispanic female detective, and an ambitious film script about a cloning of Princess Diana. And much more. His biggest success, perhaps, was his pioneering production company shooting videos of high-ticket homes in Beverly Hills, Bel Air and other exclusive sections.

We talked a number of times about collaborating, and I offered several times to get involved with projects. But he always preferred to go his own way – to talk to me and get input, but make his own mark. Like many talented people in Hollywood, he came close. So close.

He came back to Muscatine from time to time and stayed with us at least once that I can recall. I know he envied my luck in having Barbara as a wife, so beautiful, so supportive, so talented herself. He knew I had really struck gold there, that this was an element that he wished he had in his life. I know he had close relationships with various women in Southern California and also, I think, in Arizona. But he never shared details with me.

I had a phone call from him a few months ago and it was a warm exchange, as always. I gave him a bad time for not coming to the MHS 50th class reunion, and he revealed to me that he was embarrassed to attend. He thought we all knew that he’d gone to prison for a while, apparently on a trumped-up, non-violent charge. But we hadn’t heard, and when he told me – rather haltingly – I said I was in the friendship business, not the judgement one. Typically, he was full of enthusiasm to write a movie script or TV pilot based on his experiences inside. Like any real writer would, Steve viewed incarceration primarily as an opportunity to do research.

Listen, I loved the guy. It broke my heart to learn he had died January 2 in a psychiatric hospital. But I am relieved that his search for fame and success is finally over, because I suspect as the years passed that effort grew only more frustrating and finally painful. I want to assure you that our phone conversation, perhaps two months before he passed, was filled with laughter.

I can hear that laugh right now. One of those distinctive laughs, a combination of glee and embarrassment.

He signed himself Starko, and I didn’t even get into what a terrific artist – in particular cartoonist – he was.

So long, Steve. Damnit. So long.

* * *

Yes, it’s yet another “Films You Didn’t Know Came from Comic Books” write-up in which Road to Perdition is included.

M.A.C.

Untouchable Vegas!

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

My co-author, Brad Schwartz, and I are making two personal appearances at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada, next week.

First, we’ll be doing a talk about Scarface and the Untouchable with an emphasis on St. Valentine’s Day. Not surprisingly, that appearance will be February 14 at 7 pm. Here are the details:

Wiseguy Speaker Series and Book Signing: “Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness and the Battle for Chicago.”

TIME: 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., with a book signing to follow.
LOCATION: Courtroom on the second floor. Seating is on a first come, first served basis with a maximum occupancy of 120 guests.
DESCRIPTION: Over the decades, the stories of mobster Al Capone and lawman Eliot Ness have been subjected to literacy license and Hollywood exaggeration. This new book from authors Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz peels back the layers of these myths to reveal a deeper narrative of these iconic figures. The event will conclude with a book signing.

Second, on Saturday, Feb. 16, I will be presenting a look at the Road to Perdition in particular as well as at my Nathan Heller novels, in particular Neon Mirage, with its Vegas basis. Interviewing me will be none other than distinguished historian…A. Brad Schwartz! How did we land him? Anyway, here’s the details.

The Road to Perdition
DATE: Saturday, Feb. 16
TIME: 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. with a book signing to follow.
LOCATION: Courtroom on the second floor.
COST: Free
DESCRIPTION: In this special discussion, “Road to Perdition” author Max Allan Collins will be interviewed by fellow author A. Brad Schwartz (“Scarface and the Untouchable”) about the fascinating story behind his acclaimed novel. Set in Chicago during the Great Depression, the graphic novel, “Road to Perdition” tells the story of Michael Sullivan, a Mob enforcer on the hunt for revenge after a failed hit.
Attend and learn about:
The real-life Mob inspiration behind the character of Michael Sullivan.
The Academy Award-winning film adaptation starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law.
Collins’ other novel, “Neon Mirage,” which delves into early Las Vegas and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.

The Mob Museum will have other events related to their own seventh anniversary. Here’s a cool article about that and about the Massacre.

Hope to see you folks from the Vegas area there, and any vacationers, too!

* * *

An excellent crime film, Cold Pursuit, is in theaters now. It’s not the typical Liam Neeson revenge thriller that it might seem to be. Reviews are mixed, but the bad ones seem obsessed with Neeson discussing his own irrational rage as a young man and how destructive that was. More about that later.

The film is a black comedy based on another good film, In Order of Disappearance (2014), starring Stellan Skarsgaard, who played the Broker in the never-aired Quarry pilot (how I wish he’d been retained, though his replacement wasn’t bad). Though some nice, mostly American-related touches are added, this is one of the most faithful remakes I’ve ever seen, probably because the same director did both: Hans Petter Moland. New screenwriter Frank Baldwin, however, made some interesting adjustments to the new setting, in particular substituting Native American drug-dealing ring for Serbian gangsters.

As for the Neeson controversy, it’s a fine example of how the left is going to screw up their anti-Trump efforts. I am a liberal, as you probably know, a somewhat left of center one who is probably more an independent but who so often votes Democrat, it’s a moot point. My son thinks I am not nearly progressive enough, but then he’s 35 and I’m 70, and that means I’ve suffered through more reality than he has.

So Neeson, discussing revenge, tells an interviewer that after a friend was raped by an African American, he was filled with rage and wanted to go out and thrash the first “black bastard” that gave him trouble. He spoke of this as a bad thing, something that demonstrated how stupid revenge can be, particularly racially oriented revenge, and how dumb he had been as a troubled young man before he grew older and wiser and came to his senses.

Of course the far left has seized upon his racial comments out of context and made Neeson into a racist. No question in this climate that many really shitty things are going down – I mean, is there any politician in Virginia who didn’t think blackface was funny and okay back in the 1980s? Uh, I was there for the ‘80s, and it wasn’t.

But must we work so hard to ruin people’s careers? Is it really surprising Al Franken put his arm around women who wanted their pictures taken with him while he shared his goofy grin with the camera?

Republicans don’t apologize. That’s not an attribute, but it works better than attacking each other when somebody makes a slip or just says something you don’t agree with. Nuance, people.

Just wait. The Democrats will find a way to blow this. The left will somehow manage to keep Trump in the White House. What the hell – every Liam Neeson movie needs a bad guy.

M.A.C.

The Max and Brad Show Goes to Chicago

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

My co-author, Brad A. Schwartz, and I will be appearing at the American Writers Museum in Chicago next Monday evening, from 6:30 till 8:30. The address is 180 N. Michigan Avenue, and we will give an informal talk and answer audience questions as well as sign (and, I hope, sell) copies of Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago. For more info go here.

* * *

Paperback:
E-Book:Amazon

You can now advance order the graphic novel version of Mike Hammer: The Night I Died from Amazon. [Note from Nate: I’m also seeing pre-order pages at the usual suspects, and the collection is also available digitally through ComiXology/Kindle. Links are below the cover.]

You may be able to find this at your nearest Barnes & Noble store, but based on Quarry’s War, it looks like they only stock a copy or two. So an Internet order might be worth your trouble.

This is, of course, the collected version of the serialized comic book version that appear in four separate issues not long ago.

* * *

Barb and I have seen three worthwhile movies that you might also enjoy.

Hunter Killer, directed by Donovan Marsh from a screenplay by Arne Schmidt and Jamie Moss (adapted from a novel), is frankly something we settled on when the movie we went out to see wasn’t available yet. We took a chance on this one and it’s a very traditional (and very good) submarine movie crossed with a commando raid flick. The cast is strong – Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common (a rapper I assume), Toby Stephens, Linda Cardellini, and in what must be his last role, the great Michael Nyqvist. It’s one of those Tom Clancy-like affairs that are believable enough due to the research to sell you on the ridiculous story itself.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a continuation of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series based on one of the sequels not written by Stieg Larsson, whose death stalled what had been projected as an ongoing series, with a new writer hired to take over when materials Larsson left behind became ensnared in estate battles. The reviews have been fairly terrible, but this is a state-of-the-art action film with Claire Foyle excellent as Lisbeth Salander, for whom a resonant back story is created. The excellent score by Roque Baños and cinematography by Pedro Luque serve director/co-screenwriter Fede Alvarez well in creating a 21st Century James Bond feel. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 44%, which is nonsense. Any suspense/action/espionage fan will enjoy this, and if the reviewers manage to sink this reboot, they should be ashamed.

The weakest – but still worthwhile – of the three films we saw recently is Overlord, which has an 81% score from Rotten Tomatoes, reflecting how poor movie criticism has become in this country. We saw it on Veteran’s Day, which got some dark laughter out of us, because this is a movie about how on D-Day a little ragtag group of GIs made the invasion possible by blowing up the place where a mad Nazi doctor (insane, not pissed) was creating super-soldiers by shooting up French villagers with super-serum. I can always have a good time watching Nazi soldiers get shot up (by bullets), and the GIs were well-portrayed. Beginning with the horror of war and segueing into horror film territory is something I can get behind, and the filmmakers largely pull it off. But there are problems of tone here. The unpleasantness of the violence could have used a touch of dark humor. Evil Dead minus humor is just a gore fest, after all. While I liked this movie with reservations, I came away with the opinion that Rotten Tomatoes has become a worthless resource. They give Hunter Killer a 38% Fresh score, by the way.

M.A.C.

Books, Podcasts…and an Imminent Baby

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

We are on pins and needles (or as the British invasion’s Searchers say, “needles and pins”) waiting for word of the imminent birth of our grandchild, a girl, to son Nathan and our wonderful daughter-in-law, Abby. Our grandson Sam will shortly be deposed from his throne, but I trust he will remain sufficiently worshiped (he will be by us, anyway).

We will keep you posted.

A bunch of Kindle deals are available right now. Until the end of the month, for 99 cents each, you can get the e-books of

Damned in Paradise (Purchase link: )
True Detective
Chicago Lightning
Kill Your Darlings
Nice Weekend for a Murder
The Baby Blue Rip-Off
No Cure for Death
Midnight Haul
Shroud for Aquarius

And at Kobo, through 9/24, you can get the first Antiques mystery as an e-book – Antiques Roadkill – for 99 cents.

I am going to be appearing at the Iowa City Book Festival Oct. 1 – 7 in, not surprisingly, Iowa City. Barb will be along and we’ll both be signing. My specific event is Saturday, Oct. 6, 2:30 p.m. at the Iowa City Public Library, meeting room A. (Map)

A very nice write-up about Nate Heller, and specifically True Detective, appears at the excellent Black Gate site. It’s a pleasure to know a book I wrote thirty-five years ago (my son Nate’s age) is still enjoyed and even lauded today. I love writing the Heller novels, difficult though they are to do, and hope I can stay on the planet long enough to do three or four more. Anyway, here is the article, with a very nice intro and after word (one point deducted for spelling my middle name “Allen”).

Here’s where you can hear the Life Elsewhere interview with Brad Schwartz and me. Part 1 and Part 2. [Note from Nate: I had a little trouble finding where to listen — try this page and look for the 9/9 and 9/16 shows in the drop-down menu.]

Another two-part podcast with Brad and me is here.

Here’s a podcast about Ms. Tree that I haven’t listened to yet.

Brad and I did a very cool half-hour interview at Anderson’s Bookstore in Naperville, Illinois, not long ago, with excellent interviewer Becky Anderson.

There’s also a “Lightning Round” with Becky, worth a look/listen.

M.A.C.