Posts Tagged ‘Appearances’

Comic-Con 2014 Day Four

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

This was family day for us, with only a brief late afternoon foray into the packed convention center’s dealer’s room. On the elevator, I ran into an old friend, artist Jim Steranko, who looks terrific, like something out of one of his own drawings. Very nice man and always extremely gracious to me. On the same elevator, a fan told me how much he loved ROAD TO PERDITION the graphic novel and preferred it to the film – not a bad way to start the day. Barb, Nate, Abby and I spent most of the morning in and around the Marriott pool, before heading to Old Town for Mexican food at Casa Guadalajara and some fun touristy shopping. Then the con for just a little while, before going to a movie at Horton Plaza – unfortunately, the theater’s air conditioning was on the fritz and it was more like a sauna. The film, A MOST WANTED MAN, featured a dramatic performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman (one of his last), but was perhaps too leisurely and less twisty than you’d expect from John LeCarre source material. Tomorrow is our last full day here, with a business breakfast tomorrow with Titan before going over to the con, where I have a 1 pm signing at the Hermes Booth (#1821), signing till at least 2 pm. Officially it’s for the MIKE HAMMER COMIC STRIP book, but if you’re at the con, bring anything of mine around for inscription.

Comic Con 2014

Comic Con 2014

Comic Con 2014

Comic Con 2014

San Diego Comic Con & Goodbye, Maverick

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

For any of you attending San Diego Comic Con, here is my schedule:

6 to 7 PM, Friday July 25, Room 23ABC: International Association of Media Tie-in Writers: Scribe Awards panel. We’ll be presenting the awards (“So Long Chief” is up for Best Short Story) followed by a panel with lots of top tie-in writers. My only panel appearance this year.

1 PM Sunday July 28 at the Hermes Books booth, signing the MIKE HAMMER comic strip book (which I introduced). This is a tentative time and may change. This is my only scheduled signing and you may bring any books you like for my signature (as long as I wrote them). Duration of signing is open-ended – probably 2:30.

Note, too, that Nate has a panel on Thursday, July 24, at 6:30 PM in Room 26AB. The topic is translation of Japanese into English for manga, games, novels, etc. I’ll be in the audience if you’re looking to track me down. This is always an interesting panel.

I will again be doing daily updates from SDCC with photos and more (starting Thursday morning).

* * *
James Garner

Like most writers who’ve had any sort of success – and this seems to apply particularly to mystery writers – I get questioned frequently about influences. If you’ve followed these updates or seen me on a convention panel or maybe just chatted with me, you know the list: Hammett, Cain, Chandler, Spillane, and a bunch of others. Writers all.

And I sometimes mention – as do such contemporaries of mine as Bob Randisi, Ed Gorman and Loren Estleman – the impact that series television had on me as a writer. Not every writer is secure enough to admit being influenced by what we used to call the boob tube (I always hear Edith Prickley saying that). But those of us who grew up in that wave of TV private eyes in late fifties were probably as influenced by such shows as Peter Gunn, 77 Sunset Strip, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Perry Mason and Johnny Staccato (among others) as we were Hammett, Chandler and Spillane.

More often (though still relatively seldom) you’ll hear a mystery writer admit to having been influenced by filmmakers. I frequently mention directors Alfred Hitchcock and Joseph H. Lewis, and such movies as Kiss Me Deadly and Chinatown. Add Vertigo to those last two and I would challenge you to find many novels that stack up, even by the masters.

But it’s rare that any writers think to mention the influence actors have had on their fiction. I know that Italian western-era Lee Van Cleef influenced my Nolan series, for example, and Bogart is someone that writers sometimes aren’t embarrassed to cite as influential on their work. Not often, but it happens.

For me, the passing of James Garner – a man I never met and never had contact with – reminded me how big an influence this actor was on my life and my work. Before the TV private eye fad, there was the western craze, and discovering Maverick at a very young age shaped me in a way that rivals any parent or mentor. Now of course Roy Huggins had a lot to do with that, as the creator and frequent writer on the series, but it was Garner who brought life to the character, whose like we’d never seen.

Bret Maverick was a big, good-looking guy, able to handle himself with his fists and passably well with a gun (despite his claims at being slow on the draw). But he would rather charm or con his way out of a jam than fight or shoot. He was quick with a quip but never seemed smug. He was often put upon, and didn’t always win. Though he was clearly better-looking and more physically fit than your average mortal, he conveyed a mild dismay at the vagaries of human existence. And he did all of this – despite (or in addition to) Roy Huggins – because he was James Garner.

Garner’s comic touch was present in much of his work, and of course Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford were essentially the same character. And no matter what literary influences they may cite, my generation of private-eye writers and the next one, too, were as influenced by The Rockford Files as by Hammett, Chandler or Spillane. The off-kilter private eye writing of Huggins and Stephen Cannell made a perfect fit for Garner’s exasperated everyman approach, but it was just notes on a page without the actor’s musicianship.

Not that Garner couldn’t play it straight – he was, in my opinion, the screen’s best Wyatt Earp in Hour of the Gun, and as early as The Children’s Hour and as late as The Notebook he did a fine job minus his humorous touch. But it’s Maverick and Rockford – and the scrounger in The Great Escape, the less-than-brave hero of Americanization of Emily, and his underrated Marlowe – that we will think of when Garner’s name is mentioned or his face appears like a friendly ghost in our popular culture.

Garner’s attempts to resurrect Maverick were never very successful – Young Maverick a disaster, Bret Maverick merely passable, though his participation in the Mel Gibson Maverick film was on target. I was fortunate to get to write the movie tie-in novel of that and – despite an atypically mediocre William Goldman script – had great fun paying tribute to my favorite childhood TV show and to the actor I so admired. (If you read my novel and pictured Gibson as Bret Maverick, you weren’t paying attention.)

Like all of us, Garner was a flawed guy, though I would say mildly flawed. Provoked, his easygoing ways flared into a temper and he even punched people out (not frequently) in a way Bret Maverick wouldn’t. He never quite came to terms with how important Roy Huggins had been to the creation of his persona, and essentially fired him off Rockford after one season. The lack of Huggins and/or Cannell on Bret Maverick was probably why it somehow didn’t feel like real Maverick.

Garner had great loyalty to his friends, however, and as a Depression-era blue collar guy who kind of stumbled into acting, he never lost a sense of his luck or seemed to get too big a head. He resented being taken advantage of and took on the Hollywood bigwigs over money numerous times, with no appreciable negative impact on his career. He was that good, and that popular.

When he gave a rare interview, Garner displayed intelligence but no particular wit, and it could be disconcerting to see that famed wry delivery wrapped around bland words. Yet no one could convey humor – from a script – with more wry ease than Jim Garner. Perhaps he was funny at home and on the golf course and so on. Or maybe he was just a great musician who couldn’t write a note of music to save his life.

It doesn’t matter. Not to me. He influenced my work – particularly Nate Heller – as much as any writer or any film director. He was a strong, handsome hero with a twist of humor and a mildly exasperated take on life’s absurdities. I can’t imagine navigating my way through those absurdities, either in life or on the page, without having encountered Bret Maverick at an impressionable age.

Watch something of his this week, would you? I recommend the Maverick episode “Shady Deal at Sunny Acres,” which happens to be the best single episode of series television of all time.

J. Kingston Pierce has a wonderful post on Garner at the Rap Sheet, with links to his definitive (and rare) two-part interview with Bret Maverick himself.

M.A.C.

Davenport Books-A-Million Signing Postponed Until August 9

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

The Davenport, Iowa Books-A-Million signing with Max and Barbara Collins and Matthew Clemens has been postponed until August 9, still at 1 – 3 pm. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to see you all at the new time!

Updated info:

Event: Max Allan Collins, Barbara Collins, and Matthew Clemens signing for Supreme Justice, King of the Weeds, Antiques Con, and more.
Location: Books-A-Million, 4000 E 53rd St, Davenport, IA
Time: August 9, 2014; 1 – 3 PM

Fiddling With Nero

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

[UPDATE: The Davenport, Iowa Books-a-Million signing has been postponed to August 9, 1 – 3 pm.]

First things first: Barb, Matt Clemens and I are doing a rare triple signing this coming Saturday (July 5) at the Books-a-Million at 4000 E 53rd Street in Davenport, Iowa. From 1 pm to 3. We’ll be signing, among other things, SUPREME JUSTICE, KING OF THE WEEDS and ANTIQUES CON.

Speaking of SUPREME JUSTICE, it goes officially on sale today after its month-long promotion on Amazon Prime for Kindle Readers. For the first time, real books (you know, with paper and everything) are available of this title. By the time you read this, we should be zeroing in on 800 reviews. I have never had anything reviewed so many times before, and I may comment at a later date about some interesting trends among the Amazon reader-reviewers.

The other big news is that – surprising the hell out of me – ASK NOT has been nominated for the Nero Award. Check out the full list of nominees here.

I am thrilled to pieces for a lot of reasons. First, I felt ASK NOT deserved award recognition and both the Edgars and the Shamuses ignored the final book in the JFK Trilogy. Second, this is one of two awards I really, really want to win (I still crave an Edgar, because…well, because I deserve one after forty-plus years of this).

My reasons for wanting a Nero are unique to that award. The major reason, obviously, is that it represents Rex Stout and his great detectives, Nero and Archie, and Stout is on my very short list of favorite mystery writers. (Frankly, I figured the Stout-like SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT might snag a Nero nod, and that ASK NOT would likely get Shamus-nominated. They switched it up on me.)

I think there’s a good deal of Archie Goodwin in Nate Heller – who is kind of a mix of Marlowe, Hammer, Spade and the aforementioned – but never expected to have a Heller nominated. Why? Thanks for asking. I’ll tell you, and I’ll tell you also not only why I won’t win, but why it’s a small miracle that I was nominated.

The nominees are supposed to be “in the tradition of the Nero Wolfe series.” Here, prominent among the guidelines, is this: Contains no overt sex or violence. Goddamnit, stop laughing!

Anyone who has ever read a Nate Heller novel knows why I never expected a Heller to be nominated for a much-coveted (by me) Nero. Anyone who has read ASK NOT knows that there’s plenty of overt sex and no small amount of violence. We had a Barbara Allan ANTIQUES nominated a few years back, and I thought that was my only shot.

I’ve always resented that guideline, by the way, because there’s plenty of sex and violence in Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories. Or does the Wolfe Pack think Archie and Lily Rowan spend their overnights playing Parcheesi? As for violence, have they ever read THE GOLDEN SPIDERS or THE BLACK MOUNTAIN? Or any number of others? Pfui.

But maybe two or three explicit scenes with Nate Heller boffing a stripper doesn’t qualify as overt sex any more. Times have changed, after all. Maybe smoking cigarettes waiting for a guy you’re asphyxiating isn’t considered all that violent, these days. Hope so.

Still, I would love to win that thing, for a very sincere if shallow reason – it’s the most beautiful award out there. A bust of Nero Wolfe!

And that’s no flummery.

* * *

Reviews for SUPREME JUSTICE are beginning to sprout like mushrooms (which is better than mushrooming like sprouts) on the Net. Like this nice one. [Note from Nate: With a giveaway contest!]

Some reviews are less than SUPREME but still appreciated and not negative…

…and this one falls into that category, too.

Finally, here’s a short but sweet (if anything about this novel could be said to be sweet) review of THE WRONG QUARRY.

M.A.C.