Posts Tagged ‘Ask Not’

Bloody House

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
IMPA 2013

In Des Moines over the weekend, Barb and I attended the 22nd annual Iowa Motion Picture Association awards banquet. My screenplay “House of Blood” was nominated for Best Screenplay (Unproduced), and won the Award of Excellence.

The IMPA is an organization I was extremely active in from the mid-90s until maybe five years ago. I am a three-time president, and Barb and I ran the award shows (with me hosting and Barb giving out the awards) for maybe half a dozen years. I was on the IMPA board for ten or twelve years, and this required a monthly drive (about a three-hour one) into Des Moines, which finally wore us down. But I made a lot of friends there, some of whom I got to see at the Saturday night event – we had the fun of sharing a table with screenwriter Shirley Long, the “godmother” of the IMPA, and documentarian Kent Newman, also a multiple past prez of the organization. The evening of course brought to mind my late friend and prized collaborator, Mike Cornelison, who won numerous IMPA awards himself. A number of people spoke to me about Mike. Being on his home turf brings the loss sharply into focus.

The organization has hit some rough patches in recent years, reflecting the film industry in Iowa getting tarnished when an ambitious tax-credit program went belly up in a haze of scandal and buck-passing. I don’t know what really went on, but I do know this multi-million dollar program was run by one man in an OFFICE SPACE-style cubicle at the Department of Economic Development. This was a huge government bungle, and is responsible for me having to seek doing my indie film work in Illiniois and Louisiana (and California, of course). There is talk, among some legislators, of the industry making a comeback in this area, and a new Film Office chair person will be named soon. I am guardedly hopeful.

The “House of Blood” screenplay that won was the feature film version. It now looks like I will be converting the script into a one-hour TV anthology format, bringing it back closer to its original form as a 45-minute Fangoria’s Dreadtime Stories radio play. Serious talk is afoot for both a series, which I’d be heavily involved in, and a slate of four movies, which I have been told would include two M.A.C. properties, possibly with me directing. I’ll keep you informed.

The keynote speakers – very informal and funny – were Darryl and Darryl from Newhart – Tony Papenfuss and John Voldstad. I spoke to John and he was a very sweet guy, and a fan of ROAD TO PERDITION. He was one of the many great comic actors in one of our family’s favorites, STRIPES.

On the way to and from Des Moines, Barb and I listened to the Brilliance audio of THE LONDON BLITZ MURDERS. That novel, which I was quite proud of at the time, received little attention when originally published, and has received some harsh reviews at Amazon and particularly Amazon UK. So I was a little gun shy about listening to it. But I was pleasantly surprised – I think I did just fine, writing a true-crime story set in the UK with Agatha Christie as the detective, even if some of the Brits at Amazon UK think I was about as convincing as Dick Van Dyke in MARY POPPINS. My credibility takes a huge jump thanks to the reader, British actress Anne Flosnik, who does an incredible job. To my ears, she really brought Agatha and the book to life. After hearing her (and Simon Vance on THE HINDENBURG MURDERS), I would be tempted to have all of my books read by actors with English accents. On the other hand, I can’t imagine a better Nate Heller than Dan John Miller. (Unfortunately, Brilliance won’t be doing the forthcoming ASK NOT – another company will be, TBA – but I will certainly recommend Dan.)

If you are a longtime reader of my work, I think you might have a really good time revisiting my novels in audio form. Brilliance has done a fantastic job with the Hellers, the “disaster” novels, the Mallorys (Dan John Miller again), and assorted others (REGENERATION, BOMBSHELL, MIDNIGHT HAUL).

Speaking of Amazon reviews, let me remind readers that a great way to support the writers you enjoy is to write and post a review at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and other sites. A two- or three-line positive review at Amazon, and nice high star rating, takes little time and is most helpful to authors. There are some dumb readers out there, and nasty ones, who do authors damage, and you can help. I speak not just for myself, but for any author whose work you enjoy. Those star ratings are important, because they are averaged. And so often the bad ratings are not for the book, but for perceived bad service, or in my case now and then, a reader angry that ROAD TO PERDITION or CSI: SERIAL turned out to a “comic book.”

End of telethon, although your continued contributions would be appreciated.

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Here’s a nice SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT review from Blogcritics, which got lots of play on the Net.

And another one from BookSteve’s Library. The reviewer has some problems with the front end of the novel, because he’s so familiar with the history already, but gets on board when the mystery kicks in. It’s been interesting to see how many readers really love the front end of the book, with its fairly detailed account of the comic-book witch hunt, and how many others prefer the mystery portion that kicks in half-way. This reviewer falls into a small but distinct category of readers who are a little bored by encountering history they’re already familiar with.

Here’s a very nice and flattering review of the new edition of NO CURE FOR DEATH, from a Kindle site. This was my second novel (well, third if you count MOURN THE LIVING) and it’s a relief to see a reviewer liking it at this late date.

Finally, here’s a terrific review of ANTIQUES CHOP from Bill Crider (himself a helluva writer).

M.A.C.

Go Go Gone

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

As predicted, Barb and I wrapped up the eighth “Trash ‘n’ Treasures” mystery, ANTIQUES A GO GO, last week. It took through Thursday to finish it – I always take a couple of days to go over a manuscript and do a final tweak before sending it off. Still seems strange not to be packaging up an actual manuscript and instead just sending an attachment to an editor.

The book is something of a change of pace, as it takes Brandy and her mother to Manhattan, but I won’t dwell on that book, since the new one – ANTIQUES CHOP – is about to come out. I think CHOP may be my favorite of the series (the new one is too fresh in my mind for any kind of judgment beyond, “Whew! Glad to get that outa here!”). For those of my readers fearful of trying a “cozy,” this one has axe murders in it. So put on a bib and dig in.

I’ve alluded to a Kickstarter project here that would take one of my Dreadtime Stories radio plays into low-budget feature-film territory. We had a lot of great things in our favor, among them the participation of Danielle from AMERICAN PICKERS, my longtime cinematic collaborator Phil Dingeldein (a d.p. on PICKERS), Malcolm McDowell as narrator, and of course the Fangoria brand-name. But at the very last minute (we were going to meet on Sunday afternoon, with my son Nate coming in from St. Louis for Kickstarter consulting), a different Fangoria deal interceded to make ours untenable. The good news is that Phil and I will likely be involved in some aspect of this new direction. I’m hopeful we can involve Danielle, too. We’d spent a lot of time (including me doing three or four drafts of “House of Blood” as a screenplay) gearing up for the Kickstarter effort with producer Carl Amari, so there’s disappointment in the mix, but also the promise of filmmaking to come.

Speaking of films, I can recommend OBLIVION, a very smart s-f adventure with Tom Cruise. The reviews are mixed on this one, but I am solidly in the plus column. The art direction alone is worthy of your attention, but the screenplay has some nice surprises, and it’s a well-directed film in general, though a big shoot-‘em gun battle seems out of place and maybe patched-in to satisfy studio execs.

This weekend my band Crusin’ played two nights in a row – a real oddity for us, because I try very hard to avoid that. It’s more like twice a month I’m after. And I will freely admit that on Sunday, I felt like I’d fallen down a flight of stairs (I’m writing this on Monday and feel only marginally better). I continue to enjoy the band, but sometimes it’s starting to feel like that moment in the action movies where the old star says, “I’m getting too old for this shit!” You know, right before a helicopter blows up?

This week I am looking at galley proofs of THE WRONG QUARRY and ASK NOT.

* * *

The three-part look at the Nolan series by Dan Luft over at the Violent World of Parker has wrapped up with a discussion mostly about SPREE. This is a nice series of articles, and with some smart commentary. Occasionally, though, Dan misses the mark fairly wide – he’s about the only reader I’ve ever encountered who disliked the use of the Comfort family in SPREE. He claims to really like the book, except for the Comforts, which is kind of like loving everything about JURASSIC PARK except the dinosaurs.

Here’s a really nice COMPLEX 90 review. Coming up soon, by the way!

This BLOOD MONEY review is basically positive, but it’s a little odd, albeit in an interesting way. It continues to be weird reading reviews of stuff I wrote forty years ago.

Here’s a very good TRUE DETECTIVE review. It’s amazing how resilient that book has been. Published thirty years ago, it sold more copies in the last year (e-book format) than in its first several.

Mel Odom, himself a hell of a writer, has some interesting things to say about BYE BYE, BABY, the first book in the Nathan Heller JFK Trilogy.

Finally, here’s yet another positive look at SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT (mine, not Wertham).

M.A.C.

A Buck-Twenty-Five A Movie

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

If any of you are interested, THE BLACK BOX, the boxed set DVD collection of my indie movies – MOMMY, MOMMY’S DAY, REAL TIME: SIEGE AT LUCAS STREET MARKET and SHADES OF NOIR (which includes the original, longer cut of MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE as well as the Brian Keith “Mike Hammer” pilot from 1954) – is on sale at Oldies.com for $4.98. That’s a savings of $30.

I want to thank all of you who sent supportive comments (sometimes as private e-mails) after my post last week, complaining about various aspects of the writer’s life, now that I am officially old enough to be a complaining coot. I am considering putting a rocking chair on the porch and writing further updates there on a laptop.

For the record, it took four work days to put ASK NOT back together (also for the record, my editor at Forge was completely on my side and reinstated everything I requested). To give you an idea of how extreme the ASK NOT copy edit was, I also dealt this week with the copy-edited manuscript of the upcoming thriller WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU from Thomas & Mercer. It took one work day.

Dead Man Down

We saw an interesting crime movie that I am going to recommend, though it is not perfect: DEAD MAN DOWN. It’s directed by Niels Arden Oplev, of the original GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and stars the “girl” herself, the indelible Noomi Rapace, probably my favorite actress working today. I used to not care for Colin Ferrell, but as his star has faded somewhat, his acting has improved immeasurably – he’s terrific here in a subtle, understated performance as a guy who is anything but subtle and understated. It’s a revenge film, with a great premise, but I sometimes felt the foreign director didn’t entirely understand the English language script – it’s a little too long, and some things don’t quite track. But the central romance between two damaged souls and the outlandish shoot-‘em-up finale are well worth the time of anybody interested in crime movies. It has one of the great screen Mike Hammers, Armand Assante, in a small but pivotal role.

SOTI

The reviews for SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT continue to roll in, in a very positive way. Let’s start with something I rarely do – customer reviews at Amazon, which includes one from Bookreporter. By the way, if you want to help out your favorite authors (including, I hope, me), a great, easy way is to post a brief four- or five-star review at Amazon, assuming you like what you’ve read. Those reviews really, really count.

Here’s a cool one from the International House of Geek (the fantastic blog names just keep coming).

And here’s a great one from Mystery People.

A somewhat horror-tinged positive review appears here, at The October Country (R.I.P., Ray Bradbury).

Here’s a patronizing but ultimately positive review from the UK’s Telegraph.

Here’s Comic Buzz on SEDUCTION. I’m very pleased that so many comics blogs have picked up on the book.

And what author doesn’t love getting an A+, as happens here at Fandom Post.

Publisher’s Weekly is getting cranky in its old age, but this review of the upcoming ANTIQUES CHOP is pretty good.

PW also isn’t much impressed with the upcoming Mike Hammer, COMPLEX 90, considering it more of the same. First of all, if somebody gives you a hot-fudge sundae when you order one, do you complain that it’s more of the same? Second of all, this is the book where Mike Hammer goes to Russia. Not more of the same – one of the most distinctive books in the series, in my opinion, one of Mickey’s most unusual, even unique plots.

Scroll down for a tardy but fantastic review of THE CONSUMMATA.

And finally Pop Cults weighs in with a late but lovely LADY, GO DIE! review.

M.A.C.

When I’m 64 – I Mean, 65….

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

As I write this, my 65th birthday is winding down. I’m in St. Louis with Barb, and we’ve been visiting with our son Nate and his incredible bride Abby. It’s been a lovely weekend, filled with food, the RiffTrax version of HUNGER GAMES, lots of great conversation, an upgrade to the Tennessee Williams Suite at the Moonrise Hotel (Williams, a St. Louis boy, is a fellow U of Iowa Writers Workshop grad), a fun/moving British movie about (fittingly) old people, QUARTET, and just so much more. And yet I find myself reflecting on the reasons why so many people who hit this age choose to retire…and how last week, another fairly rigorous week in the “blog tour” for SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, I began wondering how long I would want to keep doing this.

Anyone who knows me at all well understands that I love writing, and that I’m very competitive and want to stay in the game. I feel great and have not lost my enthusiasm for life and creativity. How many guys my age are still in the garage band they started in high school? But there are trials. There are trials. Here are three reasons why some day I may decide to kick back, and just read the books that have been stacking up for decades, and watch the Blu-ray discs that have been piling up for years.

1. The uncertainty of the publishing business. This has always been a precarious business to be in – freelance fiction-writing – but lately it seems to be in serious freefall. Borders gone, Barnes & Noble wobbling, e-books taking over. Some of it has benefitted me – TRUE DETECTIVE has sold more copies in the last year than it did in its first year, a thirty-year-old book, thanks to Amazon. But one gets weary of the ground shifting under one’s feet. Like old age (thank you, QUARTET; thank you, Bette Davis), freelance writing isn’t for sissies.

2. Copy editors. I am half-way through the copy edit of ASK NOT. For the umpteenth time in my career, I have had to go through a manuscript painstakingly putting Humpty Dumpty back together. This is despite the lengthy memo I attach to my manuscripts with a detailed description of the elements of my style that a copy editor might think was just me screwing up. I had a particularly intrusive copy editor on TARGET LANCER, complained, and was assured a different one would be assigned this time. No – I got the same intrusive, tin-eared copy editor. I spent an hour just putting the first chapter back together. I have gone through this many, many times, and if I ever retire, I promise I will not miss it.

3. Abuse. Now and then I can get hate mail. Occasionally I get a bad review. The nature of Amazon is that geniuses may comment on a book of mine, and also imbeciles – such is the price of democracy. I’ve also had enemies (yes, I have managed to alienate a few people in these 65 years) who have used the Amazon and B & N reviewing portals to get even with me. I have learned to live with this. But occasionally somebody really steps over the line, as when I got death threats over FLYING BLIND because I suggested Amelia Earhart may have been bisexual.

This week I did an article and slide show for the Huffington Post about controversial comic book covers, as part of the SEDUCTION blog tour, arranged by my publisher. I used primarily 1950s covers. I also used one of Terry Beatty’s MS. TREE covers on the slide show, in part in a self-aggrandizing fashion, but chiefly to demonstrate it as one of the indie comics involved in the famous Friendly Frank’s comic book shop bust that in 1981 got its store owner a sentence of one year (later overturned) in Illinois. That issue of MS. TREE was objectionable because of nudity – of course, that nudity was a statue in the hall of the Justice Department in D.C. (This is explained in text that accompanies the cover – each cover pictured has a paragraph on why I chose it.) George Hagenauer helped me on the slide show, and between us probably a work day went into that; I spent another work day on the article itself. I got paid exactly nothing – it was part of the publicity for my new book. That’s how it works – you do a free article, you get some PR. Huffington Post put a slightly inaccurate headline on my piece, making it look like I had chosen these as the “most” controversial comic books of all time. Among assorted comments, many good – but many from readers who objected to my choices of covers, having clearly not read the article (“Where’s PREACHER?” “Where’s THE LEATHER NUN?”) – came the following:

“I feel this a legitimate question. How can you allow article authors to pompously include their OWN work in the top list? Isn’t that self-promotion and editorially questionable? I feel its a fair question for people to address. Unless this author is really that self-absorbed that he believes his work is that worthy. This is a valid question, please post it.”

Okay, a little shrill, but a valid question I guess, and immediately answered by another reader who understands how the Huff Post trades PR for free copy. But the same day I received the following e-mail from the same individual:

“Nice article in the HuffPost.
Do you realize how shameless and self-aggrandizing it is, to include TWO of your own comic books on the list? Not to mention, how it perverts the integrity of said article?
How can anyone take you seriously?
I’m surprised you didn’t put Wild Dog on the list as well. Or just fill it with ALL of your comics.
You’re a narcissistic putz, who has no original stories, just totally derivative from everyone else.
Even your look is stolen, Mr. Elton John.
Ha ha ha ha ha.
p.s. You’re little blonde is even more derivative.”

I am probably am something of a narcissistic putz – most entertainers are. And I am derivative of those who came before me, as are almost all genre writers, although I think I’ve put my own spin on the ball. There was only one of my covers used (Huff Post tagged on the cover of the novel I’m promoting.) Still, these opinions are valid enough, if rudely stated. But then the writer, who is blessed of a literary style derivative of the letters Jack the Ripper wrote to the London police, takes a shot at my appearance – making him the ten thousandth person to notice my unfortunate resemblance to a singer whose music I don’t particularly like – and I’m a big boy, so it comes with the territory.

Then he takes a shot at my wife. And he cc’s my son. All while hiding behind a fake name (of a Charles Bukowski character). I may be all the things this guy says I am. But I am not a cowardly prick, nor am I a rat bastard who attacks the family of someone he dislikes.

Though I am 65, and this is the point in the action movie where the aging lead says, I’m getting too old for this shit…and then goes right on kicking ass, till the end of the movie.


“The Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory,” Penny Arcade

Here’s the Huff Post piece my “fan” loved so much (the subject of his e-mail was “KUDOS”):

And here’s an article on how I came to write SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT.

I am dizzy from doing interviews, but I salute my questioners, who came up with their own unique angles on the book and its subject (and author). Here’s one from 8 Days a Geek.

And one from the wonderfully named blog Death, Books and Tea.

Here’s one at Fanboy Comics.

And at Speak Geeky to Me.

Here’s one at My Bookish Ways. Love these blog titles.

Another at Too Busy Thinking About Comics.

And at the UK site, SHOTS.

One at the Geek Twins.

And at Comic Buzz.

More UK attention at the wonderful site Crimetime.

The reviews, I’m pleased to say, have been very favorable. Check out this one at Jildy Sauce.

Here’s a combo article and review at Gnnaz.com.

Tony Isabella, a great comic writer himself, knows plenty about the subject, so it was great to get this terrific review from him.

Here’s a solid review from (wonderful name) Unleash the Fanboy.

And another at Swiftly Tilting Planet.

Also at (another name I love) 8 Days a Geek.

There’s an excerpt at Daily Dead.

And a review at Popcorn Reads(another fantastic title).

Speaking of pop, here’s one at Popcults.

And one at Bullet Reviews.

Finally – stop the presses – it’s an early review for the new Mike Hammer, COMPLEX 90, due in May.

M.A.C.