Posts Tagged ‘Awards’

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:

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

M.A.C.

A Cancellation, a Nomination & an Anniversary

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

HBO/Cinemax has finally officially cancelled the Quarry series, but this comes as no surprise. A shake-up at the network, as well as a conflict between the star (who is committed to another series pilot) and the director of all eight episodes, spelled it out long ago.

What’s most disappointing to me is that my script for season two will not be produced, and I was really happy with it. We had thought some other network might pick the show up, but that now seems unlikely.

I am happy to have had a quality show that gave my Quarry books a higher profile. My hitman has now generated an award-winning short film, a festival-winning feature, and now a first-rate series, and my writing was a part of all three. Maybe we’ll see more of him on screen yet.

More pleasant news came by way of a Shamus nomination for the Spillane/Collins short story, “A Dangerous Cat,” which appeared in The Strand magazine and is also in the collection A Long Time Dead: A Mike Hammer Casebook from Mysterious Press.

Barb and Al, early 1970s
Barb and Al, early 1970s

But the biggest event of the past week was our 49th wedding anniversary, on June 1, which we celebrated with an overnight stay at Galena, Illinois, where always have a wonderful time. For me, it was especially gratifying because – after the various operations and the stroke and all – I was able to spend a long day walking and enjoying myself, feeling very much back to normal (or as close to normal as I ever get). Galena is a quaint, pretty little town of 3500, with lots of boutique shopping and some 65 restaurants. I will be doing a thriller next year set in this scenic community.

On the trip to and from Galena, we finished listening to the audio book of Antiques Frame, so beautifully read by Amy McFadden. It was a reminder to me about how much Barb has grown and flourished as a writer, a profession she never dreamed of entering. Having such a beautiful, talented, smart, funny, patient wife for all these years is the best award/reward I could ever hope for.

The week leading up to the two-way getaway was a busy one, as was the weekend following. I did final edits on the Spillane volume, The Last Stand, which includes the previously unpublished novel of that name, as well as an early ‘50s novella, also previously unpublished, A Bullet for Satisfaction. The latter is a Spillane/Collins collaboration, the former the last solo effort by Mickey. There’s also an introduction explaining the history of both novels. Hard Case Crime will be publishing in both hardcover and soft.

In addition, I wrote the introduction for the collected Dick Tracy Volume 23, for IDW, and dealt with the copy-edited versions of two short stories written by Matt Clemens and me for a pair of horror anthologies. Finally, I wrote the introduction to Scarface & the Untouchable, the joint Capone/Ness bio.

That book now focuses on the Chicago years, with a second volume projected to deal with the rest of Ness’s life. This week I’ll start work on my polish/tweak of the nearly 900-page manuscript. Co-author A. Brad Schwartz and our writing/research associate, George Hagenauer, are working on the bibliography and end notes.

* * *

The complete list of Shamus nominations can be seen at the great site, The Rap Sheet.

Here’s a good current interview with me.

A ton of articles on the cancellation of the QUARRY series are out there, many quoting Michael D. Fuller’s blog post about it. Here’s a good example.

M.A.C.

Still Crazy About “Gun Crazy”

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

People are always asking me what I read.

It’s one of the most common questions a writer gets, and I guess I understand it – apparently comes from a desire by a reader to get recommendations from someone whose work they like, and/or validation for books they like from that writer.

I disappoint people when I reveal how little I read of contemporary crime fiction. I’ve stated my reasons many times, but one reason I haven’t discussed much is the busman’s holiday aspect – not that, at the end of working day immersed in crime and mystery, I want nothing more to do with my genre of choice. Rather, that the writing process has worn out the same muscles that are used for reading.

So come evening, Barb and I watch plenty of crime and mystery TV and movies, although admittedly the movies tend to be older ones (like the books in the genre that I do read) and the TV tends to be British. I have a PAL friendly DVD player, and a Region B friendly Blu-ray player, letting me order discs from the UK all the time. We just watched the third season of Broadchurch, for example, and liked it very much. We also watched an excellent British series called The Forgotten, about very old, very cold cases. Also the fourth season of Endeavor and the third season of The Fall. We are looking forward (I’ve already ordered them) to seasons of Midsomer Murders, Murdoch Mysteries, the first season of Tennison, and the last season of Ripper Street.

So I’m very much still interested in the genre, although much of the American brand of TV mystery leaves me lukewarm to cold.

And much of my “reading” of mystery fiction these days is listening to audio books in the car. We have six-hour drives to St. Louis to see son Nate and his bride and our grandson, fairly frequently, and our day trips run to Chicago (four hours one-way) and Des Moines (three hours one-way). We listen to my own stuff – right now, Dan John Miller is doing a great job on Executive Order – and are happy to have Antiques Frame on audio to listen to next. We re-listen to Rex Stout novels and novellas for the umpteenth time, have been through all of Christie, and quite a few Simenon “Maigrets” (after watching the complete French/Belgian series starring Bruno Cremer – loved it).

What I do read, and it tends to be late at night, is a certain amount of non-fiction. Currently I’m reading Brian De Palma’s Split-Screen: A Life in Film by Douglas Keesey, and enjoying it. But I want to recommend a book that you have to go to some trouble to lay hands on.

Gun Crazy: The Origin of American Outlaw Cinema

Gun Crazy: The Origin of American Outlaw Cinema by Eddie Muller is available only here:

http://blackpoolproductions.com/guncrazyretail.html

No Amazon. I stumbled onto a bookstore that carries it (Mysterious Bookshop in NYC). It’s the first American edition of a French book that was available with a wonderful elaborate Blu-ray edition of Gun Crazy.

Muller should need no introduction – he’s the undeniable guru of film noir, the man behind the Noir City Festival and the Noir City Foundation, with its wonderful e-mail magazine and yearly annual. Not surprisingly info is available at www.noircity.com. He’s written acclaimed fiction and non-fiction in the noir vein, and he appears regularly on TCM, every Sunday morning, your time much better spent than watching the Sunday political shows or going to church.

His book on Gun Crazy is remarkable – it’s like reading a terrific Gold Medal paperback that happens to be true, digging into all of the history from my fellow Iowa author MacKinley Kantor to blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, from the maniac King brothers to my favorite B-movie director, Joseph H. Lewis. The pictures are so great – photos, documents, script pages – that the book worked beautifully in French, which I can neither read nor speak. In English it’s sheer delight. Muller contends the auteur theory is crap, an opinion with which I don’t entirely agree, but he makes an excellent argument, using Gun Crazy – so often credited to Lewis more or less exclusively – as a case in point.

My history with Gun Crazy goes back to 1967. I saw Bonnie and Clyde before the fuss, and my life was changed – the fusion of true crime and the fiction genre I loved was taken to a whole new level. I was so in the thrall of Bonnie and Clyde that I read everything I could get my hands on about the real outlaw couple, even looking at old newspapers on microfilm (setting the stage for Nathan Heller research), and I set out to see every movie derived from their story.

That was no easy task in 1967. VCRs were almost a decade away, so I was left to the whim of late-night movies and a University of Iowa film series at the student union, where mostly kids came to laugh at old movies that they were so much smarter than. One by one I picked the movies off: The Bonnie Parker Story (1958), cheapjack sleaze (which is okay by me, generally); They Live by Night (1948), terrific movie directed by Nicholas Ray; You Only Live Once (1937), a Fritz Lang-directed film and another good one; and finally Gun Crazy (1950). As a kid, I’d seen a Naked City episode called “A Case Study of Two Savages” that had frightened and excited me, but had no idea Rip Torn and Tuesday Weld were doing Clyde and Bonnie. I caught up with it again a year or so ago and saw the connection, and wondered if it had inspired in any way the Arthur Penn 1967 Bonnie and Clyde.

It’s surprising that the outlaw couple had already generated very good Fritz Lang and Nick Ray movies (also not surprising that a cheapjack Roger Corman-produced film existed, as part of the drive-in movie cash-in on The Untouchables TV show). But what was astonishing about Gun Crazy (in addition to a thousand other things) was that it was better than Bonnie and Clyde. That after having my life changed by Bonnie and Clyde, Gun Crazy changed it all over again, more deeply, and became a movie on my very, very short list of favorites (regular readers here may recall the others: Vertigo, Kiss Me Deadly, Phantom of the Paradise). It’s a love story in the way the best James M. Cain novels are, and that’s high praise.

Eddie Muller’s book on Gun Crazy is so terrific, so entertaining, I had a reaction that I rarely have: Oh, good – I don’t have to write this book…somebody else has done it for me.

* * *

A local paper has published a nice little article about my Grand Master “Edgar” honor, here (look past the misspelled first name, will you?).

And here is Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine’s editor’s blog on the Edgar event, with a nice shout-out to me.

M.A.C.

“Please Sir, I Want Some More…”

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers has announced the Scribe Award Nominees for 2017, and I pleased to have three nominations.

Acknowledging excellence in the tie-in field, the IAMTW’s Scribe Awards honor licensed works that tie in with other media such as television, movies, gaming, or comic books. They include original works set in established universes, and adaptations of stories that have appeared in other formats and that cross all genres. Tie-in works run the gamut from westerns to mysteries to procedurals, from science fiction to fantasy to horror, from action and adventure to superheroes.

The Scribe Award winners will be announced at ComicCon San Diego in July. The exact day, time and location of the Scribes Panel including the award ceremony will be announced once it’s known. I am weighing whether or not I’ll be attending this year – if I am, I will host the panel. If not, I have a distinguished author lined up to take over for me.

Here are the nominees:

Adapted – General and Speculative
Assassin’s Creed by Christie Golden
Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins
Suicide Squad by Marv Wolfman

Audio
Dark Shadows: Blood & Fire by Roy Gill
Torchwood: Broken by Joseph Lidster
Torchwood: Uncanny Valley by David Llewellyn
Doctor Who: Mouthless Dead by John Pritchard

General Original
24: Trial by Fire by Dayton Ward
Don Pendleton’s The Executioner: Missile Intercept by Michael Black
Murder Never Knocks by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Robert B. Parker’s Slow Burn by Ace Atkins
Tom Clancy’s True Faith and Allegiance by Mark Greaney

Short Fiction
“A Dangerous Cat” by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
X-Files “Drive Time” by Jon McGoran
X-Files “An Eye for an Eye” by George Ivanoff
X-Files “Love Lost” by Yvonne Navarro
X-Files “XXX” by Glenn Greenberg

Speculative Original
Assassin’s Creed: Heresy by Christie Golden
Warhammer: 40,000 Warden of the Blade by David Annandale
Star Trek: Elusive Salvation by Dayton Ward
Supernatural: Mythmaker by Tim Waggoner

* * *
Edgar winners 2017
Edgar winners 2017

My thanks to all of you who wrote comments here or dropped me e-mails, or even called, to congratulate me on the MWA Grand Master award.

Your kind thoughts, and this award, mean a great deal to me. My career has included so many different kinds of things that an award for the body of work is especially meaningful. For example, no Edgar category is available for a graphic novel like Road to Perdition; no category acknowledges something like the long-running Ms. Tree. A series like Nate Heller or Quarry, however well-received and influential, rarely has one of its entries singled out for an Edgar nomination.

So this feels especially gratifying. Thank all of you, including the MWA.

Thank you, too, those of you who requested books in our recent giveaway and are starting to post Amazon (and other) reviews. For the rest of you, Amazon and B & N reviews (and they can be very brief) would be much appreciated for the new books – Executive Order, Antiques Frame (Barbara Allan), The Will to Kill, and the paperbacks of Murder Never Knocks and The Big Showdown.

* * *

I know what you’re thinking – what movies have you walked out of lately? Well, Barb and I have been trying to be smarter, making our movie selections more discriminately.

That doesn’t mean we skipped Fate of the Furious – we just went in with our eyes open. And it was the big, dumb fun we expected, if even bigger and dumber. Dumbest thing? The great Jason Stratham phoning Vin Diesel to report the latter’s kidnapped baby boy has been saved before the gunfight to do so begins. Well, that and just about every law of physics being broken. Best laugh: the sincere family prayer at the end from Diesel. Yes, I enjoyed the film, but I hated myself in the morning. No – in the parking lot.

Needing no apologies for liking it is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, one of the best films of its kind I’ve ever seen. A perfect continuation of the first installment (in which this one is carefully set up), Guardians 2 combines thrills and laughs with offhanded skill – whenever it threatens to get sentimental, the movie quickly slaps us silly with a cynical pay-off or aside…somehow never undercutting the growing affection the characters have for each other. What director/co-writer James Gunn has done is draw far less on Marvel’s convoluted universe and more on Firefly/Serenity and classic Star Trek, which was a very good call indeed.

* * *

Check out this great review of The Big Showdown at Gravetapping.

I receive a nice mention at this Detectives Without Borders posting.

And this one, too.

Here’s a piece about villains who had balls enough to visit the Batcave, featuring my Tommy Carma.

Finally, here’s a nice review of Better Dead, posted a while back that I only just ran across.

M.A.C.