Posts Tagged ‘Barbara Allan’

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.

The Scarface and the Untouchable Show Hits the Road

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

The recent mini-tour for Scarface and the Untouchable – with co-author Brad Schwartz as well as my other collaborator, Barbara Collins – went extremely well. Barb and I do very few signings these days, but all three of these – Saturday afternoon, August 18, at Read Between the Lynes in Woodstock (where both Chester Gould and Rick Fletcher lived), Sunday afternoon at Centuries & Sleuths in Forest Park, and Monday evening at Anderson’s Bookshop in Woodstock (where Dick Locher lived) – were well-attended and a lot of fun. Books were sold – plenty of them.

This was the first time Brad and I have done appearances together, and with no prep whatsoever, we were a team ready and willing to do this again and again. Brad is at ease in front of an audience and has a command of the facts that would have eluded me even at his, ahem, somewhat younger age than mine. Barb is also great with audiences, funny and comfortable with herself. Scarface took centerstage, but the Antiques series was not neglected.

To see how Brad and I interact (although I hog it a little here), check out our WGN appearance on the Monday morning of the Anderson’s signing.

And for a good write-up about the Centuries and Sleuths presentation, check out the Donald G. Evans piece on the event right here.

Several interesting things occurred. At Woodstock, a car show of vintage automobiles was in full sway around the quaint town square during our signing. The classic cars required parking places, and one such vehicle found a space right in front of the bookstore (one of the few such spaces remaining). That car had an Untouchables license plate belonging to its Ness enthusiast owner who had known nothing of the signing. He saw the signage about the book signing out front of Between the Lynes, came in to attend the event, and bought a book.

In Naperville, where Dick Locher’s wife Mary could not attend because of a club meeting at her home, the gracious Mrs. Locher had left for me a Sunday page original from early in the Locher/Collins run of Tracy. Dick had never got around to sending me an original for my office wall, and when he and I re-bonded a few years ago, he apologized and said he’d given all of his art to a university. He pledged to write and get one from them for me, but the university did not cooperate. For some time now, Mary had been looking through Dick’s materials to see if she could find anything for me. No luck. Then, before the signing in Naperville, she tried one more time…and found a page, a perfect example with plenty of Tracy and famous villains, as if it had been set aside by Dick himself for me. I found her gesture – and this posthumous gift from my Tracy collaborator – a thrill and quite touching.

Check out the photos below, then return for a few more links.


Brad, M.A.C., Barb

Brad looks on as M.A.C jokes with Bob Goldsborough.

Brad and “Barbara Allan”

M.A.C. discussing a variety of topics with the notorious Mike Doran.

M.A.C. speaking with David & Cynthia who traveled from McCordsville, Indiana.

Centuries and Sleuths

M.A.C. with Nero Wolfe author, Robert Goldsborough at Centuries and Sleuths.

Anderson’s in Naperville

Andserson’s in Naperville – readers lining up to get books signed after Brad and I spoke.

Anderson’s in Naperville

At Anderson’s in Naperville, Dick Locher’s wife Mary sent over a Sunday original from the Locher/Collins period of the strip

Brad and M.A.C. pose in Naperville with Dick Locher’s incredible Dick Tracy sculpture.

M.A.C. and Brad Schwartz at the downtown Woodstock, Illinois, Dick Tracy mural (featuring images from the Fletcher/Collins period of the strip)

Brad and M.A.C. signing at Between the Lynes Bookstore in Woodstock, Illinois.

M.A.C. and A.B.S. talk to a nice crowd at Between the Lynes bookshop in Woodstock, Illinois.

Brad and M.A.C. pose with Untouchable license plate on a fan of the show who just happened to pull in right in front of the book store where we were signing — and came in, taking time out from the car show on the town square, to listen to our presentation…and buy a book!

* * *

Attention for Scarface and the Untouchable continues, as this impressive New York Daily News spread indicates.

I am honored that Quarry has been chosen one of the top ten Greatest Men’s Adventure Series Ever in a November 2017 “highly-scientific and totally statistically valid poll” of 4,000 members of the Men’s Adventure Paperbacks Facebook Group. Richard Stark’s Parker came in first, followed by Matt Helm and Travis McGee, with Quarry coming in fourth. Heady company to be in.

Oddly, Mike Hammer did not make the list, but Killing Town scored a particularly fine review, right here.

M.A.C.

Scarface and the Untouchable – At Large! Chicago Signings

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

Yes, at long last Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago by A. Brad Schwartz and myself is hitting the bookstores the very day this update first appears.

Brad and I (and Barb) will be appearing at two major Chicago bookstores and another at the bookstore in Dick Tracy’s hometown – Woodstock, Illinois, starting with the latter.

Saturday August 18:
Read Between the Lynes (Website)
From 4PM till…?
111 E. Van Buren St
Woodstock, IL 60098 (Map)

Sunday August 19:
Centuries & Sleuths (Website)
2:00PM till…?
19 Madison St
Forest Park, IL 60130 (Map)

Monday August 20:
Anderson’s Bookshop (Website)
7 PM till…?
123 W Jefferson Ave
Naperville, IL 60540 (Map)

This mini-tour will be the only joint event by Brad and me in support of the book during its opening weeks. Brad heads back to Princeton in his unending crusade to diminish me by making me call him “Dr. Schwartz” (who, let’s face it, sounds like a dermatologist). We’ll be doing some solo events thereafter, and if the media wises up and books us on a national TV show, we’ll likely do that together.

We are also set to appear on the WGN Morning News on Monday morning, but exactly when I can’t say (we arrive at 8:30 AM).

We’ll also be doing a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) on r/books this Thursday at 1PM EST. Keep an eye on my facebook page for a link.

The Centuries and Sleuths signing will include Barb, as “Barbara Allan”-bylined novels (Antiques Wanted in particular) will be available. This is the first joint signing Barb and I have done in some time.

Centuries and Sleuths is where Brad and I first met, when he came to a signing after seeing “Untouchable Life” live in Des Moines. By the way, work progresses on the Blu-ray of the film version. You can order it here.

In the meantime, come and see us (Mike Doran – I’m talking to you) (but no questions requiring a photographic memory of the entire run of TV Guide to answer).


Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes
Digital Audiobook: Amazon Google Play Kobo

The reviews thus far have been stellar, including the Chicago Tribune, where Rick Koganwhere Rick Kogan – a well-known writer and TV personality in Chicago – loved the book but hated my introduction. Why? Because I (with Brad’s help) singled out the authors (and one screenwriter) whose offenses had much to do with us feeling another book about Capone and Ness needed writing. We were very specific about what we were correcting, but Mr. Kogan found my intro “unseemly.”

Here’s what he wrote, along with links to other favorable reviews (the Kogan link is mid-page).

Now, just for fun, read what I wrote that offended Mr. Kogan, available thanks to the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine blog.

Others reviewing the book in the days just ahead of publication include USA Today, which makes us one of the top books of the week that they recommend. (Omarosa’s Trump memoir gets the top spot, though.)

Here’s a really nice review courtesy of Mystery People.

This one isn’t a review, but uses our book as a sort of tour guide to track Capone’s real-life hangouts.

* * *

Now in non-Scarface and the Untouchable news, here’s another San Diego Comic Con interview with me, on the new Mike Hammer serialized graphic novel from Hard Case Crime. It’s one of the better interviews, I think.

Finally, Gaping Blackbird continues to review the early Quarry novels, and very intelligently.

M.A.C.

The Most Beautiful Woman in Puppetland

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

If you’ve always wanted to read something sentimental and sappy from a hardboiled noir mystery writer, this is your lucky day.

Barb and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary on June 1. You can check out the “before” and “after” photos above to see how much damage the years have done to me, and how Barb only gets lovelier as time lightly touches her.

I am reminded of my great grandparents and their Golden Anniversary celebration – dim and yet vivid in my memory. My great grandmother Rushing appeared to have stepped out of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” while my great grandfather was more Walter Huston in The Devil and Daniel Webster – she was staid and long-suffering, and he was a twinkle-in-the-eye reprobate.

The entire Rushing clan was gathered at their home for a big and elaborate celebration, with more food than lunch on the Road to Perdition set. At the after-dinner round of toasting, my great grandmother announced that she was divorcing my great grandfather and that he was to gather his things and leave at once. The suffering had gone on long enough, and now that she’d had her celebration for putting in her time, the old boy was sent literally packing.

He died a few years later, hit by a car as he crossed the street heading to a liquor store from the hospital where he was drying out.

I am happy to report Barb has not sent me packing, although some might say she would have the right, even if I’m not a hard-drinking reprobate. I am difficult and self-centered and a classic only child, spoiled by doting parents. She was one of seven (all girls save one), and her mother was bi-polar (not yet the diagnosis) who could make things miserable for her.

That had a lot to do why we married so young – I was twenty and she was nineteen. Her home situation was one I wanted to rescue her from, plus we were – and are – very much in love.

We’ve known each other since childhood. The story goes that we once shared a playpen while our mothers visited, but neither of us remember that. Sometimes we’re described as childhood sweethearts, which is sort of accurate. In the fifth grade, when I first noticed her resemblance to Marilyn Monroe, as I approached an age where such a resemblance was meaningful, she was my girl friend. By the sixth grade we had both moved on.

We were friends in junior high. Barb was an excellent trumpet player and I was a trumpet player, too (note the absence of an adjective before the second “trumpet,” which is what I was – second trumpet). Yes, I was second chair and she was first, and she once humiliated me (quite without malice) when I “challenged” her for her chair. Look, I knew she would wipe the floor with me, but the band director expected it of us all to go after the next chair. Somehow she did not laugh when the band director said to me, “Well, Allan, let’s stop it right there – I lost you on the second page….”

In high school, we went our separate ways – she to band, me to chorus (you had to choose). Our relationship was limited to smiles and nods in the school hallway. She was going with an older boy, a senior. I was going with nobody, not for want of trying. At my first junior-senior prom, my date ditched me. Funny story – I took the same girl to the next prom, and we laughed about winding up together again, though she (like Barb) was going with an older (college) boy.

Prom night 1966, the class had a riverboat ride after the dance – the XL’s with my pal Joe McClean played dances at both the prom and on the riverboat. My band the Daybreakers had their first gig at the after-prom party following the riverboat ride. But, like Vivian in the Antiques books, I digress. Back to the riverboat….

My date somewhere dancing with somebody else, I found Barb leaning against the railing, alone, looking out at the Mississippi gliding by in the moonlight. I think it was misting a little. I joined her and we spoke for maybe five minutes. I don’t remember anything about the conversation, but I do know she was melancholy – I believe she had broken up with her now-college-age boy friend, or anyway her mother had broken them up. We had a very nice conversation, though, and connected, and I do remember wishing she was my date (no offense meant to my actual date, who had ditched me the year before, remember). We connected, briefly, but connected.

We both wound up at Muscatine Community College. Barb’s grandparents had offered their grandchildren funding for two years at MCC, and Barb took them up on it, as did her year-older sister, Ann (very pretty, the Veronica to Barb’s Betty). I had been offered a few football scholarships and a creative writing one at Iowa Wesleyan, where I had won a high school writing competition with a piece about how it felt for us at high school on the day Kennedy was shot. But I turned those down to go to MCC, because I was having a good time with the Daybreakers and wanted to keep the band going.

Meanwhile, a lot of our mutual friends – almost all of them – had gone to college elsewhere. Barb and I were, of our extended crowd, about it. So maybe it was natural we wound up together. Our first date was not a rousing success – it was part of a chorus outing at Wild Cat Den, and Barb has always loved the Great Out of Doors, and I haven’t (and don’t). I remember sitting on a rock high above a beautiful expanse of green with the first browns of fall, saying, “You know what the first thing was that the pioneers did, when they came west?”

“No,” she said.

“They built a cabin and got the hell inside.”

I have always known how to charm beautiful women.

Somehow I got a second date with her. I’m sure I was trying to impress her, babbling about writing and music, but she has reported the moment she fell in love with me as when – in the midst of some self-important discourse – I accidentally stuck my fingers in my water glass at Bishop’s Cafeteria in Davenport, Iowa.

We quickly became that arm-in-arm couple in the school hallway who made everybody else sick. We went out on weekends and frequently were together in the evening. We cut class and went to the nearby Quad Cities to have meals and shop (this is something we still do, although it’s work we escape from, not class). Barb’s mother, who called me a “juvenile delinquent,” did her best to break us up. She dragged Barb off to Arizona when a younger sister needed a change of clime for medical reasons, and this seemed in part calculated to put an end to the Barb-and-Al thing. The trip was truncated, only a few months long (despite Barb having transferred to a Tucson college), and we got serious. Really serious.

I don’t recall, exactly, asking her to marry me. I think we both sort of knew we had to get her out of that house. My parents were very supportive but a little suffocating, as the parents of only children often are, but overall they were great. Barb’s grandparents were great, too, letting us live in their home for the first months of our marriage while they stayed in a summer cottage.

I commuted to Iowa City and the University of Iowa while Barb supported us by working at the First National Bank. She was a stellar performer there and rose to an officer’s position. When I landed the Dick Tracy strip in late ‘77, she left the job – she got a retirement party at age 28! – and went back to school…Iowa Wesleyan, where I had almost gone, though she took most of the classes through MCC.

Then Nathan Collins came along in 1982.

To talk about how Barb has grown and blossomed – in ways I never have – would take a book, not a blog entry. It’s too bad the current generation has made “amazing” and “awesome” meaningless, because Barb is both those things. I truly believe if her husband had been a brain surgeon, she would have picked that up. Though she had no strong interest in writing fiction, or even reading it, she displayed a strong story sense from the start. We always went to a lot of movies, and her analysis of them – their strengths, their weaknesses – was always spot on.

She has been, from the start, my editor. I used to work nights, and would always have a chapter waiting for her in the morning. She continues to be the reader whose reaction is both first and foremost. Back in the Ms. Tree comic book days, when Terry Beatty and I were doing the “Mike Mist” minute mysteries as a filler, I asked her to do rough drafts for me. She did. Then when Terry needed a break from drawing the strip, I asked her to try writing a Mist mystery in prose format. She did.

I remember exactly what I said to her, after reading it.

“This is good,” I said. “A little too goddamn good.”

The thing is, she’s not a natural. She has to work at it, which she does – hard and diligently. She brings her considerable smarts and her willingness to work to a craft that many say they want to master, but don’t, or can’t. Soon she began doing short stories for anthologies edited by the late, so great Marty Greenberg.

Her work was so strong, and well-received, that I encouraged her to try novel writing. We did that together, with Regeneration and Bombshell. Then, at editor Micheala Hamilton’s urging, we tried a proposal for a cozy mystery series. That neither of us read cozies did not stop us.

We’ve done thirteen Antiques novels, which makes fifteen novels. Three times the number Dashiell Hammett published, and more than that piker Raymond Chandler ever managed.

Along the fifty year way, this beautiful, brilliant woman has put up with an egocentric lout with whom you may be familiar. She runs the household, and the business, and the cozy mystery series she co-writes with me is one of the most successful things I’ve ever been associated with. Our union has also produced an incredibly gifted son, who also married a fantastic woman, resulting in the cutest, smartest grandson (Sam) in the history of man. No brag, just fact.

Who can blame me for loving Barb even more today than when I was a fresh-faced punk and she was the most beautiful woman in Puppetland (as Pee Wee Herman described Miss Yvonne)?

For those out there who hate me – and I can hear you sneering – this is what you should hate me for most: the luck, the fantastic crazy luck, that has given me fifty-two years (thus far) with this awesome, amazing woman.

I love you, baby.

* * *

Speaking of the Antiques series, here’s a lovely review of Antiques Wanted.

M.A.C.