Posts Tagged ‘Barbara Allan’

Yesterday

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

Yesterday, as I write this, Barb and I signed at the Davenport, Iowa, Barnes & Noble. The turnout was light (an air show was in progress), but those who came were great to talk with and they all bought books. In addition, the staff was warm and friendly and helpful. We were asked to sign all of the (considerable number of) books in stock, as a previous lightly attended signing was followed by us signing a ton of books, which went on an end-cap and sold out fairly quickly.

I knew that the B & N events person had ordered Girl Most Likely (and of course that chain does not regularly carry Thomas & Mercer books, because of the Amazon connection) and was disappointed when none were included on the huge display of M.A.C. and Barbara Allan books. I delicately inquired and learned they had indeed got in a good supply – but it sold out before the signing!

That was nice to hear.


M.A.C. with fan Clay Huffstutler

* * *

After the event, Barb and I took in a movie.

As you know, if you follow these updates, we almost always go to a movie every week. Lately what we’ve seen includes the unfortunate Men in Black: International, which wasted good leads Chris Hemsworth and Tess Thompson and demonstrated how an overage of CGI aliens could bore a jaded audience now (particularly when the aliens are poorly designed). Very good, however, was the Child’s Play reboot, which was funny and scary and everything you want a Chucky movie to be, assuming you want a Chucky movie at all (which both Barb and I do). Mark Hammil as the voice of Chucky is worth the price of admission.

Yesterday we saw Yesterday.

Again, regular readers of this weekly blog know that I am a movie buff. Over the sixty-some years of my moviegoing, I have amassed a considerable number of favorite films. Among these are Harvey, How to Succeed in Business, Anatomy of a Murder, Vertigo, Kiss Me Deadly, Gun Crazy, Chinatown and Groundhog Day, plus probably another dozen. It’s a fairly long list, but one I haven’t added anything to in some time. Maybe a couple of decades.

I added one yesterday – Yesterday.

You may be familiar with the premise, since this film has been talked about a lot, but actually you aren’t familiar with it, because it’s been inaccurately reported.

Everybody says it’s about a smalltime musician who gets hit by a bus and wakes up to find out everybody in the world has forgotten the Beatles. No. The lead is thrown by some world-wide electrical event into an alternate universe where the Beatles didn’t happen. Neither did Coke (the drink, not the drug) or cigarettes or Harry Potter, and, oh yes, the weekend comedy show Thursday Night Live is big. Everything else seems to be the same.

I’m not going to say much about this, except the filmmakers – writer Richard Curtis (co-creator of Blackadder and Mr. Bean) and director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) – are world-class. Take the ride they offer. Now, I have no idea how well this film will work on you if you were not born between, say, 1945 and 1960. But if you were, you probably have an affection for the Beatles, and an understanding of what they mean for our culture (not just popular culture), and this movie will likely work on you.

Of course not everyone in the Baby Boomer age group likes the Beatles. I remember my pal Ed Gorman, the great mystery writer, hated the Beatles and much, much preferred the Rolling Stones. That misses the point (although is typical Ed). In addition to writing an insanely diverse range of wonderful popular music, John, Paul, George and Ringo changed the world. Everybody from the Rolling Stones to Herman’s Hermits, from the Zombies to the Who, rode in on the wave they made.

If you are male and have ever worn long hair, the Beatles – not your barber or lack of one – did it.

There are lovely surprises in this film, and one took me so close to the edge of tears by the shock of it that I can remember no moment in any movie that hit me harder – not even in Vertigo or Chinatown. I will not spoil that moment for you by telling you what it is.

Also, Yesterday captures a lot of things about being a smalltime (or for that matter bigtime) musician that I’ve never seen in any other film – how the clueless parents are nailed is just dead on, for example, as is the experience of playing for small audiences who couldn’t care less.

So I’m not going to say much more, other than it’s also a lovely love story as well as having a ton of funny moments (the character Rocky rivals Ernest T. Bass in the comic relief department). Much hinges on the performance of Himesh Patel, who inhabits his character completely, taking his lucky predicament seriously, and sings and plays very well – when he brings out John Lennon’s original intentions for the song “Help!” as an anguished plea while still really rocking it is a fairly mindboggling ashievement.

Also, Lily James is supernaturally appealing here, even more so than in Baby Driver and The Darkest Hour. And in any other movie, Kathryn McKinnon’s screamingly funny performance as a venal show biz manager would have stolen the show. That she merely commands the scenes she’s in seems enough in this case.

Also you need to see the Criterion edition of I Wanna Hold Your Hand (another on my favorites list).

* * *

Crusin’ played at the Ice Cream Social for the Muscatine Art Center today (Sunday June 30) and the people were great but the weather was brutal. Barb pitched in and helped me with set up and tear down, but I now know that I’m very close to the end of this long and winding road of performing rock ‘n’ roll.

This year will be it – if we make an album, the current plan, we’ll do a farewell show next summer.

* * *

Here’s a very nice Girl Most Likely review.

And scroll down for a great Last Stage to Hell Junction review.

M.A.C.

Barbara Allan Signing

Thursday, June 27th, 2019

Barb and I made a “Barbara Allan” appearance, promoting the new Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery Antiques Ravin’, on Paula Sands Live on KWQC-TV this past Monday.

We will be signing copies of the new book (and others, including Girl Most Likely, from 1 p.m. till 3 p.m. (or so) at Northpark Mall’s Barnes & Noble in Davenport, Iowa this Saturday, June 29.

M.A.C.

Centuries & Sleuths Rules!

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

The signing at Centuries & Sleuths on Sunday afternoon was a lot of fun. Not a big group, but dedicated fans – familiar faces plus a couple who drove 3 ½ hours to see me. As Judy Tenuta says, it could happen.

The occasion was Antiques Ravin’ by Barbara Allan and everybody bought a copy. Barb was charming and funny, and I blathered as usual. Lots of good questions, though, and a young woman impressed me with her knowledge of and interest in hardboiled fiction. How wonderful to find a Millennial female who is a fan of Mike Hammer and loves Velda.

Other fans encouraged me to keep writing Hammer, and I assured them that I had another half dozen books I could write from Spillane material.


M.A.C. and longtime fan Mike Doran

I am writing this Sunday night. Monday Brad Schwartz and I will go to WGN-TV to be interviewed by Larry Potash about E.J. O’Hare, the Capone Outfit crony whose son O’Hare Airport is named for. It’s part of promoting the trade paperback of Scarface and the Untouchable, which was just published. As you may recall, it has additional new material that wasn’t in the hardcover, and a few corrections have been made as well.

Brad appeared at the Printer’s Row book expo on Sunday while Barb and I (Barbara Allan, remember?) did the signing and talk at Centuries and Sleuths.

I do precious few bookstore appearances these days, but Centuries and Sleuths, with its emphasis on history and mystery is special, as are Augie and his wife Tracy Alesky, the owners of the cozy but book-packed shop.


M.A.C. and Augie

Barb and Tracy

Bob Goldsborough showed up, before Barb and I did our talk, to get some books signed by me, and by him to me, as well. He is doing a fantastic job continuing the Nero Wolfe series, and we make an obnoxious mutual admiration society.

* * *

Here’s a terrific review of Last Stage to Hell Junction.

M.A.C.

An Anniversary and a Passing

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

I celebrated 51 years of marriage to Barbara Jane (Mull) Collins this weekend. The weather was lovely and we had a wonderful time together, which included delicious meals, walks in the sun, the new Godzilla movie, and a successful search for a summer wardrobe for yrs truly. Other details are too intimate to share, but let me say…if I could marry this woman a second time, I would.

I am burying the lede (I hate spelling it that way!), but Barb and I, in our Barbara Allan mode, will be appearing for Antiques Ravin’ at Centuries and Sleuths in Forest Park, Illinois, at 2 pm on Sunday June 9. That’s at 7419 Madison St, Forest Park, IL 60130. The phone there is 708-771-7243. Centuries and Sleuths specializes in history and mystery, so perhaps it’s no surprise that we love it.

* * *

The great portrait artist, Everett Raymond Kinstler, had died at 92 – a long life well-lived. To me, and many others in the world of comics, his portraiture is overshadowed by his early work for the pulps, paperback covers and comic books.

Some of what follows is drawn from my introduction to the Hermes Press collection of pre-Disney Zorro comics.

Several decades ago, when I was just beginning to write the Dick Tracy comic strip, I wrote Everett Raymond Kinstler a fan letter about his Zorro comics. He wrote back, astonished that anyone was still interested in such ancient work, and invited me to join him in his studio at the fabled Player’s Club on my next visit to New York.

I did. He was gracious and friendly, the studio exactly what you’d expect, a high-ceilinged, sunlight-streaming space. He was working on a John Wayne portrait, and I was just becoming aware of what a very big deal this artist was, painter of movie stars and presidents. But what pleased me most was how fond he was – how enthusiastic he remained – about his brief tenure on Zorro. He clearly felt it was his best work in comics.

He was warm and lively and not at all patronizing. He gave me a lovely original that still hangs in my office – the inside front cover of a ‘50s crime comic book (he also gave me a signed copy of his book on painting portraits with a drawing on the flyleaf). I also have a Classics Illustrated page that I bought from Heritage for a relative song a few years ago (pictured here).

As the years have passed, this much-respected artist never shied away from or downplayed his formative years in the pulps and in comics, and that in itself makes him a remarkable man.

I spoke with him maybe ten years ago at a San Diego Comic Con and we caught up. I’ve received lovely Christmas cards from him over the years, and he was very happy that I had managed to get his Zorro art collected in book form by Hermes Press.

Look, this guy encountered – and painted – many of the great figures of the Twentieth Century. And yet he had not a particle of snobbery in his make-up. He loved having worked in the comics.

The book to get about this great man and great artist is Everett Raymond Kinstler: The Artist’s Journey Through Popular Culture – 1942-1962. It’s a hundred bucks at Amazon but Bud’s Art Books has it at bargain prices ($30 for the hardcover, $15 for the trade paperback!). Order it here, but move quickly.

But you should also track down Zorro: The Complete Dell Pre-Code Comics from Hermes Press, which I introduced and edited. It’s out of print and somewhat pricey, but ebay has a couple of copies for around fifty bucks.

Read about Ray Kinstler and see some examples of his work here.

Read one of his great Zorro stories here.

I’ve lost another hero, but if I could live that long, and continue to work at my peak as Ray did, I would be content.

* * *

Here’s an interesting, insightful review of my 1976 novel, Quarry (actually written around 1972).

And, finally, Ron Fortier has reviewed the splendid trade paperback from Brash Books of Black Hats.

M.A.C.