Posts Tagged ‘Barbara Allan’

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.

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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.

A “New” Writer Reflects

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

As I write this, SUPREME JUSTICE has hit 548 reviews and maintains a four-star average. This is a testament to Amazon’s marketing ability, and has taught this old dog some new things, if not tricks.

I continue to be surprised by the confidence of readers who are quite sure that I’m imitating writers who I’ve never read. Any number have scolded me for trying to do Jack Reacher, and are particularly annoyed that my character Reeder’s name is so similar.

Those of you who have followed these updates for a while know that I am notoriously unfamiliar with the work of other suspense/mystery writers of my time. I am strictly a Hammett/Chandler/Cain/Spillane guy. The last hardcover mystery I bought and read was the final 87th Precinct novel. My idea of a new mystery writer is Donald E. Westlake.

I did the original synopsis of SUPREME JUSTICE – and this pre-dates Matt Clemens’ involvement – seven years ago. I’d never heard of Jack Reacher, and frankly my first familiarity with the character was the Tom Cruise movie – I obviously go to a lot of those. Reeder’s name had nothing to do with Reacher. I’ve never read Tom Clancy either, though I’ve seen most of the Jack Ryan movies.

But Amazon reviewers are confident in this case, and many others, that I’m doing Lee Child or Clancy or Grisham or Sandford or any number of writers I’ve never read. By the way, I mean no insult to them or any writer. I have stated here numerous times that (a) my reading time is largely taken up by research, and (b) I am a natural mimic and avoid reading other suspense fiction for that reason.

There’s another reason, and it goes something like this…other people’s mystery novels fall into one of three categories: worse than me, about the same as me, better than me. Why would I want to read something worse than my stuff? Why should I bother reading something that I could write myself just as well? As for those better than me, well, screw them!

Yes, I’m kidding, sort of, and I do occasionally read contemporary crime fiction, as when I’m on an Edgar or Shamus committee, or when one of my writer friends has something out. Thankfully my writer friends are very good – people like Ed Gorman, Steve Mertz, Bob Goldsborough, Bill Crider, Bob Randisi, John Lutz, and half a dozen more.

And I know that a lot of writers continue to read voraciously in their own fields, so this is probably a weakness on my part. But I mention this chiefly to make the point that if I’m setting out to work in another writer’s wheelhouse, it’s more likely to be Mickey Spillane or Rex Stout than John Grisham or Lee Child.

But there’s something else odd – and frankly disturbing, and certainly humbling – that turns up in a good number of these Amazon reader reviews. A lot of these readers think I’m a “new” writer; a fair amount of ‘em go out of their way to say they’ve never heard of me.

I realize I’m not John Grisham or Lee Child, but while I have not read either of those very popular writers, I am aware of their existence. As someone who spends plenty of time wandering in bookstores, and studying the section where my work is shelved, I have a strong awareness (without reading them) of scores of writers in my genre. I read Mystery Scene, Crimespree, The Strand, Deadly Pleasures, always read the review column in EQMM, and attend Bouchercons frequently. So I know who my contemporaries are.

Yet these mystery fans, writing Amazon reviews…some of them, anyway…haven’t noticed I’m alive during this forty-year career of mine. Haven’t noticed my byline on ROAD TO PERDITION or CSI or the Spillane collaborations or…anything. It’s as if they know only the authors whose names they’ve encountered in airport gift shops.

So when I see SUPREME JUSTICE with 500-plus Amazon reviews, and, for example, KING OF THE WEEDS sitting at 21 reviews, I am as disappointed about the latter as I am thrilled about the former.

And sadly convinced that marketing is king.

Here I thought it was writing. What a schmuck!

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Speaking of EQMM, reviewer Steve Steinbock has nice things to say this month about THE WRONG QUARRY and ANTIQUES CON, and other projects of mine. Here’s where you can see it on line; the reviews in question are toward the end.

A very cool new Facebook page dedicated to Mike Hammer and Stacy Keach is here.

The SUPREME JUSTICE reviews on the Net are starting to hit, like this one from Crimespree’s site.

Here’s another…

and another[Note from Nate: This one’s got a drawing for a free copy too!]

and another.

ROAD TO PERDITION continues to make best comics-to-movies lists.

Finally, here’s a very nice KING OF THE WEEDS review from Nerdspan.

M.A.C.

New “Barbara Allan” Out This Week!

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014
Antiques Con

The day this update goes live, the new Barbara Allan – ANTIQUES CON – will be available. You should be able to find it at your favorite bookstore (and if they don’t have it, ask – but Barnes & Noble has been a big supporter of the series, so that’s a safe bet). And of course you can get it on line.

Those of you who got advance reading copies can now post a review on Amazon (and elsewhere).

One of the fun things about this one (commented upon by several reviewers) is that we begin with Chapter Two. The conceit is that our editor made us drop Chapter One because that chapter – dealing with the attempt to recover the paperweight that beloved Aunt Olive’s ashes had been turned into – had nothing to do with the mystery plot.

Well, you can read Chapter One, and for free, by going to our Barbara Allan web site.

The web site is a work in progress, with lots of fun stuff to come, but for now it’s already very cool (thank you, Nate!) with individual pages for each Barbara Allan book, including BOMBSHELL and REGENERATION. Many of the books have sample chapters, for those of you who haven’t dipped into the world of Barbara Allan as yet. Check it out!

To further celebrate, read this fantastic review from one of our favorite people (and favorite writers), Bill Crider.

Speaking of great reviews, here’s one that is about to appear in Booklist for SUPREME JUSTICE:

In the near future, the Supreme Court has reversed Roe v. Wade, strengthened the Patriot Act, and dismissed the Fourth Amendment. Devlin Harrison, the second African American president, is a liberal, but the court’s conservatives plan to outlast him. Then conservative justice Henry Venter is shot and killed in a D.C. restaurant. Enter former Secret Service Agent Joe Reeder, who took a bullet while guarding a president. Hailed as a hero, he made the mistake of expressing his opposition to that president’s neocon politics and quickly became a pariah. His only remaining federal-cop friend is FBI Agent Gabe Sloan, and Sloan, valuing Reeder’s insight, adds Reeder as a consultant to the multiagency task force investigating Venter’s murder. Soon a second conservative justice is killed, and the mastermind behind the crimes may be just getting started.

Collins (Ask Not, 2013), perhaps best known for his Nathan Heller novels, has crafted a spiky thriller with a fine inside-the-Beltway sensibility. His politics are transparent enough to cost him conservative readers, but the sense is that Collins is probably OK with that.

Here’s a LAST QUARRY review – better late than never.

Craig Zablo has posted a pic of Mickey and me. I wonder if he knows it was shot outside the Tower of London?

Here’s an interesting love/hate evaluation of series fiction in the mystery genre, with a brief but nice QUARRY mention.

MAC Iowa City Literary Walk

Speaking of Quarry, our images this week include shots of the structure honoring me as one of the authors on Iowa City’s Literary Walk (I am part of the Northside Marketplace expansion). This is particularly sweet to me, since as many of you know, I was kind of a black sheep at the Iowa Writers Workshop because of my insistence on writing crime fiction. Quarry was created when I was in the last semester of my MFA work at the Workshop, and the opening three chapters were “workshopped” to mixed reviews, mostly negative, including my instructor. My champion at the Workshop was the great mainstream writer Richard Yates – and his pedestal with quote was added to the walk at the same time as mine…how sweet is that? Writing well is the best revenge.

MAC Iowa City Literary Walk

M.A.C.

Veronica Mars Attacks

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

This weekend Barb and I went to St. Louis to visit our son Nate (who as you may know runs this site) and his terrific wife, Abby. I finished the Spillane western novel THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK (but for a two-day edit, which will begin today), so I could really use the break. Ditto Barb, who recently finished her draft of ANTIQUES SWAP. But the main reason for the trip was seeing the VERONICA MARS movie.

I am a Kickstarter backer of the movie. You’re welcome. But its limited run (pretty much strictly AMC theaters) did not bring the film to our area, so going to see it in St. Louis made a lot of sense, since we hadn’t seen Nate and Abby in a while, and we could do a late celebration of my birthday – Nate even sprung for the tickets. As a harbinger of senility, I forgot to wear one of the two VERONICA MARS t-shirts I received as a backer, a slip that Nate gleefully reminded me of numerous times.

Nate’s presence, despite his sarcastic nature (which I have no idea where he got), was key because – like Barb – he was a VERONICA MARS fan as well. This was an enthusiasm grown from a binge-watch, because I did not discover the show till I’d seen Kristen Bell in REEFER MADNESS and realized she was a special talent. Yes, and blonde and beautiful, but that’s just petty of you to mention. By way of prep for the film, Barb and I binge re-watched the three seasons in three weeks, and Nate and Abby did pretty much the same, though I believe it took them four weeks…a barely adequate performance, if you ask me.

As for the movie itself, as one of the producers (you’re welcome), I am biased. But all four of us loved it. I can’t be sure, but I think it will work well on moviegoers with a bent toward mystery and specially noir P.I. whether they’ve seen the original series or not. It manages to be at once a movie and a great VERONICA MARS episode. The mystery is not really the thing here – the movie is about its main character making a life/career decision – but the whodunit aspect is typically twisty and twisted in the fashion of the series.

As the co-creator of MS. TREE, I appreciate the way creator Rob Thomas (co-writer and director here) transforms wise-guy PI dialogue – and a tough guy attitude – by placing them in the mouth and body of a lovely young woman. Veronica Mars is slightly off-kilter, at least a little nuts, like Mike Hammer, Jake Axminster and Nate Heller (and Ms. Tree). The film has plenty of call-back references to the show itself, and many, even most, cast members (including non-recurring ones) turn up in a way that will tickle fans but doesn’t get in the way of the appreciation of non-fans. Working on these two levels is terribly tricky, and I admire the screenplay for pulling off something that I feared might be impossible.

Everybody is good, but Bell is remarkable – so badly or unimaginatively used elsewhere (fie on you, HOUSE OF LIES), she has a confidence and ease in this role that indicates she is well aware it’s her signature one. Her father Keith, as played by Enrico Colantoni, is equally good, and remains the heart of VERONICA MARS. Jason Dohring as Veronica’s stormy love interest does a beautiful job of taking his character somewhere new while remaining the same guy…again, not easy. In fact, the entire film and its cast does well by the passage of time, and making a ten year class reunion for Neptune High a major set piece and plot mover here is just another example of how good Rob Thomas is with this property that he clearly loves.

The film, in its limited release, had an impressive opening weekend. It’s a unique release with VOD simultaneous and a Blu-ray/DVD coming very soon. I hope that the film’s success – and it already is a success, just by existing – leads either to more features or a renewed series. As much fun as it is to see VERONICA MARS on a bigger landscape – which Thomas managed to pull off on an under-$6 mil budget – this is a story and world best served by series television.

After all, VERONICA MARS is easily in the top ten private eye shows of all time. And in my top five – at the top.

Okay, since you asked nicely:

VERONICA MARS
CITY OF ANGELS
MICKEY SPILLANE’S MIKE HAMMER (McGavin)
A NERO WOLFE MYSTERY
THE ROCKFORD FILES
Runner up: PETER GUNN

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Speaking of movies, a very nice if extremely belated review of REAL TIME: SIEGE AT LUCAS STREET market has popped up at the Bookgasm movie spin-off, FLICK ATTACK.

Here’s a nice, smart review of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT.

Finally, here’s a terrific Publisher’s Weekly review for the upcoming ANTIQUES CON:

“In Allan’s humorous eighth whodunit (after 2013’s Antiques Chop), Brandy Borne and her quirky mother, Vivian, travel from quiet Serenity, Iowa, along with their blind, diabetic shih tzu, Sushi, to New York City, where they hope to auction their prized possession—an original Superman drawing—at a comic convention. On arrival at Bufford Con, organized by comic purist Tommy Bufford, the pair soon learn that all is not well. The old comic convention guard are none too pleased about Tommy’s new competing event, which may explain why the prize pen ends up as a murder weapon. Mysterious deaths follow Brandy and Vivian wherever they go, but these two spunky out-of-towners always manage to find crafty ways to avoid sticky situations in the big city. Tips about comics collecting add to the cozy fun. Allan is the pseudonym of Barbara and Max Allan Collins.”

M.A.C.