Posts Tagged ‘Batman’

X-Files Is Out There

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
The X-Files: Trust No One
Paperback:
Audio MP3 CD:

The surprising news of a new, six-episode season of THE X-FILES featuring the original cast caused me to reflect on just how much Barb, Nate and I enjoyed the series, back in (as they say) the day. How we never missed an episode, even when we were so frustrated we wanted to throw a brick through the screen (“All will be revealed!”), and binge watching our laser discs that allowed some of the fan favorite episodes to be viewed again and again at home (amazing).

The series ran nine seasons and a major, big-budget motion picture was part of the mix, as well. Toward the end of the run, I was well-established as a writer of tie-in novels, and was approached by Harper Collins (the publisher, not some obscure cousin of mine) to develop a proposal for an original X-FILES novel.

In the business of writing tie-ins, Fox TV was notorious for being hard to work with, especially on the X-FILES franchise. But I was such a fan, I wanted to do it anyway. So for a period of about a year, off and on, I worked under the guiding hand of a Harper Collins editor to produce a fifty-page story treatment for a novel. This was entirely on spec, something I rarely do – but remember, I was a fan.

I came up with something I thought was very, very good, and so did the editor – a kind of X-FILES MEETS AMITYVILLE. We sent it in. We never heard a word. No rejection, much less an acceptance. That’s the writing biz – you drop something down a well and don’t even hear a splash.

By this time the series was in its final season, and not only did my tie-in never happen, no other X-FILES novels by anybody happened, either.

Then in 2008, a second film was produced: THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE. Out of the blue, I was approached to write the novelization. I was thrilled, although I was apprehensive, because the movie was being produced in great secrecy, and the reputation of the X-FILES people being impossible to work with was a less than distant memory.

As it happened, I WANT TO BELIEVE was the single best experience I ever had, writing movie novelizations. I was one of a small handful of people (something like five) who had a copy of the script. The actors, I understand, had only their own script pages. The cinematographer had to read the script in a bank vault. But it was on my desk in Muscatine, Iowa.

Both Chris Carter and especially co-writer/producer Frank Spotnitz were terrific; I was frequently on the phone with the latter. If I had questions about wardrobe, I was sent daily costume sheets. I had photos from the set when the Internet had next to nothing. In one case, the editor of the film (Richard A. Harris, Academy Award winning editor of TITANIC and TERMINATOR 2) sat at his computer in Canada and described an action scene to me, frame by frame, that was not in my script. We were on the phone for two wonderful hours. Incredible.

I think I WANT TO BELIEVE is one of my best movie novels, but the film itself disappointed a lot of people. I liked it. It was an intelligent monster-of-the-week episode with some daring themes. The mood was right and the two leads were typically stellar. I remain thrilled that, sort of at the last minute, I became a part of THE X-FILES.

Now with the six-episode special-event series coming, a real push on X-FILES material is under way, particularly from IDW, with whom I have a long history. I was approached by the fine writer (also fine guy) Jonathan Maberry to contribute a story to an X-FILES anthology, TRUST NO ONE. I asked if I could do a novella and was given permission.

Now all will be revealed: I used my long-ago story treatment for the novel that never happened to write “The House on Hickory Hill.” Finally I got some money for writing it! Finally that story gets to be seen. And I think it’s a good one.

Also, a series of X-FILES audio books has been produced including the various vintage original tie-in novels and the two movie novelizations (also TRUST NO ONE). That means that suddenly a 2008 movie novel of mine has an audio book. I haven’t heard it yet, but admit I am pleased it exists and will delight at revisiting that underrated tale again, on some road trip to come.

The X Files: I Want To Believe

It’s hard to know if THE X-FILES will be a “thing” again or just be a nostalgic blip on the pop-culture radar. The early ‘90s is suddenly a very long time ago. But THE X-FILES is a series that had an incredible impact on everything that came after. CSI, for example, played off a similar flashlights-in-the-dark vibe. As frustrating as the serialized nature of X-FILES could be, it set the stage for so many novelistic series to follow. Of current series, ORPHAN BLACK is steeped in the X-FILES approach.

I, for one, can’t wait to once again be thrilled and frustrated by this seminal series.

* * *

I am pleased to find this review of BATMAN: SECOND CHANCES that likes and understands my run on the comic book. This is definitely worth checking out (scroll down some).

This somewhat ancient but lovely review of my novel SAVING PRIVATE RYAN has popped up on the Net.

Here’s an interesting article on the QUARRY TV series moving to Memphis for its last weeks of production on season one. Lots of mentions of the novels.

Finally, here’s a write-up on the Eclipse comic book company that includes a brief but very nice mention of MS. TREE.

M.A.C.

Batman — Second Chances

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015
Batman: Second Chances

Nobody at DC Comics informed me of this, but a collection of all of my BATMAN comic book stories has been published. A small box of comp copies arrived the other day, my first contact with DC on the book. Its pub date is July 21, but comic book shops may have it sooner.

It’s a handsome volume, but I haven’t sat down to read it yet. That experience will no doubt be bittersweet, because my BATMAN comics were not well-received by a significant number of fans. Even today, I’m one of the least popular BATMAN writers on many comics chat sites.

My position has always been that I did a good job, but was undone by poor editing. The latter is hard to prove, because I no longer have my scripts and my memory is fuzzy – I just know that certain explanatory captions were dropped and several sequences that were cross-cut got reassembled in a more linear, boring fashion. Back in those pre-Internet days, contact with an editor (in this case, the legendary Denny O’Neil) was strictly through the mail and the occasional long-distance call. I’ve come to think that Denny and I were not a good fit because, ironically, we both respected each other’s work so much that we didn’t want to step on the other guy’s toes.

What really turned me into an also-ran on BATMAN was the inability of O’Neil to pair me with an artist for longer than two issues. Sometimes the second part of a story would be drawn in an entirely different manner from the first, and apparently minus any reference material having been provided to the second artist to keep character visuals consistent with the first. There are eight comic-book stories by me in this volume (a handful by other writers are included) and for those eight issues, I had six artists.

Among the ironies of my brief tenure on BATMAN is my Toys ‘r’ Us success. That company went to DC, wanting to put together bags of BATMAN comics; the Toys ‘r’ Us people looked at about three or four years of BATMAN…and picked out my issues. I made a lot of dough from those reprints.

I’ve also been told that my material has been a source for animated BATMAN adventures.

The most famous thing about my version of Jason Todd is that fans voted to kill him off, like Andy Kaufman getting voted off SNL by phone. I should say that the writers who followed me (notably Jim Starlin) did not take Jason Todd’s story in the direction I intended and had set up.

BATMAN – SECOND CHANCES is complete as to my comic-book stories. But it does not include the first continuity of the BATMAN strip that I did before the Tribune forced me to step down at the threat of a lawsuit (the great Marshal Rogers was the artist). I did a final comic-book script about my Mime character that was never produced, but I turned it into a BATMAN short story. My two BATMAN graphic-novel projects – SCAR OF THE BAT, Eliot Ness Meets Batman; and BATMAN – CHILD OF DREAMS based on the Kia Asamiya manga – constitute the rest of my body of work on the Dark Knight, and represent my best work there. And it speaks well of Denny O’Neil that he recruited me for SCAR OF THE BAT after all we’d been through.

For the record, I was not fired – I quit. Now, I probably quit about fifteen seconds before I would have been fired…but I beat ‘em to the punch.

BATMAN – SECOND CHANCES represents a second chance for my comics stories on that character to be reappraised, and I’m pleased to have these stories gathered in one place.

M.A.C.

New Mike Hammer Mini-Book Plus Quarry Raves

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

My friend Otto Penzler, who published the first three Spillane/Collins “Mike Hammer” novels at Harcourt, asked me to develop a bibliophile novella for him. He has a series of these small books that are sold exclusively through his Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan. The story, called “It’s in the Book,” has Mike Hammer searching for…a book. I think it’s one of best the short stories I’ve developed from Mickey’s shorter Hammer fragments, and you can order it here for $4.95.

There’s also a signed limited hardcover edition for $100, for the more demented among you. You can find it at the Mysterious Bookshop website.

Courtesy of Iowa-based stand-up comic Dwayne Clark (he’s terrific) comes this screen cap of Chris Christie. No political point here, just bragging on how a certain title of mine has gotten into the language.

Road to Contrition

The WRONG QUARRY reviews, mostly raves, keep rolling in. Very good response to this one. It’s been interesting and a little odd to have all this discussion of what is from my perspective the previous Quarry novel while I am working on the current one. It’s especially odd because a lot of the reviews focus on the “list” approach of WRONG QUARRY, whereas QUARRY’S CHOICE takes place while Quarry is still working for the Broker. When he’s a hitman killing citizens and not a hitman killing other hitmen.

One reviewer, generally a fan of my work, has trouble with Quarry himself. That he talks to the reader. That he seems fairly normal. That he is a killer. I get this, and always knew the character would not work for all of my readers. Going back to the character’s creation in the early ‘70s, Quarry is perhaps the first series protagonist with PTSD. He is us, post-Vietnam – numb, less human while still recognizably human. The arc of almost any Quarry novel is the character starting as a cold killer, meeting a good woman, and becoming something more like who he’d been pre-Vietnam. But faced at the conclusion with a decision that could be answered any number of ways (one of them violence), he will always choose violence. Like America, that war ruined him.

I understand that readers who like Mallory or Heller (or the ANTIQUES series!) may find Quarry a hard go. The books are black comedies, and he is not a hero in the traditional sense. He’s not even an anti-hero in the traditional sense. I like it when readers are disturbed or uncomfortable with him and his behavior. When in 1972 I showed the first two chapters of QUARRY to my workshop class at the University of Iowa, many students objected to Quarry killing a man dispassionately in chapter one and screwing a woman dispassionately in chapter two. I just smiled and said, “That was the point – bang bang.”

Also, there are Quarry fans who don’t like Heller and really don’t like Mallory (and would probably puke reading an ANTIQUES novel). I’m okay with that. You don’t have to like everything on the restaurant’s menu. But do keep in mind that I primarily write melodrama, and that I don’t necessarily approve of everything that my protagonists do. Do you really think Mike Hammer and I vote for the same candidates?

Well, that’s unfair. Mike Hammer doesn’t vote.

Not even for Chris Christie.

* * *

Let me share some of these mostly incredible WRONG QUARRY reviews, starting with this rave from Book Reporter.

Another nice one can be seen at the Eloquent Page, though I hardly agree with the reviewer that Quarry is depicted as “a real man’s man, all booze, violence and broads.” Mostly he drinks Cokes, and he doesn’t really think about women in those terms. Violence – okay, you got me there.

As a guy who never served in the military, I love it when a military.com reviewer digs Quarry. (Quarry was, as I mentioned, in part based on my late friend Jon McRae, who served many tours in Vietnam as a Marine.)

The Mystery People folks chose THE WRONG QUARRY as one of their three picks for January.

Here’s a cool one from Nerd Like You. I love it when nerds like my stuff – I was one before it became cool.

Here’s a very intelligent write-up from Mystery Maven.

And another great one from Terry Ambrose.

Geek Hard finds THE WRONG QUARRY righteous.

This brief, positive review prefers Heller and Mallory to Quarry, and recommends Mallory as the place to start with my work. As I mentioned above, I can see that a Mallory fan might struggle with Quarry.

And Nerds of a Feather likes THE WRONG QUARRY, too.

The mixed review I discussed above can be seen here. You have to admire a balanced approach like this – so easy these days to write a rave or a pan.

Finally, on a non-Quarry note, here’s a scan of a BATMAN story courtesy of current fans who like my work on that feature. Bless you, my children!

M.A.C.

Nero Nom For Antiques Disposal—Satisfactory

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Barb and I (and for that matter our son Nate) are huge Nero Wolfe fans. Our preferred mode of enjoyment is the fine series of audio books read by Michael Pritchard, which Barb and I have listened to perhaps five times. I am also a fan of Bob Goldsborough’s continuation of Rex Stout’s great series – he was a role model for me in my work on Mickey’s unfinished novels.

So it was with particular pleasure and even a little pride that Barb and I learned that we’d been nominated for the Wolfe Pack’s prestigious Nero Award. This award is, rivaled only by the Edgar, the remaining award in mystery fiction that I still dream of winning – in part because it’s physically cool, being a bust of Wolfe himself. Read about it at the Rap Sheet, where you can see who the other three nominees are (like I’m going to tell you!).

The other big news this week is that top-flight actor Stellan Skadrsgard (THOR, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO), has been cast as the Broker in the Cinemax QUARRY pilot. This will be a recurring role, if the pilot goes to series, at least for the first season (regular readers of the Quarry books know why the Broker will not likely be around for the long haul…).

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: I have learned that reviews of WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER cannot go up on Amazon until after the book has been published. So those of you got review copies from me will have to wait until then, although you can post at Goodreads any time and the also on blogs of your own. When the book comes out in September, I will remind you to post those reviews.

By the way – and this was mentioned in a comment response here, but many of you may not have seen it – I am close to signing with Hard Case Crime to do another Quarry novel, which I would write later this year. The title will probably be QUARRY’S CHOICE. It will not be a “list” novel, but will return to the period where Quarry works for the Broker. (THE WRONG QUARRY will be out in January, and I immodestly suggest it’s among the strongest in the series.)

* * *

Favorable reviews of COMPLEX 90 continue to roll in, but I really get a kick out of it when a young woman like the reviewer at Nerds in Babeland connects with Mike Hammer and his world, particularly a smart one who recognizes how strong Velda and the other female characters are.

A very well-conducted interview, part of the COMPLEX 90 blog tour, is here, at Celebrity Cafe.

And here’s another one, nicely handled by the interviewer, at blogcritics.

David Williams continues to review Heller novels in succinct, smart fashion, as in this look at BYE BYE, BABY.

And Just a Guy That Likes to Read liked reading TRUE CRIME very much, as his review indicates.

An annotated reprinting of my BATMAN comic strip story (illoed by the great Marshall Rogers) is here. I’ve posted this before, but this is a revised, expanded version.

And here’s a fun look at the “Barbara Allan” Marilyn Monroe thriller, BOMBSHELL, a book that really got lost between the cracks until Thomas & Mercer gave it a new lease on life.

M.A.C.