Posts Tagged ‘Batman’

O’Collins Obects

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

An Irish crime writer, whose work I’m not familiar with, has been hired to write a new Phillip Marlowe novel. It got tons of play, particularly on the Net, and my name was mentioned (with Robert B. Parker’s) in a short list of mystery writers who have previously written Marlowe material. Parker, of course, finished POODLE SPRINGS and later wrote a sequel to THE BIG SLEEP. I didn’t care for either of Parker’s efforts – they surprisingly seem half-hearted, from such an avowed Chandler fan – although a fun TV movie was made out of SPRINGS. My contribution was in the Phillip Marlowe centennial collection (a story that subsequently was rewritten as a Heller and can be found in CHICAGO LIGHTNING as “Perfect Crime”).

As the guy who is continuing the Mike Hammer books, I am probably hypocritical and way out of line in suggesting that this new Marlowe novel seems like a terrible idea. I will defend myself by pointing out that my situation is different, even unique – I was asked by Mickey himself to complete unfinished works in his files. And the truth is, I would have taken the Marlowe gig if offered to me, because Chandler is on my really, really short list (the one that includes Spillane, Hammett and Cain). What rankles – and I am aware of Chandler’s British upbringing – is that the choice wasn’t of an American writer. I’m not the only American typewriter-pounder who would have done this job well – I can think of a dozen off the top of my head, from Bob Crais and Loren Estleman to John Lutz and Ed Gorman. Bob Randisi wrote a hell of a good Marlowe story in the centennial collection. Maybe one of the big boys like Michael Connelly or Dennis Lahane or Jeff Deaver…anyway, there are plenty of better choices than somebody from the UK. I say it’s spinach and I say the hell with it.

Some years ago (probably at least twenty), I was approached to continue the Lew Archer books. I turned the job down (pshaw, to those of you who think I never say no to a gig) because (a) I have never been a Ross Macdonald fan, and (b) it was a suicide mission. Now I would have taken on any number of other suicide missions (I would still do a Sam Spade novel if anybody offered it), but I felt somebody more attuned to Archer ought to do it. As it turns out, nobody did.

By the way, I am not a Macdonald detractor. I read him when I was a teenager, devouring private eye novels. I liked his books. I just didn’t love them. He seemed to keep writing the same book over and over, and his writing seemed forced and, well, arch. He reached for the similes and metaphors, where they mostly flowed right out of Chandler. But he was serious about what he did and the books were readable, the people more real than most in the genre, and he provided a more overtly literary alternative to Mickey Spillane and Hammer that invited a whole other crowd of writers into the game. So props to him. I just didn’t want to step into his shoes.

I haven’t decided whether I’ll try to read the Irish guy’s book. Probably not. Somebody from South America or Spain or someplace wrote one that I couldn’t get past page one on. But it’s interesting how much attention it’s attracted.

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Ron Fortier has given a good, lively review to TRIPLE PLAY. Check it out.

Unexpectedly, Craig Clarke – long a Heller supporter – has written a fine, insightful review of STOLEN AWAY, perhaps sparked by the new Amazon Encore edition.

And my BATMAN stuff keeps attracting attention, often from people who still want to tar-and-feather me (who was it that said, “Get a life?”), but now and then something surprisingly positive shows up, like this piece.

There seems to be an audio book collecting the Fangoria Dreadtime Stories, many of which are written by me. Here’s a mostly good review here that scolds me for including gratuitous sex. Who, me?

A British web site published a mostly negative but interesting review of Mickey’s early non-Mike Hammer novel, THE LONG WAIT. I waded in disagreeing, and a very interesting, lively bunch of comments followed. Worth looking at.


Friday Night Lights

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012


I have lately late at night been binge-watching the series FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, which I had heard for years was excellent but just hadn’t got around to. I picked up the boxed set of all five seasons at a Half-Price Books and got caught up in what is superficially a teenage soap opera with a football background but is actually as good a dramatic series as I’ve ever seen on television. As much as I like THE SOPRANOS and MAD MEN, the good heart and skillful storytelling displayed in this sentiment-filled (but not sentimental) series reminds me how easy it is in writing to fall back on cheap-shot cynicism, snarky irony and the dark side. The naturalistic acting and the character-driven plotting show how empty and soulless are the likes of BOARDWALK EMPIRE and HOUSE OF LIES. There’s a lot of talent on display in front of and in back of the lights, with eavesdropping hand-held cameras and an evocative guitar-dominated score by W.G. “Snuffy” Walden (of the similarly excellent WEST WING).

Because the producers and writers knew that the fifth season was their last, they brought back characters from previous seasons (it’s a high school story, so characters graduate and move on) and wrapped up the entire story in a longer-than-usual episode that is my candidate for the best and most satisfying final show in a serial. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton as the coach and his wife are responsible (along with the writers, of course) for what is the most realistic and believable marriage ever depicted on television.

One of the reasons I finally watched the show was Taylor Kitsch’s role in it – I was impressed with Kitsch in both JOHN CARTER and the surprisingly good BATTLESHIP (directed by Peter Berg, the director/writer of the film FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and creator of the TV version). Kitsch’s Tim Riggins is a memorable creation, breathing life into the cliche of the seemingly doomed working-class high school sports hero whose glory days will soon be behind him. This is a charismatic and talented actor, who would make a fine Nate Heller. He’s in Oliver Stone’s SAVAGES (from the Don Winslow novel) right now, which I haven’t seen yet. Somehow I imagine it’s not going to be as heartwarming as FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.

Speaking of stories that aren’t heartwarming, the Spillane/Collins novella “Skin,” available only as an e-book, continues to wrack up nice reviews, like this one.

And MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN was given a nice review in Crimespree (not available on line) and a small but appreciated write up here. The Crimespree review advises potential readers that the high price of the book makes finding a library copy to read a priority. But both Barnes & Noble and Amazon are carrying it at a decent, if shifting, discount. At any given time, one of them usually has it for around thirty bucks – still stiff, but anyone interested in my work or Mickey’s will want it.

Here’s a surprise: a glowing write-up about one of my BATMAN comic book stories.

Speaking of Batman, count me among the minority who found THE DARK KNIGHT RISES the latest candidate for “Emperor’s New Clothes” status. The pretentiousness and the self-importance on display are almost as unbearable as the length of the thing, which contains more absurdities than a Dr. Seuss book (but is far less fun). What I come away with most are the unintelligible dialogue exchanges between pro-wrestler-like Bane, whose mouth is covered by a pointlessly grotesque mask, and Bale’s Batman, who talks in his now trademark low, lispy spooky Batman voice – not that any of it is worth hearing. Their muffled back-and-forth is the stuff that Riff Trax are made of. And if you like kettle drums, you’ll just love the score. Perfect for an endless Samoan war dance.

On the plus side, Anne Hathaway makes a perfectly fine Catwoman who actually injects some humor into the mix (a rarity in these dour films). And while I like Ms. Hathaway’s rear view just fine, was it really necessary to design a bat-cycle that has her riding it prone with her butt in their air? Just wondering.


Complex Issues

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

This will be a somewhat brief Update, as I am immersed in working on the new Mike Hammer, COMPLEX 90. It’s a particularly tricky book because it includes a sequence about Hammer in Russia (referred to and essentially outlined in Mickey’s unfinished manuscript) that I am trying to bring on stage. The book takes place in 1964 and is, in part, a sequel to THE GIRL HUNTERS.

I am pleased to report that MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN by Jim Traylor and has received a glowing review from Rod Lott at the web’s premiere review site, Bookgasm. Check this one out.

I’ve been astonished at how much coverage Hard Case Crime’s announcement of the new Jack and Maggie Starr mystery, SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, has been stirring up. It indicates the PR genius of editor/publisher Charles Ardai. The book doesn’t even come out till next February, and my JFK Heller novel comes out this Fall, and it hasn’t had a whisper of fuss…even if all it does is solve the JFK assassination. But I’m delighted by all this advance coverage of SEDUCTION. I won’t provide links to all of the nice write-ups the announcement has received – I’m getting great reviews for the idea of this book! – but here’s a typical one from that pro Mel Odom.

We continue to get terrific LADY, GO DIE! reviews, and this one is one of my favorites. The review is from a slightly feminist POV, and I love the way the reviewer – and a number of other women who have given this book good reviews – struggle with the females in the novel, grasping that Spillane wrote very strong women and yet having to deal with those women tending to follow Hammer’s lead…plus Hammer calling them “doll,” “kitten” and so on. A while back a reviewer said nobody uses such terms any more. Well, those books take place in the past. On the other hand, I call my astonishingly beautiful blonde wife – in her sixties and looking about thirty-five – “doll” and “babe” all the time. Sue me. Anyway, read this smart, fun review.

We’ll close with a rarity – a fan reviewer who loves one of my Batman stories. It’s called “Robber’s Roost,” is about the Penguin, and is a prose short story. Also, full disclosure: I don’t remember a thing about it.


There’s a Podcast on the Loose!

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Mickey Spillane, signed:
“Hi Max, a big hello to my hero!”

At the St. Louis Bouchercon, EQMM editor Janet Hutchings asked me to read for a podcast the Spillane/Collins story they published a while back, “There’s A Killer on the Loose!” Well, it’s available for free download now, right here:

Right now Barb and I are getting ready for the International Mystery Festival in Owensboro, Kentucky, later this week. Today I did a final edit on the script for the live presentation of “Encore for Murder” starring Gary Sandy as Mike Hammer (it will be presented a number of times, but the premiere is Thursday night. More info is available right here.

I’ve been encouraging you to pick up the new book by Jim Traylor and me, MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN, at Barnes & Noble online, because of the great price. Well, now Amazon has it at a reduced price as well. Even on sale, this is an expensive book, but I swear it’s a good one, with great pictures and jammed full of information and informed opinion. If you like Mickey or me or especially both, you want to bite the bullet and send for this.

Here’s another positive review of LADY, GO DIE! that seems slightly ashamed of itself. Why reviewers can’t like this book without apology or a patronizing tone is beyond me. But I’m glad they like it. This one got picked up all over the place.

Here’s one more interview with me from the LADY, GO DIE! cyber tour. I know, I know – enough already. But it’s an interesting one, I think.

And here out of the past comes a positive review of a BATMAN short story I wrote some time in the previous century.

Finally, my son Nathan has been gradually upgrading this site. It’s very much a W.I.P., but you’ve probably noticed the cool new headers on the first page, and there are other new graphics here and there, as well as updated bios of me and my band Crusin’. He feels it’s premature to mention this, but I’m pleased with the progress he’s making and hope you’re noticing some of the changes and improvements.