Posts Tagged ‘Better Dead’

A Really, Really Expensive Box of Milk Duds

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

As regular readers of this update will know, my wife Barb and I are dedicated moviegoers, and almost always see at least one movie a week. A typical weekend will have me working on Sunday and then, as sort of reward, catching a late afternoon show at the Palms, a very nice multi-plex here in Muscatine, Iowa.

Those readers will also know that the missus and I have been known to walk out of movies. I mentioned, a while back, that Barb and I were watching a really terrible Italian western at home one evening not long ago, and I said, “Honey, back in the ‘70s, would we have walked out of this movie?” And she said, “No…but then we had our whole lives in front of us.”

Barb usually has long since decided to bail before I’ve given up on a movie. She patiently rests her eyes, waiting for me to catch up with her disgust. Occasionally it takes us, or anyway me, a long time to realize I’m throwing time away on an unworthy film. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (which a good number of people liked) just wore me down with its constant over-the-top battles and contrived conflict, but we stayed probably a good hour before jumping ship. The awful Seth Rogen Christmas comedy (make that “comedy”), THE NIGHT BEFORE, was until this weekend the film that took us the least amount of time before walking out – fifteen or twenty minutes.

But the loser and new champion is BAD MOMS, or as Barb described it, “That was a really, really expensive box of Milk Duds.” We left around the ten-minute mark. We had chosen the film because SUICIDE SQUAD looked like the kind of film we’d wind up writing a suicide note after seeing – the unpleasant imagery of the preview was already more than I wanted rolling around somewhere in my brain. We considered JASON BOURNE, but nothing about the trailer indicated it would include anything we hadn’t already seen three or four times before in the franchise. And BAD MOMS had a decent Rotten Tomatoes rating (63% fresh, 78% favorable from audiences).

Also, BAD MOMS had Kristen Bell in it, second-billed. Both Barb and I are VERONICA MARS fans in particular and Kristen Bell fans in general – I even sat through every episode of her Showtime series, HOUSE OF LIES, despite finding the lead characters incredibly unsympathetic and even unpleasant. We suffered through the really crappy Melissa McCarthy movie, THE BOSS, chiefly because Bell was in it.

But BAD MOMS is so offensive – not in the sense that its would-be raunchy humor offended us, rather that it was an insult to the human race – that we left before the second-billed Bell even appeared on the screen. Reviews indicate that this female version of THE HANGOVER (by the same writers) has a funny, mostly improv performance by Kathy Hahn, who also hadn’t made it on screen before we left. Have to take their word for it.

Mila Kunis plays a Mom with two dreadful children who don’t appreciate her, and a boorish husband whose depiction made me feel like I was Martin Luther King at a Stepin Fetchit film festival. The life on screen, in a supposed suburb of Chicago, had no resemblance to human experience. Kunis, beautifully dressed, works at an office where she seems to be the boss, claiming to be the oldest one there at age 32, yet is also described as a parttime employee who’s been there six years. Clark Duke of HOT TUB TIME MACHINE, either a fellow employee or Kunis’ boss, immediately tells Kunis and another female employee about a creepy, overtly sexual dream he had, something that would get him fired or sued at any real company. Kunis is shown dropping her kids off at school and carrying in a giant paper-mache head of Nixon that she made for her son for a school project. Please explain to me what’s funny about that, and why we should like a mother who does her son’s homework for him (the title BAD MOMS is supposed to be ironic…see, they’re good moms but off on a HANGOVER-type spree, or would have been if we’d stayed around for it). Also at school is a trio of country club women (led by Christina Applegate) whose lot in life appears to be standing at the curb in front of the school to dis Kunis. Kunis’ husband is an unshaven fool who laughs at his wife when she struggles into the house carrying armloads of groceries, says he had a hard day at work because he had two conference calls and a nap, gobbles the elaborate meal she makes without thanks, gives his son a high five for getting a D on a test, and – caught masturbating in front of his computer with his pants down – tells his wife he’s checking his prostate.

Barb went out so quickly she might have been fleeing a fire. I called down the hall to her, “What time is the Apocalypse?”

By the way, a lot of people were laughing at this stuff, inexplicably…and some had their young children with them. There was a Trump rally feel to it.

A bad movie you walk out on is like a really, really bad dream from which you force yourself to wake up.

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Let’s conclude with a prayer for the future of mankind in general and America in particular, and a look at this very nice BETTER DEAD review.

M.A.C.

Catching up with Me

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Crusin’ at Muscatine’s Brew July 4

My pal Ed Gorman – one of the best writers around, and at least as good a friend – did an interview with me that I’d like to share with you. Here goes.

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1. Tell us about your current novel.

There are a couple of things that will become available soon. One is the complete version of the ROAD TO PERDITION novel. It was written in 2002 to accompany the release of the film, but DreamWorks licensing made me do a drastic cutting/rewrite, eliminating 30,000 words and any dialogue or action that wasn’t included in the book. I am very grateful to Brash Books for negotiating with DreamWorks for the real, complete novel to finally be published.

About the same time, Hard Case Crime will be bringing out QUARRY IN THE BLACK, obviously a new Quarry novel with what I think or hope is an interesting setting — George McGovern’s presidential campaign and a black leader in St. Louis who is supporting that ticket with public appearances. If you ever wanted to see how Quarry would behave at a Ku Klux Klan meeting, now is your chance.

And Otto Penzler is bringing out A LONG TIME DEAD, collecting eight Mike Hammer short stories that I developed from Spillane fragments. That’s exciting in part because there’s never been a Hammer short story collection before.

2. Can you give a sense of what you’re working on now?

I just finished a Mike Hammer novel, THE WILL TO KILL, working from a few chapters in Mickey Spillane’s files. It’s very unusual for a Hammer, because the mystery is right out of Agatha Christie, with greedy children fighting over the proceeds of a murdered patriarch’s estate.

Not too long before that, I did my pass on the new Barbara Allan mystery, ANTIQUES FRAME, co-written with my wife Barb. That was my first project after open-heart surgery and a minor stroke, and it was very gratifying to be able to get back up on the horse and ride so quickly. just weeks after the surgery.

Next up is EXECUTIVE ORDER, the third Reeder and Rogers political thriller, in collaboration with Matt Clemens.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

The greatest pleasure of a writing career is having one. The notion that I could ever hold down a normal job is highly suspect.

4. What is the greatest DISpleasure?

I don’t know if there’s a dis-pleasure for me. I really love this life. The things that frustrate me are minor in the bigger picture. For example, I despise having copy editors rewrite me, and have spent way too much time in my life putting various Humpty Dumptys back together. It’s always disappointing when a novel is critically ignored or particularly when the public ignores it. When a publisher drops a series, it can be crushing—I had to wait ten years before I felt I could re-launch Nathan Heller, and a lot of time was lost there.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

For the publishing world itself? Don’t judge an author by how well his or her last book sold. Judge each book on its own merits, and that includes proposed novels from authors whose professionalism isn’t in question.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you’d like to see in print again?

So many of my favorites are back in print again in the POD and e-book fashion. But it would be nice to see Horace McCoy, Mike Roscoe and Roy Huggins out there in a more major way. I was pleased to see Ennis Willie finally get some attention, but unfortunately it’s faded somewhat.

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that moment.

Mine is easy to remember. I got the letter (my agent at the time never called me) on Dec. 24, 1971—BAIT MONEY, the first Nolan novel, had sold on Christmas Eve! When I told Donald E. Westlake about it—he’d been a mentor to me—he said, “Sometimes God behaves like O. Henry, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

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Here are a few things on the Net you may enjoy.

First, this is a rare (and detailed) review of MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN by Jim Traylor and me. The author gives me all the credit, which is wrong, but otherwise it’s an interesting read on what is apparently a very right-wing web site.

Take a gander at this early review of the Mike Hammer collection, A LONG TIME DEAD.

Finally, one of America’s greatest mystery book stores, Mysterious Bookshop, has signed copies (available by mail) of BETTER DEAD.

M.A.C.

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I’m on the Tee-Vee!

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Actor Rick Gonzalez will play Wild Dog on ARROW

Plenty of people have been congratulating me on the addition of the character WILD DOG, the costumed hero Terry Beatty and I created in 1987, to the CW TV series ARROW. When I was preparing to put this update together, I decided to see how big a splash this news had made on the Internet. I stopped counting at 31 links to that news and to summaries of the WILD DOG comics from DC.

So I thought you might like an inside look at how this works for a creator of a comic book character. For example, you may be wondering how exactly DC informed Terry and me of this exciting news. The answer: they didn’t. You may be wondering how rich Terry and I will get from this wonderful windfall. The answer: we won’t.

Other comics creators in a similar situation have told us we can expect $100 for our trouble. I don’t know if that’s a C-note for each WILD DOG episode, or for his overall use. I also don’t know if Terry and I have to split that C-note.

Maybe we should haul out a Ouija board and see what Siegel and Shuster think.

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Tyler Hoechlin will play Superman on SUPERGIRL

In addition to the WILD DOG news, I’ve been popping up all over the Net due to the casting of Tyler Hoechlin as SUPERMAN on the CW series SUPERGIRL. (I am Trump huuuuuuge on the CW!). Tyler, as many readers of these updates surely know, played Michael Jr. in ROAD TO PERDITION. Many of the write-ups about Tyler’s good news point out that he’s played a comic-book hero before, which is how I managed to worm into a lot of the stories.

I remember vividly meeting Tyler on the set of ROAD. He was a smiling, friendly young man, and he got a kick out of it when I told him, “Don’t mention this to Tom Hanks, but you are the hero of this movie.” He was always a sunny, slightly shy presence at the various premieres of the film, and I am happy for his ever-expanding career.

In slightly related news, I received advance copies of the novel version of ROAD TO PERDITION, the complete book at last, something like 30,000 words longer than the previous paperback, with all of my dialogue and action restored. Brash Books has done a lovely job on it. Look for it in November (I’ll be signing copies at this year’s Bouchercon in New Orleans).

Here’s a link to one of the many “Tyler Hoechlin as Superman stories” that hit the Net this past week.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette published this terrific BETTER DEAD review.

By the way, Amazon (and other reviews) of BETTER DEAD, MURDER NEVER KNOCKS and ANTIQUES FATE would be much appreciated it. There’s an amusing BETTER DEAD review at Amazon that accuses Nate Heller and me of being left-wing loons – I’ve gotten a lot of that for SUPREME JUSTICE and FATE OF THE UNION, but this is a Heller first.

Finally, this nice WAR OF THE WORLDS MURDER review also popped up, appearing a couple of places.

M.A.C.

Links and Music

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

I have done several guest blogs/posts of late, and rather than do an elaborate update today, I’m going to shoo you over to those…although for those of you who sit through the credits, there’s a discussion of a few new albums by old artists.

First up is a discussion of the differences between Nate Heller and Mike Hammer, and how Spillane/Hammer had an impact on BETTER DEAD.

Next up is a look at how the Heller books combine the hardboiled detective story and the historical novel, briefly looking at my influences. The main thing, however, is Nate Heller’s love life, particularly as it pertains to the real-life women like Amelia Earhart and Bettie Page. There’s also a book giveaway (three BETTER DEAD copies are up for grabs). You’ll need to scroll down a ways, to get to my piece.

On the reviewing front, my pal Bill Crider – a fine western writer who also writes mysteries – provides a very nice review of THE BIG SHOWDOWN. Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine is my favorite web site, with all kinds of reviews, nostalgic articles and images, funny news clips, and much more, showing off Bill’s wry sense of humor. He’s always adding stuff, and I check back several times every day.

In closing, let me offer a few musical recommendations from somebody clearly stuck in the ‘60s.

The Monkees have their 50th anniversary album out, GOOD TIMES, with a song written by Rivers Cuomo of Weezer among many contemporary contributions. There’s even a newly finished song with a vocal by the late Davy Jones. And Mike Nesmith is back.

The great Ronnie Spector has released an album of covers of British Invasion tunes – ENGLISH HEART – and her singing is hypnotic. All the songs have a new, fresh twist to their arrangements. Perhaps the most distinctive voice in rock.

Last year one of my all-time favorite bands, Vanilla Fudge, released SPIRIT OF ‘67. I may have discussed the album here before, but it’s worth another mention: it’s probably the second-best Fudge album after their 1967 debut, and they specifically stuck to tunes from ‘67, as if this were their follow-up album (not the misguided misfire, THE BEAT GOES ON). Mark Stein’s passionate vocals are phenomenal, as is his keyboard playing. The arrangements are that wonderfully over-the-top, psuedo-symphonic approach that admittedly doesn’t work for everybody. These guys belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as the architects of heavy metal.

But then the Monkees aren’t in, either – and only the Beatles and the Stones have more dedicated followers.

Also not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: the Zombies. A travesty. Original members Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent did a strong, crowd-funded CD (you’re welcome), STILL GOT THAT HUNGER, released last October.

If anyone can explain to me why Rap and Country artists are ushered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but not the Monkees, the Fudge and the Zombies, I will listen politely and roll my eyes later.

At least the Ronettes are in.

M.A.C.