Posts Tagged ‘Black Hats’

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.

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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.

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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.

Black Hats & A Book Giveaway!

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

[Note from Nate: The giveaway is over! Thank you for participating!] The book giveaway this week is for the upcoming Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago, which will be published August 14. I have five finished copies and five bound galley proofs (ARC’s). The first five to respond get the finished book, the next five the bound galley. Winners are requested to post a review at Amazon, a blog, Barnes & Noble or any combination thereof.

This week’s update, however, is mostly about Black Hats, a new edition of which has just been published by Brash Books. For the first time, the book has my real byline, and not “Patrick Culhane.”

Brash has done a spiffy job on it, and I hope to get some copies from them for another book giveaway like the one above. Brash is also going to be bringing out Red Sky in Morning under my preferred title, and that will have the Max Allan Collins byline for the first time, too.

Black Hats is a good companion piece to Scarface and the Untouchable, because it’s about young Al Capone encountering old Wyatt Earp. Though their meeting is fanciful, the research for the book was on the order of the Heller saga and it is one of my favorite novels, and one that continues to attract very serious Hollywood attention.

Harrison Ford has been interested in playing Earp pretty much ever since the novel first came out, and he is still part of the mix – nothing signed-sealed-delivered, mind you. But that he has maintained this continued interest in the novel is exciting.

That’s all I can say at the moment, but if you’ve never read this one, send for the Brash Books edition, please. You will not find it in many book stores – the e-book will drive this one, though the “real” book that Brash has produced is handsome indeed.


Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

How did the byline “Patrick Culhane” come to appear on both Black Hats and Red Sky? Forgive me if you’ve heard this one, but I believe it’s one of the truly remarkable fuck-ups of my career, and one of the rare ones that I didn’t cause myself.

Shortly after Road to Perdition was a huge movie and the novelization made the USA Today bestseller list and the graphic novel made the New York Times bestseller list, some guy at Border’s (remember them?) told my then-publisher that he was a huge M.A.C. fan, but could sell more M.A.C. books if only the name M.A.C. wasn’t on the cover. I was too well-known, it seems, as a guy who wrote series novels. He promised huge sales if we did some standalone thrillers under a new byline.

Oddly, my real identity was never hidden. It’s prominently revealed on the jackets of both books.

I did not want to do this. My editor stopped short of insisting that I go along with it, and my agent suggested alienating my editor was a really bad idea. And Border’s was really, really powerful, right? So I came up with “Patrick Culhane,” the “Patrick” after my mother Patricia and “Culhane” as a Collins variant.

Understand that I hate pseudonyms. I fought to have my name go on my movie and TV tie-ins, figuring (correctly) that having my byline on things like Saving Private Ryan, Air Force One, American Gangster, CSI and so on would only building my audience. All of those titles either made the New York Times list or USA Today’s or both.

The only time I used a pseudonym was on the novelization I Love Trouble, because it was going to be out at the same time as another novelization, plus the movie stunk. I used Patrick again, but also my mother’s maiden name, Rushing, which seemed apt for a book written on a crazy deadline.

I use my name on all but the above exceptions because I am proud of my work, and I want to keep myself honest. I don’t want to hide. I want to acquire readers, not run away from them.

Anyway, I am very pleased that Brash Books – the people who brought you the complete Road to Perdition prose novel, something I thought I would never see – are restoring my name to two of my favorite books. They will also soon be publishing Red Sky under my preferred title, USS Powderkeg.

Now the only thing still unpublished is my original, very loose adaptation of the Dick Tracy movie, in which I fixed all its problems and sins. Getting that in print, however, is a real long shot….

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The advance buzz on Scarface and the Untouchable keeps building.

The Strand’s blog has published a list by my co-author and me looking at ten surprising facts about Al Capone and Eliot Ness.

We are one of the Saturday Evening Post’s top ten late summer reads, for example.

And the History News Network has published an article that Brad and I wrote about the Trump/Manafort/Mueller parallels.

Mystery People showcases us, too.

Out of the blue, here’s an interesting look at Quarry’s List, the second Quarry novel, with lots of comments from readers.

The graphic novel, Quarry’s War, gets a boost here, in a somewhat surprising context. [Note from Nate: This is so bizarre.]

On the Mike Hammer/Spillane front, here’s an interview I did at San Diego Comic Con a few weeks ago.

And another.

Finally, here is a terrific, smart review from the smart, terrific J. Kingston Pierce about Killing Town.

M.A.C.

Perdition, Zorro, Movies and More

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017
Road to Paradise

Road to Paradise is coming to trade paperback in November. I am thrilled with the job Brash Books has done on bringing the complete prose trilogy into print. The covers are great, and though many will read the e-book versions, the physical items are handsome.

Of course, this all hinged on getting the original, complete, previously unpublished Road to Perdition prose novel into print, the first of this matched-set trilogy.

Before long Brash will be bringing out USS Powderkeg (a slightly revised version of Red Sky in Morning) and Black Hats under my name, jettisoning the Patrick Culhane pseudonym the publisher insisted upon.

If you’re a regular reader of mine, please support these great efforts by Brash Books to get my novels out there again and in the manner I prefer.

Check out the Road to Paradise page out at their web site.

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Zorro Vol. 6

I’ve been a fan of Zorro since childhood – some of you may have read my introduction to the Hermes Press collection of Dell’s pre-Disney-TV version of the character, including four wonderful issues drawn by the great Everett Raymond Kinstler.

Well, publisher Rich Harvey’s Bold Venture Press has just completed an ambitious program to collect all of the original novels and stories about Zorro by his creator, the underrated Johnston McCulley. The sixth and final volume was just published, and I had the honor of writing the introduction, in which I detail the torturous route to finally having these rare Zorro tales collected and accessible to readers. It’s a bewildering mystery why the well-written stories by the creator of one of popular fiction’s most iconic characters (on a par with Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan and, uh, well, Mike Hammer) have been so elusive. That doesn’t mean I don’t try to solve it….

The great color covers of those early Dell issues provide most of the cover images of this series.

Read about it (with ordering info) here.

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Two excellent recent crime films are worthy of your attention (and your money).

Steven Soderbergh’s return to movie-making, Logan Lucky, is a clever, funny but not campy heist picture with a Southern twist. The cast is terrific, but the stand-out is Daniel Craig, and to say he’s playing against type is a bit of an understatement – stick around for his hilarious credit at the close. And what a surprise it’s been seeing just how much talent Channing Tatum turns out to have, and this is coming from the skeptical author of the G.I. JOE novelization.

Writer/director Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River is a worthy follow-up to the excellent Hell or High Water (and, yes, I remember how much I hated Sicario, but he didn’t direct that). It begins leisurely and takes full advantage of its beautifully bleak snowy Indian reservation setting before some shocking action kicks in. There’s nothing new here – a fish-out-of-water young female FBI agent is teamed with a somewhat older local fish-and-wildlife man, and the sad backstories of various characters are things we’ve heard before…virtually everything here is familiar. But the kicker is how well done it all is, how quiet and deep the characterizations are, with Jeremy Renner nailing a quiet, modern cowboy with all the right tough-guy moves. He looks nothing like Nate Heller or Mike Hammer, but could play either one admirably.

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Crusin' @ Ardon Creek

Crusin’ played a gig last Friday evening at Ardon Creek Winery – a lovely setting and a lovely evening. We play under a tent, open to a gentle slope where people dance and sit at tables to sip wine and munch bring-your-own goodies. To one side is the vineyard. Really a beautiful venue for us, with an appreciative crowd. We’ll be back next year.

Our new guitar player, Bill Anson, is doing a terrific job; good singer and he plays very well. He had to pick up about 36 songs – well, he brought about five or six suggestions along, which we learned – in about three weeks, during which we played two gigs. As I said about the previous performance, there were a few train wrecks but no fatalities, and we have the makings of a very good version of the band.

We play once more this year – at Ducky’s in Andulsia, Illinois, Thursday evening (6 to 9) – outdoors again, for their “bike night.” Our next scheduled appearance is April ‘18, and over the winter we’ll be retooling our list.

M.A.C.

A Showdown and a Ghost

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

The mass-market edition of The Big Showdown, the sequel to The Legend of Caleb York, has just come out. It continues with the characters and stories that Mickey Spillane developed in the (unproduced) screenplay he wrote for his friend John Wayne in the late 1950s.

Response to this new series, representing my first westerns (unless you count the movie novelization Maverick and maybe my Wyatt Earp meets Al Capone novel, Black Hats), has been positive. In fact, I’ve completed a third Caleb York story, The Bloody Spur, and have signed to do two more.

The novels are in part mysteries, befitting the two bylines, and are otherwise very old-fashioned westerns in the manner of Randolph Scott and Audie Murphy movies of the fifties and early sixties…but with a higher, more Leone-like level of violence, which is only appropriate with the name Spillane invoked. Mickey’s York screenplay was far more violent than anyone in the western film or novel field was doing at the time. The sexual content was adult for its time, but that time has passed.

The book was one of the last that I completed before I went in for my heart surgery – one of a handful on my docket that I wanted to make sure got done in case…well, you know. I thought it came out well and am particularly proud of the finale, a shoot-out – you might say, a big showdown – in a rainstorm…also typically Spillane.

If you like my crime novels but don’t usually read westerns, give these a try anyway. I’m pretty sure you’ll like them.

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The movie Ghost in the Shell, based on a famous Japanese animated film (which spawned an anime series and many sequels) has been getting a rough time of it. Only 43% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, it received a scathing review on Facebook by my pal, Terry Beatty, with whom I rarely disagree on films. He hated it so much that I’d decided not to go, though based on the previews I’d been looking forward to it.

But the workload right now is so brutal, I needed a break, and took a risk. I’d read the positive reviews among the pans and caught hints that I might not agree with Terry. And I didn’t.

Barb and I are becoming infamous for walking out of movies, and we fully expected this to be one of them. Instead we both loved it. Scarlett Johansson is Major, whose human brain has been inserted in a robot body, designed to be the perfect terrorist fighter. She inhabits a world futuristically Asian, influenced by Blade Runner’s city but even more complex in its imagery.

Johansson is very good, much as she was in Lucy, moving with a certain robotic gait though not overstating it, her dialogue delivered in a similar fashion. She has a team of cyber-enhanced soldiers, one of whom is her partner, played by “Pilou” Asbæk, the Swedish actor who was so good in the TV series Borgen, the nordic West Wing. Major is having flashes of memory and humanity that are intruding on her search for an uber-terrorist, but of course everything is not as it seems.

A special treat is the presence of Takeshi Kitano, director/writer/star of Violent Cop and Boiling Point, among other great Japanese crime films. He’s essentially M to Major’s Jane Bond, but he gets out from behind the desk and kicks ass, late in the proceedings.

Themes of identity, family and loyalty are explored, but not to the detriment of well-staged action scenes that don’t indulge in that speeded-up crap. The art direction is stunning throughout, and seldom has CGI been better employed. We saw it in 3-D, which really enhanced the levels of the design work.

I have hesitated till recently to review movies again. I know how hard it is to make one. And I realize that taste is individual, and smart people can disagree. If you skip a movie because I don’t like it, you may be making a mistake. And if you go to one because I did like it, you might also be making a mistake.

But I don’t think so.

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This review of The Big Showdown first appeared last year about this time, but if you’re considering picking up the paperback, you might want to check this out.

M.A.C.