Posts Tagged ‘Bouchercon’

Toronto No Go

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

Due to a flare-up of health issues, I will not be attending the imminent Bouchercon in Toronto. Barb will also be staying home. We are disappointed, obviously – we were to be on a panel together (a rare treat) and looked forward to seeing readers and signing books, while I am still enjoying MWA Grand Master 2017 bragging rights.

But I’ve had a rough month, leading to getting some medications adjusted and tests taken, with a procedure (not an operation) likely. Just part of the ongoing effort to stay on the green side of the grass. Please don’t be unduly alarmed. Don’t even be duly alarmed.

Throughout a month of sickness, I nonetheless wrote Killing Town, chronologically the first Mike Hammer novel, working from a substantial (60 double-spaced pages) Spillane manuscript from around 1945…before I, the Jury!! It has an ending that will either delight, outrage or disgust you…perhaps all at the same time.

Delivered it yesterday. Killing Town will join The Last Stand in the celebration of Mickey’s centenary, the first Mike Hammer novel bookending the final Spillane solo novel.

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Barb and I went to two movies recently, both of which were based on “true” events (as opposed to what, fictional events?), and both were entertaining.

One was Battle of the Sexes with Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs in seriocomic look at the much ballyhooed match between a onetime tennis champ (male) and a current tennis champ (female).

The other, also a comedy-drama, was Victoria & Abdul, in which a lowly Muslim clerk is chosen (because he is tall) to go to England to present Queen Victoria with a gift for her Golden Jubilee from her loyal Indian subjects. The elderly queen takes a shine to him and they become friends (not lovers, though there is a friendly flirtation). Judi Dench presents an amusing and touching portrait of the aged queen, and Ali Fazal is almost as good as a man who is somewhat naive and perhaps a little too ambitious but basically decent.

I enjoyed both films, but Victoria much more. The actors in Battle cannot be faulted, and not just the leads – the supporting casts in both these films are first-rate. The films share a similar agenda – each one attempts to make some serious societal points through the story being told while keeping that story itself the primary goal.

On this score Battle fails rather miserably. Rather than focus on the equality of women as the clear central issue, it takes a sustained side trip into gay rights, by way of a romance novel-ish treatment of the married King’s relationship with another woman (who becomes the team’s hairdresser). What could have been an impactful sidebar insists on being much more, ballooning the film to over two hours.

Instead of allowing the social satire to play out – to let a depiction of the events make the points at hand, in particular the neanderthal attitudes toward women that righteously fuel feminism – a heavy-handedness and even at times embarrassing editorializing (“One day people will be allowed to love who they love”) clouds the narrative and does something Billie Jean King would never do: take the eye off the ball.

On the other hand, Victoria charms and delights, allowing the anti-Indian (and specifically anti-Muslim) attitudes of those around the Queen to speak for themselves. Effortlessly, points are made about today in this look at yesterday – exactly what Battle should have been doing.

Victoria’s director, Stephen Frears, has never been a big favorite of mine; but I now think I may have been wrong about him. His direction here is quietly stylish, the performances he gets from wonderful British actors (particularly Eddie Izzard as the king-to-be) faultless.

Meanwhile, the direction of Battle is plagued by handheld cameras and crushingly claustrophobic close-ups, particularly in the syrupy lesbian love sequences. On the other hand, the film’s tennis court action is well-done and compelling. Two directors are credited, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (of Little Miss Sunshine fame).

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Barb and I spend October evenings watching horror movies, in anticipation of Halloween. Last year we watched mostly Hammer horror. The year before we watched the Nightmare on Elm Street movies and the Halloweens.

This year began with a terrific little sleeper called The Final Girls (2015). This one is so original and clever that I don’t want to spoil it for you, but prepare to have the chills work even though laughs are what it’s mostly after. In brief, some kids at a horror film somehow wind up inside that very horror film.

Chucky

We have just completed the seven Child’s Play/Chucky movies. Barb liked all of them except the newest one, but I liked it, too. What makes Chucky perhaps the best of all these series (there are clinkers in all the other modern horror franchises that began with Halloween) is that an effort has been made to make each movie distinct as to setting and style. While all of the films are dark comedies, the first three are rather more traditional slasher pictures, despite the evil doll at their center. But with Bride of Chucky, things got overtly comedic yet ever darker, and the series knowingly jumped the shark in Seed of Chucky, with Curse of Chucky a knowing return to more scary form.

Here’s why Chucky is the best of these franchises: the same person has written all of them. That is something that Hollywood never allows. But Don Mancini has written them all and directed the last three (he’s a damn good director, too). Mancini and his partners create a continuity that, while wacky as hell, carries over from film to film. None of the other franchises even bother trying. In the world of Chucky, actors return. In Curse of Chucky and the current Cult of Chucky, the kid who played Chucky’s “friend forever” returns as an adult – the same actor. Jennifer Tilly, introduced in Bride, has been around ever since, to an admittedly varying degree, and she is a special effect her own self.

And like Robert Englund in the Nightmare films, actor Brad Dourif (whose daughter Fiona is excellent in the most recent two Chuckys) brings a cackling madness to the voice of the killer doll that makes him both amusing and frightening.

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Here’s a nice little Quarry’s Climax write-up from Mystery People.

Finally, here’s another Wild Dog on Arrow TV article. I have the Blu-ray box of the current season, but still haven’t got round to watching it.

M.A.C.

Bouchercon Photo Gallery

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

Bouchercon at Raleigh, NC, was a blast. I’ll let these pictures (mostly taken by Gene George) tell the tale, but the event, as usual, was about as pleasant and fun as a work trip could be. The only frustrating thing is running into old friends – like Otto Penzler, Ted Hertel, Ted Fitzgerald, Bill Crider, Jeff Pierce, and Alan Turkus, among many others – and not having a chance to really sit down and chat with them. Various events, meeting and meals got me in touch with my agent and various editors and other publishing luminaries.

A highlight was the Shamus Awards banquet, at a very funky Southern-style restaurant, where I presented the best short story award (having won the year previous). The various nominees were mostly from noir collections gathering stories worldwide, giving me a chance to mispronounce almost every nominee’s name (in the case of Lawrence Block’s story, he thoughtfully provided me with a foreign name within the title).

M.A.C.

Bouchercon 2015
Max and Barb Collins on their first dual Bouchercon panel appearance.

Bouchercon 2015
Agent Dominick Abel, Max, Barb at the Shamus Awards Banquet.

Bouchercon 2015
Matt Clemens, Barb and Max signing in the book room.

Bouchercon 2015
Max, Kensington editor Michaela Hamiliton (standing), Barb

Bouchercon 2015
Max talking with his writer pal John Gilstrap.

Bouchercon 2015
Generations: Larry Block, Jason Starr, Max in book room.

Bouchercon 2015
Barb and Max display their Della Street and Paul Drake awards at the Shamus Banquet (earned by hosting last year’s event).

Bouchercon 2015
You’ve heard of THE TWO JAKES? This is the two Ted’s — Fitzgerald and Hertel.

Bouchercon 2015
M.A.C. at Forge ASK NOT signing.

Bouchercon 2015 M.A.C. Sked

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015
Bouchercon 2015

Before long, Barb and I will be heading to Raleigh, North Carolina, for this year’s Bouchercon. We will be making a rare appearance on the same panel (I don’t recall this happening before), and are frankly lucky to be on any panel alone or together – more about that below.

But for now, here’s our schedule:

Friday, Oct. 9:

2:30 PM, signing and book giveaway at the hospitality suite, hosted by Forge/TOR. The signing will only last half an hour, and free copies (of ASK NOT, I believe) won’t last long. You are free to bring copies of other books of mine (and ours) for signing.

4 PM Panel – both Barb and me – Crime, Mystery & Thriller Writing Before & After ‘The Internet & Smart Phones’
State AB.

5 PM – Autographing by both of us (Matthew Clemens will likely also be signing with us). Author’s room.

We will also be attending (and, as last year’s winner, I’ll be presenting “Best Short Story”) (currently trying to figure out how to win this, since I wasn’t nominated) at the annual Shamus Awards Banquet, which starts at 6:30. I understand the venue has no drinking, so it will be a surly crowd.

And that’s it. Nothing on Saturday or Sunday except business meetings with editors and my agent. Also, Matt’s panel is Friday at 8:30 AM in State AB – “Plot Twists in Mystery Narratives.” He and I will likely be at each other’s signings so that we can both autograph our collaborations.

Now here’s why I almost wasn’t on a panel. Barb and I, much better organized than usual, booked the con hotel way in advance. Then I started dealing with a health problem that I’m not ready to discuss that hit us in a nasty way and we essentially lost a good two months from any career stuff. But when I was in shape to seriously schedule going to Bouchercon, we bought our plane tickets and were ready to rock ‘n’ roll.

Not long ago – just a few weeks – I started wondering why I hadn’t heard from the con about appearing on a panel. I usually get at least one panel and often two, because I am, let’s face it, not shy in such situations. Barb is less keen to do panels, but she’s excellent on them – like the time on a cozy panel when she refused to say what kind of tree she’d like to be.

Anyway, I wrote an e-mail to the con organizers – Barb having advised me to “be nice” – and asked what was up. Why had I been overlooked? I reminded them of my credentials, emphasizing the upcoming QUARRY Cinemax series. Erin Mitchell at the con was very nice about it, answering me immediately, and apologizing profusely. They really wanted my participation. Then she wrote me saying that somehow my registration had fallen through the cracks – anyway, she couldn’t find it.

Barb and I discussed this and came to the embarrassing conclusion that we were mis-remembering having registered for the con. Yes, we had registered for the hotel, all right…but not the event. I got in touch with Erin and apologized and sent in our registration fees at once. I made it clear I’d love to be on a panel, but understood this was late in the game. Maybe Barb and I could be on tap should somebody on a panel drop out, last-minute.

Well, Bouchercon 2015 did better than that. They put a whole new panel together, to give us and a handful of other authors, who were flying Bouchercon standby essentially, a place on a panel. Panels are important not only for the public appearance opportunity, but because autograph signings are scheduled right after.

Erin also provided a list of booksellers for us to contact, to make sure our stuff is available in the dealer’s room. Every bookseller responded favorably.

So I want to thank Erin, Al Abramson and my old buddy Ali Karim for making this happen (even if UK resident Ali insists on pronouncing “shit” as “shite”). Stand-up folks all around.

Be there or be square!

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Here’s an interesting review of THE GIRL HUNTERS DVD and Blu-ray, commenting favorably on my participation. Oddly, throughout the body of the piece, the reviewer refers to the film as THE LADY HUNTERS.

M.A.C.

Cosby, Capp and Blake

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014
Hickey & Boggs

A few days ago I received in the mail a long-ago pre-ordered blu-ray of HICKEY & BOGGS (1972), one of my favorite private eye movies; it’s an early script by Walter Hill and stars its director, Robert Culp, reunited with his I, SPY co-star, Bill Cosby. A few years before his death, Culp was at the San Diego Con and I was able to chat with him briefly and tell him how much I loved his movie; he seemed very pleased, and would be no doubt be thrilled by the availability of the film. I haven’t watched the disc yet, but I wonder if it’s going to be hard to get past Cosby’s presence in the light of the media storm around him.

I am frankly still trying to sort out my feelings about the Cosby scandal. Based on the where-there’s-smoke-there’s-fire theory, he seems to be a sexual sociopath; but the common aspects of the stories his alleged victims tell are so public, making up a new one wouldn’t be that tough. Public figures are easy targets, and I have to wonder how many famous actors and rock musicians who caroused their way through the Swinging Sixties and the sexual revolution of the Seventies aren’t just a little bit nervous right now. Do you really imagine every groupie Mick Jagger partied with was of legal age?

The best that can be said for Cosby is that he has been a hypocrite, spouting family values and peddling wholesome kiddie entertainment and telling young black men how to behave. You can’t be a pudding pitchman and America’s favorite TV dad and also hang out at the Playboy Mansion (as a married man) and not come up smelling like Brut.

It shouldn’t be necessary to say it, but women are correct that no means no, and that dressing provocatively is not an invitation to dine. At the same time, if I were the father of a gorgeous teenage daughter heading out to a party at Caligula’s place, I just might advise her that she’s putting herself in harm’s way.

Rich and powerful men – and show biz figures are often regular folks who rose (from poverty, in many cases) to dizzying heights – often think decadence is a privilege. But even if Cosby is the monster he’s being made out to be, should the court of public opinion pass the ultimate verdict? I’m just asking. When the journalistic landscape is blurred with blogs, and even Rolling Stone messes up on this very same issue of sexual misconduct (on campus), aren’t we being urged to listen to our basest instincts? Cosby has never been criminally charged. Allegations of misconduct many decades old are as unreliable as memories of that vintage.

My favorite comic strip is Li’l Abner, and I consider Al Capp a genius – a great writer, satirist, artist. But I have long struggled with the sexual misbehavior of Capp’s last years (concurrent with a shrill swing to the right in his comic strip, lessening its impact and its legacy). I dealt with this in my novel STRIP FOR MURDER, for which I’ve taken some heat as a Capp basher. I am anything but a Capp basher – he probably has few bigger fans. But he seems, tragically, to have fallen prey either to mental illness or his worst demons. Or perhaps it’s as easy (and hard) as this – a bad human being can also be a great artist.

The Capp conundrum has never stopped me from enjoying Li’l Abner. On the other hand, I can’t watch a NAKED GUN movie without squirming when O.J. is on screen. And Robert Blake was once a favorite of mine, but since the murder of his wife, I can’t watch anything he’s in. Will I react the same way to HICKEY & BOGGS? Don’t know yet.

Jackson Pollock killed a young woman and injured another when, in a deep drunken depression, he crashed his car. He killed himself, which is an artist’s privilege, but what the hell business did he have endangering one woman and murdering another? Does that make his art invalid? Does it put the splatter into his splatter paintings? I honestly don’t know.

Artists – and I include writers and film people and painters and our entire sorry breed – are all, to some degree, messed up. My wife Barb, in her wisdom, says that all an artist owes us is the art. God knows what Sinatra did behind closed doors, but oh when he was at the microphone. Bing Crosby beat up his boys, and two or three of ‘em killed themselves; but what would Christmas be without Der Bingle?

I would like to think that I will have no trouble watching HICKEY & BOGGS or episodes of I, SPY (I’ve never seen an episode of Cosby’s famous sitcom). But I’m not sure. I seem to be selective about who I forgive. Still, I come away with two things: Barb’s notion that artists only owe us their art; and my notion that the Internet is not the place to go for a fair trial.

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ASK NOT did not win the Nero, an award I very much covet because (among other reasons) it is so damn cool looking. The winner was my friend David Morrell. Read all about it here.

Check out this nice review of THE GIRL HUNTERS blu-ray.

This is a lovely write-up about the Shamus Awards banquet at the recent Bouchercon.

Here’s a great review of the Nate Heller novel, MAJIC MAN.

What do you know? Some kind words about my BATMAN work, specifically the short story “Sound of One Hand Clapping.”

Finally, here’s a very interesting look at Warren Beatty’s half-hour “sequel” to the DICK TRACY film, co-starring my pal Leonard Maltin.

M.A.C.