Posts Tagged ‘Bye Bye Baby’

Go Go Gone

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

As predicted, Barb and I wrapped up the eighth “Trash ‘n’ Treasures” mystery, ANTIQUES A GO GO, last week. It took through Thursday to finish it – I always take a couple of days to go over a manuscript and do a final tweak before sending it off. Still seems strange not to be packaging up an actual manuscript and instead just sending an attachment to an editor.

The book is something of a change of pace, as it takes Brandy and her mother to Manhattan, but I won’t dwell on that book, since the new one – ANTIQUES CHOP – is about to come out. I think CHOP may be my favorite of the series (the new one is too fresh in my mind for any kind of judgment beyond, “Whew! Glad to get that outa here!”). For those of my readers fearful of trying a “cozy,” this one has axe murders in it. So put on a bib and dig in.

I’ve alluded to a Kickstarter project here that would take one of my Dreadtime Stories radio plays into low-budget feature-film territory. We had a lot of great things in our favor, among them the participation of Danielle from AMERICAN PICKERS, my longtime cinematic collaborator Phil Dingeldein (a d.p. on PICKERS), Malcolm McDowell as narrator, and of course the Fangoria brand-name. But at the very last minute (we were going to meet on Sunday afternoon, with my son Nate coming in from St. Louis for Kickstarter consulting), a different Fangoria deal interceded to make ours untenable. The good news is that Phil and I will likely be involved in some aspect of this new direction. I’m hopeful we can involve Danielle, too. We’d spent a lot of time (including me doing three or four drafts of “House of Blood” as a screenplay) gearing up for the Kickstarter effort with producer Carl Amari, so there’s disappointment in the mix, but also the promise of filmmaking to come.

Speaking of films, I can recommend OBLIVION, a very smart s-f adventure with Tom Cruise. The reviews are mixed on this one, but I am solidly in the plus column. The art direction alone is worthy of your attention, but the screenplay has some nice surprises, and it’s a well-directed film in general, though a big shoot-‘em gun battle seems out of place and maybe patched-in to satisfy studio execs.

This weekend my band Crusin’ played two nights in a row – a real oddity for us, because I try very hard to avoid that. It’s more like twice a month I’m after. And I will freely admit that on Sunday, I felt like I’d fallen down a flight of stairs (I’m writing this on Monday and feel only marginally better). I continue to enjoy the band, but sometimes it’s starting to feel like that moment in the action movies where the old star says, “I’m getting too old for this shit!” You know, right before a helicopter blows up?

This week I am looking at galley proofs of THE WRONG QUARRY and ASK NOT.

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The three-part look at the Nolan series by Dan Luft over at the Violent World of Parker has wrapped up with a discussion mostly about SPREE. This is a nice series of articles, and with some smart commentary. Occasionally, though, Dan misses the mark fairly wide – he’s about the only reader I’ve ever encountered who disliked the use of the Comfort family in SPREE. He claims to really like the book, except for the Comforts, which is kind of like loving everything about JURASSIC PARK except the dinosaurs.

Here’s a really nice COMPLEX 90 review. Coming up soon, by the way!

This BLOOD MONEY review is basically positive, but it’s a little odd, albeit in an interesting way. It continues to be weird reading reviews of stuff I wrote forty years ago.

Here’s a very good TRUE DETECTIVE review. It’s amazing how resilient that book has been. Published thirty years ago, it sold more copies in the last year (e-book format) than in its first several.

Mel Odom, himself a hell of a writer, has some interesting things to say about BYE BYE, BABY, the first book in the Nathan Heller JFK Trilogy.

Finally, here’s yet another positive look at SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT (mine, not Wertham).

M.A.C.

And The Collins Prize Goes To…Richard Zanuck

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

I start off on a sad note today. Mickey Spillane’s widow Jane lost her mother over the weekend. Ethel was a strong Southern gal who went toe to toe with Mickey, who loved her dearly. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jane.

People always ask me, the day after, how I liked the Academy Awards show (much as they do with the Super Bowl). The last time I sat through that long evening was at a public event in Des Moines the year that ROAD TO PERDITION was nominated for a bunch of Oscars. What I usually do is record the marathon, then zip through on fast-forward looking for good parts. I had heard that all of the James Bonds would be on stage together as part of a 50 Years of 007 celebration. So that was my main reason for recording the thing.

As a STAR TREK fan, I stopped to watch the over-long but fitfully entertaining opening with Shatner as Kirk coming back in time to prevent a disaster of a show due to Seth MacFarlane’s tastelessness. I don’t follow MacFalane’s shows, and skipped his movie TED, but he was pretty good on SNL a while back. The opening was so endless that they skipped Shatner at the punchline. Later, the Bond tribute, introduced by a stunning Halle Berry, offered up not a single Bond (apparently Brosnan, understandably bitter about getting kicked off the series he saved, had refused to participate). But Shirley Bassey brought the superstar crowd to its feet with “Goldfinger” – a song co-written by the unjustly forgotten Anthony Newley, who is one of my heroes.

Barbra Streisand made a surprise appearance (it surprised me, anyway) to sing “The Way We Were” in tribute to the late Marvin Hamlisch, at the end of the In Memoriam reel. Shamefully, Andy Griffith was left out. Richard Zanuck rated a nice moment, with him on screen insisting that the most important thing about a film was “the story, not the script, the story.” This is from the man who, with his son, read ROAD TO PERDITION and recognized its potential. R.I.P, Mr. Zanuck – I owe you much.

There were other fun moments that I stopped to take in, acceptance speeches here and there (in particular Christof Waltz, Quentin Tarantino, and Daniel Day Lewis), Adele singing “Skyfall” (but so upstaged by Shirley Bassey), and it was nice that in a year of unusually good films that the awards got passed around a little bit. And the winners were unusually gracious to fellow nominees. Everybody reading this probably knows I am an Obama man, and usually adore Michelle, but the First Lady giving out the Best Picture Oscar came off weird and gratuitous. The sock puppet (you read right) version of “Flight” was, by the way, much more entertaining that the actual film, which was a lousy, poorly paced Made-for-TV movie about substance abuse, designed to give Denzel Washington an Oscar-worthy part. By the way, has any actor as good as Denzel Washington ever made so many dreadful films?

While the Academy Awards were recording, Barb and I watched Richard Burton, Roger Moore and Richard Harris in the 1978 adventure movie THE WILD GEESE. We’d never seen it before, and it was terrific. At a theater this week, we took in SNITCH, a very uneven crime film in which nobody seemed worth rooting for. We also watched the last season (three movies) of the great MORSE follow-up LEWIS, on DVD from Britain. As you may gather, I had a fairly lazy weekend.

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The blog tour for SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT appears to be winding down. I have an article to write today for the Playboy site, Smoking Jacket, about controversial comics. My Huff post piece on the same topic, with 10 controversial covers, should be up some time this week. So will any number of interviews I’ve done.

Reviews, mostly very favorable, have been rolling in for SEDUCTION. Check out this Book Reporter rave.

And here’s another great one at Fearnet.

Another fine one popped up at The Book Bag.

Comic Hype has this review.

Here’s one from Cult Geek. I love that younger reviewers, at hip cites like this, are digging the book.

Same goes for this review at Geek Hardshow.

And this fun one from (wonderful blog title) Just a Guy That Likes to Read. I wonder if any porn review site out there is called Just a Guy That Likes to…never mind.

Comics Crux has this write-up.

The very interesting, unusual site Noir Whale looks at SEDUCTION in some depth. Cool approach.

Then there are the interviews. I have endeavored to repeat myself as little as possible. Helping me toward that goal are the interviewers, who have come up with their own takes on the book and their own approaches – they are the saving grace of all my yammering.

Here’s one from Comic Book Movie, and if you scroll down to look at the comments, you’ll learn that I appear to resemble Elton John (no, really?) and that I should play “Doc Ock” in the next Spider-Man Movie. Having bought every issue of Ditko’s SPIDERMAN off the stands back in the ‘60s, I am flattered.

Here’s another interview, this one at Gamma Squad.

And a somewhat horror-themed interview at Dread Central.

Here’s another at Terrible Minds.

And now a change of pace – Woody Haut looks at BYE BYE, BABY and TARGET LANCER. He has to strain himself working his suspension-of-disbelief muscle (poor baby), but he seems to like both of ‘em.

And now my favorite web appearance of the week. At the Writing Reader, the first sentence of a novel of mine has been chosen the First Line of the Week. Please check this one out – I’m making you go there to find out what it is.

M.A.C.

Parker at the Movies

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Most people checking in with me here know that I was a big fan and later friend of Donald E. Westlake. In fact, Don was a mentor who helped me get my first novel, BAIT MONEY, into print. This was especially gracious considering that my Nolan character is so blatantly derived from his Parker.

Parker novels have been the source for a number of films, notably POINT BLANK (a ‘60s classic), THE OUTFIT, THE SPLIT and PAYBACK (in two versions). There have been several foreign adaptations as well, including a Jean Luc Godard travesty. Fans of the novels Don wrote as “Richard Stark” tend to be pretty hard on these films, though POINT BLANK is generally revered. Don never allowed Parker to be called “Parker” in any of the movies (Lee Marvin plays “Walker” in POINT BLANK) to guard against unwanted sequels.

Now, for the first time, a film uses the name Parker – in fact, it’s called PARKER. The title is probably the worst thing about this strong, tough little crime movie. Parker is a cult character and all of the fans of the books couldn’t fill enough theaters to make a ripple. So why would you call the movie PARKER? Maybe for whatever stupid reason that somebody decided to call a movie JACK REACHER. Those aren’t movie titles, they’re suicide notes.

Barb and I love the over-the-top TRANSPORTER and CRANK movies with Jason Statham, but almost nothing else he’s made is worth a damn. PARKER is. It’s very tough, with plenty of action, but also the kind of character bits that represent the oddball humans who (in the novels) often drift into Parker’s orbit (represented here chiefly by a real estate agent, well-played by Jennifer Lopez). Many touches reveal the director and screenwriter are familiar with the Parker novels in general – Parker calls his heist victims by their first names to put them at ease, he is loyal to his girl friend Claire despite temptations otherwise, he operates by a code that is harsh but fair, and he shows little if any emotion. The screenplay is a fairly faithful rendition of the Parker novel FLASHFIRE, with some POINT BLANK elements stirred in. It’s not the classic POINT BLANK that is, though PARKER is ultimately more like the novels than that great film. The only other Parker movie to rival PARKER is THE OUTFIT with Robert Duvall.

However…PARKER was disliked by many critics, and apparently did only mediocre business on its opening weekend (the audience we saw it with loved it, even applauding at the end). And a good share of the hardcore Parker fans are unhappy with the film. Check this out at the Violent World of Parker site, and be sure to read my comments.

Two other quick notes. We also saw HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS. Why did we go? I get cabin fever, working on a book (and I have just started THE WRONG QUARRY), and have to get out and do something – in Muscatine, Iowa, a movie is pretty much it. The reviews have been dismal, though seem to have been written by people who either haven’t seen the movie or had already decided their opinion of it before doing so. One of the producers is Will Ferrell, which indicates that a lot of reviewers are not understanding what audiences seem to: it’s spoof. It’s a comedy. Not an unintentional comedy, but a send-up of all these dumb serious “fairy tale” movies like RED HIDING HOOD. It’s a combo of EVIL DEAD and RESIDENT EVIL. If you like either or both of those, you will probably enjoy this one.

A final movie note: I loved (and still do) RUSHMORE by director Wes Anderson. But virtually everything he’s done since has seemed precious and disorganized to me, and I really, really hated THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX. But my son and his smart wife encouraged me to take a look at MOONRISE KINGDOM. I did, and they are right – it is a wonderful movie that would have been high on my best of 2012 list, had I seen it sooner. It is precious – or, as some smarty-pants critics like to say, “twee” – but it’s also charming and a very well-plotted, beautifully characterized story of young love. Funny as hell, too. Also the best boy scout movie ever made – even better than HENRY ALDRICH, BOY SCOUT (and those who know me well will understand that this is not sarcasm, but high praise).

The positive reviews about SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT just keep rolling in, I’m pleased to say. Like this one from the always insightful Craig Clarke.

And this short sweet write-up.

Plus this even shorter and sweeter one.

On the other hand, there’s this generally positive, amusingly written but patronizing review. Could we please ban the use of the pretentious term “trope”? But if we do use it, can we please not affix needless adjectives like “well-worn”? And can reviewers quit apologizing for liking something?

Finally, here’s a pleasant surprise – a late review of the first Nate Heller JFK trilogy novel, BYE BYE, BABY.

M.A.C.

Pop Culture Clash

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Starting about ten years after I graduated from college, I began having an experience that has repeated itself many times since: I would read some entertainment publication, perhaps Rolling Stone or Entertainment Weekly, and feel hopelessly out of touch with the popular culture around me. Since I make my living in pop culture, and have been a fan of pop culture since early childhood, this is distressing. I have prided myself, over the years, for being more connected to what was going on in entertainment than the average person of my advanced age (whatever that advanced age happened to be at the time…in this country, all ages past 35 are advanced).

That happened again to me over the weekend, as I sat down to read Entertainment Weekly’s 2013 preview issue. And my recurring problem – shared possibly by other purveyors of popular culture who aren’t in their twenties or early thirties – reasserted itself with a vengeance. I understand that the popular culture is fragmented. We don’t have, and haven’t had for some time, the kind of shared experience we once had – Elvis and the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, or the premiere episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, or opening week of Thunderball.

There are, obviously, some pop culture experiences of today that rival the shared experiences of the Twentieth Century. The Super Bowl and American Idol, for instance, neither of which I’ve ever seen, but have an awareness of because of their all-pervasiveness. Michael Jackson and Madonna were last gasps of the shared pop culture experience (and even they were not on an Elvis/Beatles level), as they were part of the MTV era that flowed out of the greater cable TV explosion that so fragmented our entertainment experience. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, just an undeniable thing. I don’t believe Lady GaGa has a pop cultural resonance on a level with Madonna, just as Madonna doesn’t have a pop cultural resonance on a level with the Beatles. (On the other hand, the Beatles were on a level with Elvis, just as Elvis was with Sinatra before him.)

But for a writer, even one who often deals with historical subjects, to lose touch with the pop culture is death. And at 64, I’ve reached that age the Beatles once sang about in relation to a distant old age, so I know death is also an undeniable thing. Yet somehow it chills to me read an issue of Entertainment Weekly and see so much I know little or nothing about.

What follows are rhetorical questions, and you may post answers if you like, but understand that’s not the nature of these questions.

Who the hell are Niall Horan and One Direction? Must I watch a show called GIRLS on HBO and endure “superawkward sexual encounters”? Why would anyone want a Blu-ray boxed set of the Jackson Five cartoon show? (Not understanding nostalgia may represent a hardening of the arteries in someone as drenched in nostalgia as I am.) Who the hell are Nick Kroll, Hunter Hayues, A$AP Rocky, Conor Maynard, and M83? Who are Campo, Chainz featuring Dolla Boy, and Arcade Fire (the last falls into a category that I would designate as Actually I Have Heard of Them But Have Never Knowingly Heard Their Music). Why are there so many TV stars I am unfamiliar with (Chris Coffer, Monica Potter, Season Kent, Manish Raval, Thomas Golubic)?

The reason I am posing these questions rhetorically is that if they were actual questions, the obvious answer to all of them is: I’m out of touch. But fragmentation is a mitigating factor, as is bad pop culture that a reasonable human shouldn’t be expected to endure. You make decisions, as you trudge through life, about certain things you aren’t going to put up with. For me, Rap/Hip Hop falls into that category, as does country western music. Both pander to our worst instincts, though I am aware that intelligent defenses can be made of various artists and specific works within those fields. Country western music gave us Patsy Cline, so it can’t be all bad. Rap is a travesty, and I refuse to call it “music” since at his core is a lack of melody. I know doggerel when I hear it – I am an English major, after all.

Not that there isn’t plenty in this issue of Entertainment Weekly that I’m familiar with – probably a good share of which would be unfamiliar to a lot of people my age. But this is that moment, which has repeated so many times in my life, where I feel the popular culture is rolling over me, flattening me like a steamroller in an old cartoon.

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This weekend we saw two films, one of which (ZERO DARK THIRTY) will likely be among my favorites this year, and another (GANGSTER SQUAD) which will likely be among my least favorites. Despite the political squabbling (by parties with varying agendas) in the media over the use of torture, ZERO DARK THIRTY is a gritty, involving docu-drama reminiscent at times of the great BBC series SPOOKS (aka MI-5). The real-time Bin Laden raid is stellar filmmaking. By the way, if you lit a match under my foot, I would gladly give you the atomic bomb secrets. So maybe with some weak-willed persons, torture does work.

GANGSTER SQUAD is a handsomely mounted but incredibly dumb supposed look at Mickey Cohen’s reign as a mob boss in post-war LA. I have never seen a more inaccurate “true crime” film, which is essentially a sloppy, riciulously violent re-do of THE UNTOUCHABLES, with Sean Penn’s smirky, sneering one-note performance managing to be even less true to Mickey Cohen’s character than the moronic screenplay. I hate movies like this, because not only do they suck, but they usually flop and make it tough for good period crime movies (say, based on a Nate Heller novel) to happen. Though over the top and obvious, the art direction makes sumptuous eye candy, and Josh Brolin is very good as a Mike Hammer-ish cop. He would make an excellent Hammer. On the other hand, sleepy-eyed, whiny Ryan Gosling remains the opposite of charismatic, a walking void who sucks the life out of any scene he enters.

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I spent the week doing my draft of a 12,000-word novella called “Antiques Slay Ride,” a Christmas-themed e-book being done as a promotion for the Trash ‘n’ Treasures series. It will appear, not surprisingly, toward the end of this year.

Congrats to Dan John Miller, who was selected as one of AudioFile Magazine’s “Voices of the Year” for his performance of FLYING BLIND. If you’re a Heller fan who listens to audios, I highly recommend Dan’s readings of all of the novels (yes, he’s done them all, and the short story collections, too). He really is Nate Heller.

Some nice Net reviews have rolled in of late, including this one on CHICAGO LIGHTNING.

And here’s a swell TARGET LANCER review.

Short but sweet, this review of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT comes from the UK’s Crimetime site.

Speaking of the soon-to-be-published SEDUCTION, here’s some Goodreads reviews of the novel.

Here’s a review of the previous Jack and Maggie Starr mystery, STRIP FOR MURDER, with a fun discussion of Fearless Fosdick.

Finally, check out this perceptive review of BYE BYE, BABY, and you may want to read my comment posted below it.

M.A.C.