Posts Tagged ‘Caleb York’

Yesterday

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

Yesterday, as I write this, Barb and I signed at the Davenport, Iowa, Barnes & Noble. The turnout was light (an air show was in progress), but those who came were great to talk with and they all bought books. In addition, the staff was warm and friendly and helpful. We were asked to sign all of the (considerable number of) books in stock, as a previous lightly attended signing was followed by us signing a ton of books, which went on an end-cap and sold out fairly quickly.

I knew that the B & N events person had ordered Girl Most Likely (and of course that chain does not regularly carry Thomas & Mercer books, because of the Amazon connection) and was disappointed when none were included on the huge display of M.A.C. and Barbara Allan books. I delicately inquired and learned they had indeed got in a good supply – but it sold out before the signing!

That was nice to hear.


M.A.C. with fan Clay Huffstutler

* * *

After the event, Barb and I took in a movie.

As you know, if you follow these updates, we almost always go to a movie every week. Lately what we’ve seen includes the unfortunate Men in Black: International, which wasted good leads Chris Hemsworth and Tess Thompson and demonstrated how an overage of CGI aliens could bore a jaded audience now (particularly when the aliens are poorly designed). Very good, however, was the Child’s Play reboot, which was funny and scary and everything you want a Chucky movie to be, assuming you want a Chucky movie at all (which both Barb and I do). Mark Hammil as the voice of Chucky is worth the price of admission.

Yesterday we saw Yesterday.

Again, regular readers of this weekly blog know that I am a movie buff. Over the sixty-some years of my moviegoing, I have amassed a considerable number of favorite films. Among these are Harvey, How to Succeed in Business, Anatomy of a Murder, Vertigo, Kiss Me Deadly, Gun Crazy, Chinatown and Groundhog Day, plus probably another dozen. It’s a fairly long list, but one I haven’t added anything to in some time. Maybe a couple of decades.

I added one yesterday – Yesterday.

You may be familiar with the premise, since this film has been talked about a lot, but actually you aren’t familiar with it, because it’s been inaccurately reported.

Everybody says it’s about a smalltime musician who gets hit by a bus and wakes up to find out everybody in the world has forgotten the Beatles. No. The lead is thrown by some world-wide electrical event into an alternate universe where the Beatles didn’t happen. Neither did Coke (the drink, not the drug) or cigarettes or Harry Potter, and, oh yes, the weekend comedy show Thursday Night Live is big. Everything else seems to be the same.

I’m not going to say much about this, except the filmmakers – writer Richard Curtis (co-creator of Blackadder and Mr. Bean) and director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) – are world-class. Take the ride they offer. Now, I have no idea how well this film will work on you if you were not born between, say, 1945 and 1960. But if you were, you probably have an affection for the Beatles, and an understanding of what they mean for our culture (not just popular culture), and this movie will likely work on you.

Of course not everyone in the Baby Boomer age group likes the Beatles. I remember my pal Ed Gorman, the great mystery writer, hated the Beatles and much, much preferred the Rolling Stones. That misses the point (although is typical Ed). In addition to writing an insanely diverse range of wonderful popular music, John, Paul, George and Ringo changed the world. Everybody from the Rolling Stones to Herman’s Hermits, from the Zombies to the Who, rode in on the wave they made.

If you are male and have ever worn long hair, the Beatles – not your barber or lack of one – did it.

There are lovely surprises in this film, and one took me so close to the edge of tears by the shock of it that I can remember no moment in any movie that hit me harder – not even in Vertigo or Chinatown. I will not spoil that moment for you by telling you what it is.

Also, Yesterday captures a lot of things about being a smalltime (or for that matter bigtime) musician that I’ve never seen in any other film – how the clueless parents are nailed is just dead on, for example, as is the experience of playing for small audiences who couldn’t care less.

So I’m not going to say much more, other than it’s also a lovely love story as well as having a ton of funny moments (the character Rocky rivals Ernest T. Bass in the comic relief department). Much hinges on the performance of Himesh Patel, who inhabits his character completely, taking his lucky predicament seriously, and sings and plays very well – when he brings out John Lennon’s original intentions for the song “Help!” as an anguished plea while still really rocking it is a fairly mindboggling ashievement.

Also, Lily James is supernaturally appealing here, even more so than in Baby Driver and The Darkest Hour. And in any other movie, Kathryn McKinnon’s screamingly funny performance as a venal show biz manager would have stolen the show. That she merely commands the scenes she’s in seems enough in this case.

Also you need to see the Criterion edition of I Wanna Hold Your Hand (another on my favorites list).

* * *

Crusin’ played at the Ice Cream Social for the Muscatine Art Center today (Sunday June 30) and the people were great but the weather was brutal. Barb pitched in and helped me with set up and tear down, but I now know that I’m very close to the end of this long and winding road of performing rock ‘n’ roll.

This year will be it – if we make an album, the current plan, we’ll do a farewell show next summer.

* * *

Here’s a very nice Girl Most Likely review.

And scroll down for a great Last Stage to Hell Junction review.

M.A.C.

Centuries & Sleuths Rules!

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

The signing at Centuries & Sleuths on Sunday afternoon was a lot of fun. Not a big group, but dedicated fans – familiar faces plus a couple who drove 3 ½ hours to see me. As Judy Tenuta says, it could happen.

The occasion was Antiques Ravin’ by Barbara Allan and everybody bought a copy. Barb was charming and funny, and I blathered as usual. Lots of good questions, though, and a young woman impressed me with her knowledge of and interest in hardboiled fiction. How wonderful to find a Millennial female who is a fan of Mike Hammer and loves Velda.

Other fans encouraged me to keep writing Hammer, and I assured them that I had another half dozen books I could write from Spillane material.


M.A.C. and longtime fan Mike Doran

I am writing this Sunday night. Monday Brad Schwartz and I will go to WGN-TV to be interviewed by Larry Potash about E.J. O’Hare, the Capone Outfit crony whose son O’Hare Airport is named for. It’s part of promoting the trade paperback of Scarface and the Untouchable, which was just published. As you may recall, it has additional new material that wasn’t in the hardcover, and a few corrections have been made as well.

Brad appeared at the Printer’s Row book expo on Sunday while Barb and I (Barbara Allan, remember?) did the signing and talk at Centuries and Sleuths.

I do precious few bookstore appearances these days, but Centuries and Sleuths, with its emphasis on history and mystery is special, as are Augie and his wife Tracy Alesky, the owners of the cozy but book-packed shop.


M.A.C. and Augie

Barb and Tracy

Bob Goldsborough showed up, before Barb and I did our talk, to get some books signed by me, and by him to me, as well. He is doing a fantastic job continuing the Nero Wolfe series, and we make an obnoxious mutual admiration society.

* * *

Here’s a terrific review of Last Stage to Hell Junction.

M.A.C.

Confessions of a Laserdisc Fiend Pt. 2 & New Caleb York

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

Hardcover:
E-Book: Google Play Kobo
Digital Audiobook: Google Play Kobo

Today (Tuesday May 28) is pub date for Last Stage to Hell Junction, the new Spillane/Collins “Caleb York” novel. It’s a hardcover and you will probably be able to find it in the western sections of Barnes & Noble and BAM! Also, this means those of you who have been waiting to review the novel, having won a copy in a book giveaway, will now be able to post your thoughts at Amazon.

I like this one quite a bit, as much of it happens outside of Trinidad, New Mexico, which has been pretty much the sole setting of the previous three novels. I had in mind the Warner Bros television westerns of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s that, as much as anything, made me love the western form. My particular favorite was Maverick, which is the only one of those shows I’ve revisited extensively in recent years, although I’ve collected the DVD sets of all the rest, from Cheyenne to Sugarfoot, from Lawman to Bronco.

Maverick, of course, is known for its genre-spoofing approach, but the series had plenty of serious episodes, particularly (but not exclusively) the Jack Kelly-starring Bart ones. The very best episodes usually had both Bart and James Garner’s Bret, and these did tend toward humor; but a surprising number had noir-ish aspects and Agatha Christie-like enclosed settings. Hell Junction has the latter by way of a ghost town hotel that is welcome only to outlaws.

If you’ve been avoiding Caleb York because the novels are westerns and not crime novels, you are making the wrong assumption, and I encourage you to take a ride on this particular Hell-bound stage.

* * *

Meanwhile, back at the laserdisc ranch….

So far the experience has proven to be neither folly nor triumph. The 21″-inch tube TV (CRT) arrived and, with Barb’s help, I managed to extricate it from a big cardboard box full of smunched newspaper and packing peanuts. Such an experience is will-crushing in and of itself, and that was just the beginning.

What followed was an effort by a heart-patient/recovering stroke victim up the stairs with the heavy, clumsy TV aided by a not thrilled-about-it wife. I had, as luck would have it, a cabinet that was perfect for the TV to rest upon, a big square boxy affair that was designed to hold LPs with a built-in shelf designed for nothing in particular. That shelf would have been perfect for the laserdisc player to rest within, but no hole in the back existed to feed cords through. And I am a do-it-yourself-er whose skills do not include drilling a small hole in a piece of wood.

I had earlier ordered a stand from Amazon for a princely $28 that would support the TV and under which the laserdisc player would (theoretically) slide. This little stand, a sturdy effer, needed assembly. Either Barb or I assembled it. I will allow you to decide which of us was capable of that task. If you are giving me the benefit of the doubt, you are making a mistake.

Next step was to set the 21″-inch TV on top of the stand. Not that bad a job we made of it, for two people with a collective age of 141 years. I had shrewdly studied the specs at the Amazon listing and knew everything would be perfect. Plenty of room to slide that laserdisc player within the stand.

I’d already connected the appropriate cords and a S-video cable to the laserdisc player, so we set the TV sideways on the stand and completed connecting everything up. We eased the TV into position. We prepared to slide the laserdisc player home.

Amazon’s specs, however, did not include a wooden brace under the stand that made the passageway two inches or so smaller. No room at the inn (we could have used Jesus – he was a carpenter, after all). So I needed to prop up the stand at least two inches, all around. I considered pieces of wood, and then Barb suggested something we have no shortage of – books.

I tried four copies of the paperback edition of Road to Paradise – not quite right. After several other attempts, we used the Bantam mass market paperback of Stolen Away – representing my first royalties from that edition.

The laserdisc player now slid under perfectly. I was delighted. I turned to say as much to Barb, but for some reason, she had disappeared. Oh well.


M.A.C. with three random laserdiscs.

I fired everything up and all seemed tickety-boo. The laserdisc player made some disturbing noises, like a Tasmanian devil clearing its throat, but soon settled down. I selected a laserdisc to try out – The Bangles Greatest Hits (all of their hits, actually) – and pushed a button on the laserdisc player to open the tray into which the disc would go. The tray emerged and revealed a disc already in there. Somewhat disturbingly, its label was loose – had come unglued, picked off its perch by the hands of Father Time.

Also, disturbingly, the label on the reverse side of the shining disc was M.I.A. This meant it was somewhere down inside the machine. So far that didn’t seem to matter, though it might explain the initial sounds of discomfort emanating from the belly of the beast.

But the Bangles looked fine on the little TV – much better than such discs had looked on a flat screen – and the music sounded great. The girls (I mean, young women) may have had only enough hits to fill one compilation, but what great hits they were.

As Borat once said, “Success!”

That evening I selected another disc – Sammy Davis Jr. and Jerry Lewis performing in Vegas. Summoned the tray, filled it, sent it back into the machine. The disc looked and sounded great! When it was over, I pushed the button to eject the disc (I had done this successfully with the Bangles LD, earlier in the day).

The grinding returned, more forcefully now, the Tasmanian devil’s jaws grinding, and the disc tray would not open.

I tried various tactics to open it, all desperate in nature, and got nowhere. Finally I unhooked the laserdisc player, which still had its previous Sammy and Jerry disc in its mouth, and tried another machine. That machine was older and it too grumbled (even though it had not ingested a laserdisc label), but it did play. It does play. But it’s sluggish, taking forever to warm up and to perform such functions as ejecting a disc, and its key feature – playing side B after side A completes – does not function at all.

I am hobbling along with this disc player until I find if the original player I tried can be repaired. I believe it is merely a case of removing the semi-ingested laser disc label from the player’s mechanical innards. I’ve taken it to a computer store, where the gent is going to give it a try, though he looks from me to the Pioneer player and back again, as if trying to figure out which of us is the dinosaur, only to conclude: both.

But I will succeed. I promise you. I am not easy to dissuade. It’s the only child in me.

I will report back, whether you want me to or not.

* * *

Here’s a really nice review of Girl Most Likely.

I’m not sure why this 2017 interview of me by Sean Leary was recently posted, but Sean did his typical good job.

Finally, check out this great review of the Mike Hammer graphic novel from Titan.

M.A.C.

Hey Kids! Book (and Audio) Giveaway!

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes
Digital Audiobook: Amazon Kobo
Audio CD:

Hardcover:
E-Book: Google Play Kobo
Digital Audiobook: Google Play Kobo

Digital Audiobook: Amazon
MP3 CD: Amazon
Audio CD: Amazon

We have a giveaway again of two books – the new Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery, Antiques Ravin’, and the new Caleb York western, Last Stage to Hell Junction. Ravin’ is a finished hardcover book and Last Stage a nice, trade paperback-style Advanced Reading Copy, including the color cover. Nine copies of each are available. State your preference but also your willingness to look at the other title as a substitute (or your lack of willingness/interest in doing so).

As usual, the idea is that you will write a review at Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble, or at your own blog (multiple appearances encouraged). I ask only that if you hate the novel you receive in the giveaway, you consider not reviewing it at all; but that’s up to you, of course.

Write me directly at macphilms@hotmail.com. If you have won before, don’t assume I already have your address – you must give me your snail-mail info in that e-mail. No foreign (and this includes Canada) entries.

Ravin’ is out now, so reviews can appear immediately. Last Stage isn’t out till the end of the month (May 28 to be exact), and Amazon won’t run reviews until the book is published. So wait before you submit. Not sure what the Barnes & Noble policy is.

Now for my first audio giveaway. I have three CD versions of Girl Most Likely and three MP3 CD audios of it, as well. You must specify which format(s) you can use. Your review will appear with the regular reviews of the e-book and “real” book write-ups, so I’d encourage you to mention you are reviewing an audio and address the quality of the narration, as well.

Speaking of reviews, Murder, My Love has a rather skimpy number of reviews (although very good ones) at Amazon, and if you’ve read and liked the book, I’d appreciate you weighing in there. Reviews need not be lengthy – you can go long and detailed or short and sweet, as you like.

It occurred to me to do my first audio giveaway here because Barb and I just finished listening to Girl Most Likely as read by Dan John Miller. Dan is a terrific reader, and – as some of you know – he has been the “voice” of Nate Heller for years now. He’s also narrated a Quarry and two Mike Hammer novels, as well What Doesn’t Kill Her and the Reeder and Rogers political thrillers by Matt Clemens and me. He’s a fantastic narrator and in much demand, and I’m lucky to have him.

Remember when I said I wouldn’t talk about Girl Most Likely reviews here anymore? Did you really believe that? Truth is we’ve had many very good reviews (I’ll link to one really nice one below), and continue to hold at four stars on Amazon, with 72 reviews currently. What is different about the Girl Most Likely reviews is the nastiness of the outlying bad reviews, which – as I’ve said – seem largely to come from fans of my more overtly noir-ish material (like Quarry, Heller, Hammer) and from young women with politically-correct agendas.

When the novel came out, I kept track of the reviews at Amazon and Goodreads (including the bizarrely nasty ones from the UK, where readers had access a month early). I did this because Girl Most Likely is published by Amazon – actually, Thomas & Mercer, their mystery/suspense line – and I am keen to keep working with them, so I needed to know what kind of response they were getting.

So, in the process, I got a little battered by the occasional snarky, nasty reviews. This made hearing Dan John Miller read Girl Most Likely (Barb and I listened to it on a recent Chicago trip) a pleasure and, frankly, a relief. It reminded me that I’d been proud of the book when I delivered it, and allowed me to be proud of it now.

I did understand some of the negative response better. Some readers were really put off by the cover labeling the novel “A Thriller.” What a thriller is, exactly, no one really knows. Like noir, it’s a term that everyone defines for themselves and then holds others to that definition.

Otto Penzler, for example – a mystery fiction expert if ever there was one – holds the ludicrous position that no private eye book or movie can be considered noir. Okay, but nobody told Chandler that when he wrote the Marlowe novels and certainly nobody told Mickey Spillane when he created Mike Hammer. One Lonely Night isn’t a noir novel? Kiss Me Deadly isn’t a noir movie? Otto, you prove that an informed opinion is still just an opinion.

The closest I can come to defining the modern thriller is that it has, well, a lot of thrills in it – action and suspense – and the antagonist is known to the reader and the protagonist. In other words, not a mystery.

But I conceived Girl Most Likely as a hybrid of thriller and mystery. The killer would get point of view chapters, but I would withhold the killer’s identity and add a mystery aspect to the plot. This seems to have wildly confused certain readers. (By the way, the killer’s chapters are not “first person,” as many reviewers have stated – they are in second person.)

A good number of reviewers – both amateur and professional – have gotten hung up on the thriller definition provided by the cover. One particularly smug reviewer at Amazon said the novel was a “cozy.” Right. A cozy with three on-stage butcher knife slayings by a maniac, and a nighttime chase in the woods by said butcher knife-wielding maniac of the two protagonists, with the maniac (SPOILER ALERT) dying a graphically bloody death, as well. Yessir, a cozy. Pass the tea and cookies.

Probably what hearing the audio did for me was remind me that some of the things certain people don’t like about the book – the lack of a tough guy hero, the somewhat abrupt (Spillane-style) finish, the clothing and physical descriptions, the setting descriptions, the Chicago mob sub-plot – were all very deliberate choices. And I don’t regret one of them.

A writer of fiction, as I’ve noted here before, is collaborating with each reader. I always assume that the reader is at least as smart as I am, and this has never really failed me. Yet not all readers, even very smart ones, know how to meet a book (or a film or a piece of music) on its own terms. And, of course, not everyone’s taste is the same.

Take Antiques Ravin’. There are four “trade” magazines in the publishing business, and these days it’s rare for a book in a long-running series to get reviewed at all. Just scoring a notice from one of these publications – even if it’s a negative review, and these are all tough places to get good reviews – is a big deal these days, for a novel in a series.

But take a gander at these (all of these originally included lengthy plot summaries):

“The melodramatic Vivian and pragmatic Brandy play off each other like foils in a 1930s screwball comedy, and Poe puns, witty asides, and quirky townspeople keep things light. Series fans and newcomers alike will have fun.”
–Publishers Weekly

“Plenty of plausible suspects make this one of the best in Allan’s long-running series, which is always humorous and full of tips for antiques hunters.”
–Kirkus Reviews

“Framed effectively by the antique business, and including plenty of details about Poe and his work, this satisfying, humorous cozy – with its well-drawn, quirky characters – is a hoot. Chapters end with tips on how to collect rare books.”
–Booklist

“Wordplay and fun references to Poe combine in this humorous cozy follow-up to Antiques Ho-Ho-Homicides. The humor is doubled with two narrators, Brandy and Vivian, who are supposedly writing a ‘nonfiction true crime account’ of this latest mystery.”
–Library Journal

That, my friends, is a Grand Slam, and I don’t mean at Denny’s. I can’t think of another time in my career when I got reviewed by all four of these trades, and favorably, in one fell swoop.

And yet the Lesa’s Book Critiques blog finds the humor too broad in Ravin’, complaining about the wordplay, even though she admits, “Their characters certainly are original, and, as I said, the mystery is actually well done,” but she “won’t be picking up the fourteenth in the series, but I know this cozy series has a devoted following.”

Is Lesa wrong?

No, Lesa knows what she likes, and her review is well-written and thoughtful. But we are not to her taste. Humor is a very personal thing. So she doesn’t make a good collaborator for us. But she does not go off on a hissy fit about it, or a snarky rant either.

Barb and I knew from the beginning that the Antiques novels would not be to everyone’s taste. I knew the same thing about Quarry, even back in 1972 when I created him. What I wanted to do – and what Barb and I, as “Barbara Allan,” wanted to do – was create something of our own. Something distinctive.

When you do that, you won’t please everybody. Of course, nothing pleases everybody, but with Quarry, and with the Antiques series, we knew that we would turn a certain number of people off. But we also knew, instinctively, that the people who connected with us – who were good and, well, worthy collaborators – would love what we were doing.

Now, the tricky thing for me is that I have rather broad tastes, and somewhat oddball ones at that. So I have had to come to terms with the fact (and it is a fact) that very few readers out there are going to like everything I do. That within my readership will be groups who only like this, or only like that.

Here’s an example. A good number of Quarry fans won’t read Heller because the books are long. If you read both series, you know how compatible they are, thematically and stylistically and so on. But a Heller novel is a commitment for the reader (just as it was to me). And some fans of a certain style of novel – think Gold Medal Books – just don’t know how to handle a book that’s 100,000 words long.

Here’s another. Some readers of comic books (okay, graphic novels) are not anxious to read prose novels. They are fans only of my comics work. To me, the idea that you would love Ms. Tree, but not gravitate as well to Quarry and Nate Heller is nonsensical. But there it is. And even more common is the reader of my novels who disdains comics. Look at the Amazon reviews of my graphic novels and you’ll see outraged one-star reviews – “This is a comic book!”

As we say in the funnies, sigh.

So what can I do about it?

Not a damn thing. Somebody once said something about following a quest and following a star. Of course, hopeless was in there, too, but what the hell.

Anyway, no more talk about reviews.

I promise.

* * *

At J. Kingston’s Pierce’s wonderful Rap Sheet, he announces the honor that A. Brad Schwartz and I have received for Scarface and the Untouchable. Very cool – do check this out.

A lot of you seem interested in my appearance (and my Scarface co-author’s) in the Dick Tracy strip (thanks to my pal, writer/cop Jim Doherty). This link will take you to a nice write-up about the continuity, with more links to read the entire thing.

Here is a lovely review for Girl Most Likely.

Check out this nice review and interview with me for Girl Most Likely. This was an actual phone interview as opposed to the usual e-mail one.

Another nice Girl interview here, with fun graphics.

Finally, I don’t exactly know what this is, but it looks like a good deal – a “book bundle” that includes some titles of mine.

[Note from Nate: I’ll copy Humble’s explanation below. The short version is: DRM-free highly discounted bundles of eBooks that benefits charity. This bundle includes The Consummata and the Mike Hammer and Quarry’s War graphic novels at the $1 tier, The First Quarry at the $8 tier, and Seduction of the Innocent at the $15 tier.]

The best in hardboiled crime fiction. Ranging from lost noir masterpieces to new novels and comics, these ebooks feature jaw-dropping cover paintings and hold your attention from the first sentence to the last page. With determined detectives, dangerous women, vengeance seekers, and fortune hunters galore, you won’t be able to put these novels down!

Pay $1 or more. Normally, the total cost for the comics and ebooks in this bundle is as much as $333. Here at Humble Bundle, you choose the price and increase your contribution to upgrade your bundle! This bundle has a minimum $1 purchase.

Read them anywhere. The comics in this bundle are available in CBZ, PDF, and ePub formats, so they work on your computer, e-readers, iPads, cell phones, and a wide array of mobile devices! The ebooks in this bundle are available in PDF and ePub formats, so they work on your computer, e-readers, iPads, cell phones, and a wide array of mobile devices! Instructions and a list of recommended reading programs can be found here for comics and here for ebooks.

Support charity. Choose where the money goes – between the publisher and the ACLU via the PayPal Giving Fund. If you like what we do, you can leave us a Humble Tip too!

M.A.C.