Posts Tagged ‘Caleb York’

M.A.C. (Barbara) San Diego Comic Con Schedule (And More)

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

This week’s update will mostly be the SDCC schedule promised above, and some links to reviews and an article from Brad Schwartz and me about Ness and Capone that you may enjoy.

Crusin’ has been active this summer, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever take on this many gigs again. This is the point in the picture where the grizzled movie star says, “I’m getting too old for this shit,” and a helicopter blows up.

Most of our gigs are outside and the Iowa weather (or rather excuse for weather) has lavished us with all the heat and humidity aging rockers could ever dream of. But I’m enjoying playing with the line-up that includes longtime members Steve Kundel, Brian Van Winkle and newbie Bill Anson. The Labor Day weekend induction of the band into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame will make a nice conclusion for my years of playing rock on a more or less regular basis. This does not mean we won’t do occasional gigs, when the event seems right.


Playing in the park at West Liberty on Sunday July 15 as the County Fair kicks off.

As for SDCC, I am trying to get a good chunk of Caleb York #4 done before I leave, plus putting together trade material for my comic art collecting jones. Unfortunately, Nate and Abby are not going with us this year (grandson Sam, either), and it’s likely Barb and I will attend in future only when we’re guests with somebody else paying the way. Much of what I have gone to the convention for in past years has either faded away – the RiffTrax boys don’t come anymore, and my favorite book dealer, Bud Plant, an old friend, will not be there after decades of attending – or is inaccessible. Don’t you think I’d like to see the panel with the Breaking Bad reunion? Yes, yes, and yes, but hell no, if I have to stand in line – perhaps overnight – to see it.

I am thrilled, however, that the convention is honoring Mickey Spillane’s Centenary. I am being interviewed about Mickey and Mike Hammer and me, and have done a big article for their program book, with an emphasis on Spillane’s comics work.

If you see me there, say hello – you’ve spotted an endangered species.

SAN DIEGO COMIC CON 2018 M.A.C. SKED
NOTE: If you are attending SDCC, check your program guides about these times and room numbers – they may have changed, or I may have screwed them up!

Thursday, July 19:
11:30am-12:30am “You’re Wrong, Leonard Maltin!” Discussing movies on social media has become a blood sport instead of a forum for debate. Leonard Maltin and his daughter Jessie, who host the “Maltin on Movies” podcast for the Nerdist network, are willing to take on all comers who have a gripe over one of Leonard’s reviews. Marquis of Queensbury rules will be enforced, but anyone who wants to have a lively discussion is welcome to spar (verbally) with America’s best-known film critic. Max Allan Collins will join Leonard to defend Deadpool 2. Rm 24AB

12:30pm-1:30pm In this special anniversary discussion, Titan Publishing’s Andrew Sumner sits down with writer Max Allan Collins (Quarry’s War, Road to Perdition) to discuss the life and legacy of Mickey Spillane on what would have been his centenary year. They delve into the history of his most famous creation, Mike Hammer, along with his return to comics in an all-new Titan series based on one of Spillane’s original plots. Room 24ABC

2pm-3pm signing, Titan, Booth 5537

Friday, July 20:
2pm-3pmInternational Association of Media Tie-in Writers: Scribe Awards – Max Allan Collins (Mike Hammer) will host this year’s Scribe Awards for excellence in tie-in writing. Join nominees/panelists Michael Black (The Executioner), David Boop (Predator), Matt Forbeck (Halo), Christie Golden (Star Wars), Jonathan Maberry (Planet of the Apes), and Sarah Stegall (Deadworld) for a lively look at one of the most popular and yet under-appreciated branches of the writing trade. Room 32AB

Sunday, July 22:
12:30pm-1:15pm Mysterious Galaxy booth #1119, Max and Barbara Collins will both be signing, with a number of titles available. (It’s always a great booth.)

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A. Brad Schwartz – my co-author on Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness and the Battle for Chicago and I have done an article for the Chicago Review of Books on the upcoming Ness fest in Coudersport, Pennsylvania. We talk about Ness and Capone in some depth, so if you’re yearning for a real update/blog this week, check this out.

And check out this great five-minute clip from the forthcoming audiobook of Scarface and the Untouchable with the terrific Stefan Rudnicki (veteran of Quarry audios).

Speaking of Eliot Ness, here’s a nice Dark City review from Paperback Warrior.

Here is an intelligent and perceptive review of Quarry, a book I wrote a long time ago that seems to have something of a life.

The current Caleb York western, The Bloody Spur, makes the big time with this True West magazine review!

Here’s a Mike Hammer #1 comic book review, brief but nice.

And here’s another.

M.A.C.

Our Audie Murphy Film Festival

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

Killing Town, the “lost” first Mike Hammer novel, is now available on audio read by the great Dan John Miller. Read about it here. If you support this audio (and the previous Journalstone Mike Hammer release, The Will to Kill), more will follow!

* * *

I am writing this week’s update on Memorial Day Weekend. It seems like a good time to say a few things about Audie Murphy.

First, let me share with you a part of my prep for writing the Caleb York novels for Kensington (under the Spillane & Collins byline) – essentially, how I get into the mood.

I am about to start the new Caleb, Last Stage to Hell Junction. Whenever I do a York novel, Barb and I have an appropriate western film festival, watching an “oater” each evening. For the first novel, The Legend of Caleb York (from Mickey’s screenplay, which started it all), we watched John Wayne westerns, as Mickey had written the screenplay for Wayne’s Batjac productions, though it had never been produced. My favorites, predictably, are The Searchers, Red River and Rio Bravo.

For The Big Showdown, we watched Randolph Scott, including all of his outstanding Budd Boetticher-directed westerns. For The Bloody Spur, our nightly western was a Joel McRae. And I have been gathering Audie Murphy’s westerns (and his other films) for several years now, with an eye on the festival Barb and I are beginning now.

Audie Murphy, of course, is celebrated as the most decorated American combat soldier of World War II. He received every military combat award, including the Medal of Honor, having – at age 19 – held off by himself an entire company of German soldiers for an hour, then (while wounded) leading a successful counterattack.

Murphy was a Texas boy from sharecropper stock who learned his skills with a rifle by putting food on the table for his six brothers and four sisters, after their father left their mother, who died when Audie was a teen. Murphy lied about his age to get into the U.S. Army, not long after Pearl Harbor (the Marines and Navy having turned him down).

After the war, making the cover of LIFE Magazine for his courageous service, he was taken under the wing of the great James Cagney. From the late forties until his tragic young death in 1971, Murphy was a movie star. Aside from a few A-pictures (like The Red Badge of Courage and The Unforgiven, both directed by John Huston), and several contemporary offerings, Murphy specialized in westerns, as well as a western TV series, Whispering Smith.

But his biggest success was starring as himself (a role he reluctantly accepted) in the film version of his autobiographical war account, To Hell and Back. He was a skilled horseman and a successful songwriter, his work recorded by such stars as Dean Martin, Harry Nillson, Eddy Arnold and Jimmy Dean, among many others. And, not surprisingly, he suffered from what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He slept with a .45 automatic under his pillow.

Stopped for speeding, Murphy pulled over and, when the officer noticed the .45 on the seat next to the easily recognizable Audie, the cop smiled and said he was a big fan and wanted an autograph. Murphy provided it. Accosted by a gangster at a horserace, Murphy stared him down and said, “I killed sixty of you bums in Sicily – one more won’t make a difference.” The thug moved on. Many a brawny challenger who figured he’d pick a fight with Murphy was quickly and brutally dispatched by the five-foot-five war hero turned movie star.

Or so go the stories. More easily verified is Murphy’s refusal to do ads for cigarettes or liquor, not wanting to set a bad example for young people. He died in a small plane crash.

My character, Quarry, was in part inspired by Murphy. David Morell told me Rambo had the same source. And Robert Stack said his Ness portrayl was inspired by Murphy.

Around Memorial Day, and all year frankly, Audie’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery is among the most visited. He is probably remembered more for his incredible valor as a teenaged war hero than for his movie career, and while that’s understandable, I’m here to tell you he was a fine actor.

In his day – and still today – his ability to star in a film is perceived as a sort of “talking dog” thing – the dog doesn’t haven’t to say anything impressive to qualify for that distinction. My feeling is the studios (chiefly Universal) often felt they had to pair Murphy with a strong character actor – Walter Matthau, Dean Jagger, Barry Sullivan – to carry him.

But anyone at all savvy about film and film-acting can look at Murphy in almost any of his pictures and see how his instinctive, charismatic under-playing seems modern and real while many of the actors around him appear to be shouting and hamming it up. He is present in every scene, quietly reacting, watching, then delivering lines naturally and effectively.

And in scenes of violence, just who this baby-faced boy/man is always comes to the fore. He’s a killer. Real deal. Not a murderer, but a soldier who unflinchingly does what he has to. But he’s not one note: he can be boyish, he can be scary, he can be romantic, he can be funny, he can be tough as hell – as much as I like Randolph Scott (and that’s a lot), Murphy has far more colors to his palette.

We’ve been watching him for a week or so now, and not all of the movies are good – toward the mid-1960s (particularly when he’s not working at Universal), his films are programmers, bottom-bill fodder for drive-ins. But he made some fine westerns, too, and worked with such great genre directors as Don Siegel, Budd Boetticher and Jack Arnold.

My favorite, the latter director’s work, is No Name on the Bullet. Murphy is an assassin who comes to a small western town, quietly checks in at the hotel and minds his own business – only his business is killing someone while he’s in town…but who. Everyone in the community seems to have a secret worth killing for. It’s a very Quarry-like role. The quiet killer side of him is in evidence – the film is thoughtful, a sort of High Noon turned inside out, and Murphy is great. Just great.

In collecting Murphy’s films, I’ve had to order DVDs and Blu-rays from all over the world. A few are available here (including No Name on the Bullet), and there’s a nice boxed set from Turner Classic Movies – check it out.

Oddly, Murphy is considered a major star in Germany. Think about that – our decorated hero is revered by the losers, and patronized and even ignored by the winners. This is much odder than Jerry Lewis being lionized in France (though the French are right about Lewis, and they like Murphy, too, for that matter).

Salute this Texas sharecropper’s son, while Memorial Day is still in the air, won’t you? For his service to his country, by all means. But track down some of his movies. He was a real movie star, and – unlikely as it seems – a fine actor.

* * *

The forthcoming Scarface and the Untouchable is one of the ten summer books Chicago Magazine recommends.

Here’s a fine review of Killing Town.

Check out this advance look at the first issue of the Hammer four-issue comic book mini-series.

The Quarry TV series gets some love here.

Finally, here is a wonderful review of Antiques Wanted by a reviewer who really gets what Barb and I are up to.

M.A.C.

Put Some Damn Clothes On!

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Below is an excerpt from a review of The Bloody Spur from the Western Writers of America Roundup Magazine. It’s what you’d call a mixed review, on the patronizing side, and is mostly a plot summary, which I’ve skipped. But it raises some issues I’ve been wanting to talk about.

“There’s an overdose of descriptions of setting and clothing, and characters are stereotypical. But it’s enjoyable in a conventional-Western way, and the murder mystery has some intriguing twists.”

Let me get the stereotypical charge out of the way first. Yes, the characters established in Mickey’s 1950s screenplay are stereotypical – the stranger in town who becomes sheriff, a beautiful dance hall girl, a blind rancher, a lovely tomboy, and a cantankerous coot who becomes a deputy. There’s also a local doctor. What Mickey did, and what I have continued to try to do, is make these types specific and sometimes surprising in their characterizations, and to bring a gritty, even shocking amount of Spillane-style violence to the party as well as a mystery/crime element.

I don’t mean to respond to the reviewer, just to make clear where Mickey and I are coming from.

What I want to discuss is the charge that I do too much description of setting and clothing. I have always done a good deal of that, but it’s only in recent years that the occasional reviewer (particularly the Amazon variety) has bitched about it. The same is true of the sexual element, but that doesn’t apply too much to the Caleb York novels, so I’ll save that for a future discussion.

From my point of view, too many authors send their characters running around in books stark naked, and I don’t mean in sex scenes. I view clothing as a tool of characterization. The clothing a character wears tells us who this person is, and how these characters perceive themselves, and wish to be perceived.

Setting is the same. A description of a house, interior or exterior, tells us who lives there – a bedroom, particularly, is revealing of character.

Any reader who thinks I can on too much about clothing or setting is free to skip or scan. No harm, no foul.

In an historical novel – which westerns like the Caleb York books are by definition – setting is particularly important. It is also a big part of my 20th Century-set mysteries. If I take Nate Heller to a Hooverville or a strip club, you can bet I’ll give you chapter and verse about those settings. If Heller – in a 1960s-era story, when he’s become prosperous – is something of a clothes horse, that speaks of character, of who is and what he’s become. He’s rather shallow in that regard, frankly – part of his characterization.

In a Caleb York story, if I take my hero into an apothecary or a general store, you can bet I will describe the damn thing, and in some detail. York isn’t walking into a Walgreen’s or a Safeway, after all. Part of this is taking what is a mythic western – having to do with movies and ‘50s/’60s TV, more than the reality of the west – and giving it some verisimilitude. By keeping the underpinnings real, making the setting authentic, I can get away with the melodrama.

And what I do is melodrama. Nobody uses that word anymore, at least not correctly. But much of what I have done as a writer for over forty years is present a realistic surface on which to present my somewhat over-the-top stories.

Again, feel free to skim or skip passages that bore you. Elmore Leonard, great writer that he was, pretty much left you on your own. What he did worked for him (but his “rules” of writing are worthwhile only if you want to be Elmore Leonard when you grow up, and we already have one of those).

I am well aware that I am involved in a collaborative process with the reader. It amuses me when two readers argue over whether a book is good or not, as if they shared the same experience. Obviously they didn’t. Sometimes the play or movie mounted in a reader’s mind is a big-budget, beautifully cast affair; other readers are capable only of amateur night productions.

Leonard and others may wish to cede their stories to the whims and abilities of their readers. I know to some extent that is inevitable – because no two readers will have the same experience reading fiction. But I believe in controlling the narrative to the fullest extent that I can. I consider a chief responsibility of my job is doing my job – to do the work for you, where setting and clothing are concerned and much more.

I understand and accept that I’m blessed and sometimes burdened with readers who are my inevitable collaborators. But I want them to come as close to experiencing the movie I saw in my head, and put down on paper for them, as I possibly can.

* * *

This past Saturday, Crusin’ played the first gig of the season (defined as: not winter, though we were somewhat double-crossed by April sleet and snow). We performed for the Wilton, Iowa, High School Alumni banquet, a very well-attended event that had been going since five p.m. when we went on stage around nine-thirty. We held a good share of the audience for two sets (we took no break) and debuted a lot of new material…well, old material, although a new original was included.


L to R: M.A.C., Joe McClean, Steve Kundel, Bill Anson and Brian Van Winkle.

It went well, and our old friend Joe McClean, a Wilton area boy, joined us on several numbers. Joe was the heart and soul of the great Midwestern band the XL’s, who are also in the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Our new guitar player, Bill Anson, is doing a fine job, as are longtime drummer Steve Kundel and our bassist Brian Van Winkle, the “new guy” who has been with us seven years.

It felt great playing again. Loading afterward, not so much. And two days later I still am in anybody-get-the-name-of-that-truck mode.


M.A.C., Joe McClean.
* * *

My Scarface and the Untouchable co-author, A. Brad Schwartz, has written an op-ed piece for the Washington Post that has just appeared. Though I didn’t co-write it, I did some friendly editing and the piece beautifully discusses the somewhat facile comparisons being made of Trump as Capone and Comey/Mueller as Eliot Ness.

Wild Dog is back on Arrow this year. I haven’t watched the previous year yet.

Here’s a great review by Ron Fortier of the complete version of the Road to Perdition novel published by Brash Books.

Here’s where you can get signed copies of my books, including Killing Town and The Last Stand.

Road to Perdition the film is number three on this list of the best twelve Jude Law movies.

Finally, thanks to everyone who responded to the book giveaway posted last week. The books went quickly, and my apologies to those of you who missed out. Another will follow before too very long!

M.A.C.

Book Giveaway and C2E2

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

I have four copies each of The Last Stand, Killing Town, The Bloody Spur and advance bound galley proofs of Antiques Wanted.

When these sixteen are gone, they are gone. [They’re gone! Thank you!]

E-mail me at REDACTED and list in order of preference which of these you’d like. If there’s one you don’t want, list only those you do. I need you to include your snail mail address – and it’s USA addresses only. I ask only that you post a review on Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble, or your own blog.

Today we are recuperating from Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2). The con itself was great. We had some issues with the hotel (Marriott Marquis), which despite its proximity to the event itself at McCormick Place, required endless walking of skywalks to get to the sprawling facility. The very modern hotel did not include hot water in the shower. And at a con, brother is a shower a necessity.

Not surprisingly, a con like this requires more security than ever, pretty much the same as an airport. Signs of the times (literal signs) were posted everywhere informing attendees that “COSPLAY IS NOT CONSENT.” It shows how schitzy our culture is – young women in the MeToo era walking around near naked, representing themselves as characters mostly created by men at their most objectifying.

I would say perhaps as many as 25% of attendees were in costume, some changing two or three times a day. Fun and sometimes disturbing stuff, and always a roadblock in aisles as the momentarily famous pause to pose for photographs.

From my standpoint – Barb was not appearing, just being my support staff – it was a fine con. Both panels I did – one on horror, the other on Chicago crime – were extremely well-attended. The horror one was aided by the presence of James S. Murray, of the Impractical Jokers TV show (he’s written a horror novel, The Awakened). Very nice guy.

My signings, particularly the Saturday one, were well-attended. I met a lot of readers and had some fun conversations. Many of them brought books from home and the material was wide-ranging – I signed things I’d forgotten about and even a few I’d never seen before. A veteran told me of buying my books on a military base overseas – some of the books I signed for him had the PX’s mark. Cool and humbling.

* * *

Here’s a nice review of The Last Stand, including comments on “A Bullet for Satisfaction.”

The rest of this update will be photos from the con, courtesy of Barbara Collins.

* * *

Chicago Crime Panel, l to r, Crimespree editor Jon Jordan, M.A.C., David L. Carlson, Landis Blair (writer and artist of The Hunting Accident)


M.A.C. at Anderson Bookshop Booth


M.A.C. signing.


James Murray, M.A.C.