Posts Tagged ‘Comic-Con 2014’

Comic-Con 2014 Day Two

Friday, July 25th, 2014

The first full day of the con was just fine. After a delightful ocean-front breakfast, I headed for the convention center, Barb hit the trolley to go to the Fashion Valley Mall, and Nate and Abby began a day of standing in line to get things signed. I was on the prowl for bargain books – I collect hardcover collections of old comics – and scored a good number, and took in lots of original art that I can’t afford. Late afternoon, we went to Nate’s panel on translating Japanese into English (emphasis on manga) and that was, as usual, fascinating. Then it was off for an evening with Alice and Leonard Maltin, where Leonard and I impressed everyone with our vast range of knowledge about the Three Stooges, especially Shemp. Well, maybe not everyone was impressed, but Leonard and I were. Good food at the Harbor House, a restaurant we settled on when our original choice voided our reservation because a private party took over the place (Buster’s). But the Harbor House was excellent, and the conversation a blast. Beautiful weather to walk back in, cool but never chilly. Tomorrow – the Scribe Awards (see info below).

Comic Con 2014

Comic Con 2014

Comic Con 2014

Comic Con 2014

Comic Con 2014

Comic-Con 2014 Day One

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

This was a very long day, starting at 3 a.m. in Iowa. After arriving at the airport in San Diego, Barb and I met up with Nate and Abby in weather so beautiful it seemed like a bad practical joke to a bunch of humidity-ridden Midwesterners. Staying at the Marriot Marina – thanks to Nate’s mad computer skills when the rooms were made available – we are in a much more convenient position to get the most out of the con. Standing in line to get into preview night, we met Ian Abbott, a special effects expert from the UK who worked on tons of huge movies, including SKYFALL and several Christopher Nolan projects. Lovely guy, funny and willing to share fascinating and sometimes hilarious inside stuff. The dealer’s room was crowded and fairly daunting, though Nate and Abby made some key purchases – including a lovely Stan Sakai watercolor – and I picked up some books from Bud Plant’s great booth. Tomorrow at 6:30 PM (see details below) is Nate’s panel on translation.

Comic Con 2014

Comic Con 2014

Comic Con 2014

Comic Con 2014

Comic Con 2014

San Diego Comic Con & Goodbye, Maverick

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

For any of you attending San Diego Comic Con, here is my schedule:

6 to 7 PM, Friday July 25, Room 23ABC: International Association of Media Tie-in Writers: Scribe Awards panel. We’ll be presenting the awards (“So Long Chief” is up for Best Short Story) followed by a panel with lots of top tie-in writers. My only panel appearance this year.

1 PM Sunday July 28 at the Hermes Books booth, signing the MIKE HAMMER comic strip book (which I introduced). This is a tentative time and may change. This is my only scheduled signing and you may bring any books you like for my signature (as long as I wrote them). Duration of signing is open-ended – probably 2:30.

Note, too, that Nate has a panel on Thursday, July 24, at 6:30 PM in Room 26AB. The topic is translation of Japanese into English for manga, games, novels, etc. I’ll be in the audience if you’re looking to track me down. This is always an interesting panel.

I will again be doing daily updates from SDCC with photos and more (starting Thursday morning).

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James Garner

Like most writers who’ve had any sort of success – and this seems to apply particularly to mystery writers – I get questioned frequently about influences. If you’ve followed these updates or seen me on a convention panel or maybe just chatted with me, you know the list: Hammett, Cain, Chandler, Spillane, and a bunch of others. Writers all.

And I sometimes mention – as do such contemporaries of mine as Bob Randisi, Ed Gorman and Loren Estleman – the impact that series television had on me as a writer. Not every writer is secure enough to admit being influenced by what we used to call the boob tube (I always hear Edith Prickley saying that). But those of us who grew up in that wave of TV private eyes in late fifties were probably as influenced by such shows as Peter Gunn, 77 Sunset Strip, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Perry Mason and Johnny Staccato (among others) as we were Hammett, Chandler and Spillane.

More often (though still relatively seldom) you’ll hear a mystery writer admit to having been influenced by filmmakers. I frequently mention directors Alfred Hitchcock and Joseph H. Lewis, and such movies as Kiss Me Deadly and Chinatown. Add Vertigo to those last two and I would challenge you to find many novels that stack up, even by the masters.

But it’s rare that any writers think to mention the influence actors have had on their fiction. I know that Italian western-era Lee Van Cleef influenced my Nolan series, for example, and Bogart is someone that writers sometimes aren’t embarrassed to cite as influential on their work. Not often, but it happens.

For me, the passing of James Garner – a man I never met and never had contact with – reminded me how big an influence this actor was on my life and my work. Before the TV private eye fad, there was the western craze, and discovering Maverick at a very young age shaped me in a way that rivals any parent or mentor. Now of course Roy Huggins had a lot to do with that, as the creator and frequent writer on the series, but it was Garner who brought life to the character, whose like we’d never seen.

Bret Maverick was a big, good-looking guy, able to handle himself with his fists and passably well with a gun (despite his claims at being slow on the draw). But he would rather charm or con his way out of a jam than fight or shoot. He was quick with a quip but never seemed smug. He was often put upon, and didn’t always win. Though he was clearly better-looking and more physically fit than your average mortal, he conveyed a mild dismay at the vagaries of human existence. And he did all of this – despite (or in addition to) Roy Huggins – because he was James Garner.

Garner’s comic touch was present in much of his work, and of course Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford were essentially the same character. And no matter what literary influences they may cite, my generation of private-eye writers and the next one, too, were as influenced by The Rockford Files as by Hammett, Chandler or Spillane. The off-kilter private eye writing of Huggins and Stephen Cannell made a perfect fit for Garner’s exasperated everyman approach, but it was just notes on a page without the actor’s musicianship.

Not that Garner couldn’t play it straight – he was, in my opinion, the screen’s best Wyatt Earp in Hour of the Gun, and as early as The Children’s Hour and as late as The Notebook he did a fine job minus his humorous touch. But it’s Maverick and Rockford – and the scrounger in The Great Escape, the less-than-brave hero of Americanization of Emily, and his underrated Marlowe – that we will think of when Garner’s name is mentioned or his face appears like a friendly ghost in our popular culture.

Garner’s attempts to resurrect Maverick were never very successful – Young Maverick a disaster, Bret Maverick merely passable, though his participation in the Mel Gibson Maverick film was on target. I was fortunate to get to write the movie tie-in novel of that and – despite an atypically mediocre William Goldman script – had great fun paying tribute to my favorite childhood TV show and to the actor I so admired. (If you read my novel and pictured Gibson as Bret Maverick, you weren’t paying attention.)

Like all of us, Garner was a flawed guy, though I would say mildly flawed. Provoked, his easygoing ways flared into a temper and he even punched people out (not frequently) in a way Bret Maverick wouldn’t. He never quite came to terms with how important Roy Huggins had been to the creation of his persona, and essentially fired him off Rockford after one season. The lack of Huggins and/or Cannell on Bret Maverick was probably why it somehow didn’t feel like real Maverick.

Garner had great loyalty to his friends, however, and as a Depression-era blue collar guy who kind of stumbled into acting, he never lost a sense of his luck or seemed to get too big a head. He resented being taken advantage of and took on the Hollywood bigwigs over money numerous times, with no appreciable negative impact on his career. He was that good, and that popular.

When he gave a rare interview, Garner displayed intelligence but no particular wit, and it could be disconcerting to see that famed wry delivery wrapped around bland words. Yet no one could convey humor – from a script – with more wry ease than Jim Garner. Perhaps he was funny at home and on the golf course and so on. Or maybe he was just a great musician who couldn’t write a note of music to save his life.

It doesn’t matter. Not to me. He influenced my work – particularly Nate Heller – as much as any writer or any film director. He was a strong, handsome hero with a twist of humor and a mildly exasperated take on life’s absurdities. I can’t imagine navigating my way through those absurdities, either in life or on the page, without having encountered Bret Maverick at an impressionable age.

Watch something of his this week, would you? I recommend the Maverick episode “Shady Deal at Sunny Acres,” which happens to be the best single episode of series television of all time.

J. Kingston Pierce has a wonderful post on Garner at the Rap Sheet, with links to his definitive (and rare) two-part interview with Bret Maverick himself.


New Mike Hammer Novel Giveaway

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
King of the Weeds

Last week, my offer of a dozen ARC’s (advance reading copies) of ANTIQUES CON to readers willing to do an Amazon review found all twelve spoken for within 24 hours.

This week I have a similar offer, and it just might go quicker (we will post here and on Facebook when the offered books are gone). [Note from Nate: We’re all out again. Thanks for the terrific response!] I have a dozen copies (not advance reading copies, but the real deal, and I’ll sign them) of KING OF THE WEEDS, the Mike Hammer novel going on sale May 6. Again, this is predicated on your willingness to write an Amazon review (also encouraged are Barnes & Noble reviews and blog reviews in general). Do not try to post your review before May 6 – Amazon does not allow advance reviews except from their own selected cadre.

This week our son Nathan visited Barb and me for several days, and during that time our author copies came of not only ANTIQUES CON and KING OF THE WEEDS, but Nathan’s BATTLE ROYALE (the cult classic Japanese novel of which he did a new, superior translation). Kind of amazing: every time the doorbell rang, there were more boxes of our books! (And an angel got its wings, of course.)

Battle Royale Remastered

Nathan’s presence was fortuitous in another way – he was here to participate for Barb and me (and Mrs. Nathan Collins, Abby) in the frantic on-line event known as the San Diego Con making hotel rooms available. The rooms go in under twenty minutes, and the good ones (downtown) are gone in under two minutes. Nathan took under 90 seconds to enter the required info, including a list of six hotels in order of preference, and – thanks to computer dexterity on Nate’s part that both his mother and I lack – we were rewarded with rooms at the Marriot Marina next door to the convention center. This is winning the nerd lottery. We have been attending San Diego Comic Con for many, many years…and this is the first time we’re staying at everybody’s first choice for lodgings.

Right now I am working on ANTIQUES SWAP – really dug in on it. Another week and a half, I would estimate, and my draft will be complete. Barb did such a great first draft that my work has been easy – or as easy as writing ever gets, which isn’t very.

Allow me to quickly comment on a few recent TV series and movies.

First, TV. JUSTIFIED is a great show and had a terrific season finale, setting up one last great big season with Raylon Givens and Boyd Crowder facing off one last time. ARCHER – renamed ARCHER VICE – is winding up its latest season, and it remains my favorite series on TV, just a truly demented guilty pleasure, should any of you be able to experience guilt. On Blu-ray, we watched three JACK IRISH movies, a very good hardboiled private eye show from Australia based on a novel series – beautifully shot, well-written, well-acted, with Guy Pierce excellent as the somewhat forlorn (but not despairing) lead. At least as good is the new season, the sixth, of GEORGE GENTLY with British TV superstar, Martin Shaw. These four movie-length episodes are superior to most of what you might see at the movies themselves. Set in the changing times of the late ‘60s, with a father-and-son relationship between an older and younger cop, GENTLY is as good as anything in the UK crime department with the possible exception of SHERLOCK.

Onto film. I didn’t hate CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. [Note from Nate: mild spoiler alert] In fact, there is much to like, in particular Chris Evans’ portrayal of Cap, and Scarlett Johansson in a skin-tight cat suit. Audiences are reacting very well to this one and I feel like a bit of a spoilsport not to be caught up in its spell. But every surprise is predictable, and it suffers from the oh-so-serious rendering of childish concepts Stan Lee threw off in his sleep decades ago. Guys, SHIELD is not the CIA – it’s an imitation of UNCLE, as in MAN FROM. The Winter Soldier is Bucky, and Bucky is Captain America’s Robin, fer chrissakes. You would think I would relish these movies, having grown up on Marvel (and Atlas before it). But the fun has been drained out, largely. By the way, almost all of the endless fight scenes are incoherent. When a CAPTAIN AMERICA movie’s biggest surprise is that Robert Redford is not the Red Skull, we have a problem here at the Merry Marvel Marching Society (yes, I was a charter member).

For wild action that is not incoherent, although it’s gory as hell (in a good way), catch THE RAID 2. Though it lacks the purity of the single-setting first film, RAID 2 has more fantastic action set pieces than you can shake a baseball bat at (and there will a baseball shaken). This is the rare Asian crime film that actually beats John Woo at his own game.

But the best movie I’ve seen this year – though it’s admittedly not to every taste – is THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. I run hot and cold on Wes Anderson. Hated MR. FOX, loved MOONRISE KINGDOM. Was annoyed by DARJEELING EXPRESS, was crazy about RUSHMORE. This new film is his best, combining all of his obsessions and quirks into one very funny, very moving film, with a mindboggling cast that is unlikely to be repeated, even in another Wes Anderson film. Anderson is a novelist on screen, but one who shares the vision inside his skull with the viewer.

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Here’s a blast from the past: a review of THE HISTORY OF MYSTERY.

And here’s a fun review of THE WRONG QUARRY, specifically of the audio version read by the great Dan John Miller.