Posts Tagged ‘Complex 90’

Quarry in Memphis

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Nate will be providing an array of photos that will tell the story better than I ever could, but I will say our four days in Memphis were a real adventure and a wonderful experience.

I’ve been on my share of movie sets – admittedly, mostly my own – but I never fail to get caught up in the excitement of filmmaking, whether it’s Phil Dingeldein and me shooting a movie in a week using security cameras or sitting next to Richard Zanuck watching Sam Mendes trying to get Paul Newman to emote in the master shot. Some people find the process boring, but not me – at least, not when it’s my material being filmed.

Virtually everyone we met on set was great. The crew is a friendly, hardworking bunch from four states – California, Mississippi, Tennessee and (I think) Louisiana…though it may be Arkansas. I immediately got hugs from both director John Hillcoat (LAWLESS) and a particularly warm one from director of photography Javier Aguirresarobe when I complimented him on his terrific work on WARM BODIES. Producer David Kanter of Anonymous was essentially our tour guide, a warm and friendly one at that. But best of all was getting to know and really talk Quarry with writers Michael D. Fuller and Graham Gordy (both of RECTIFIED). Before going to set, I delivered to their trailer complete sets of the first editions of the original 1970s Quarry paperbacks THE BROKER, THE BROKER’S WIFE, THE DEALER and THE SLASHER. I don’t have many of these left, and Michael and Graham were like fanboys reacting to receiving them. These are smart, talented guys who know the Quarry series inside out. I’m very lucky to have them (as they put it) “playing in my sandbox.”

The actors were friendly, warm, and very interested in meeting Quarry’s creator (and his family). Logan Marshall-Green and I immediately started talking about Quarry, and watching him play the character showed me how much homework he’d done. My first sight of him on set, actually, was him talking to a wheelchair-bound Vietnam vet who had found his way to the set. Logan is a charismatic, intense actor but not pretentious. He has the young Quarry nailed, and you have a real sense that this committed actor is the linchpin of the production.

Nate, Barb and I are all big fans of SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD, so meeting Mary Elizabeth Winstead was a big deal. She turned out to be as friendly and approachable as someone you’ve known for years. She plays Quarry’s wife Joni and seems anxious to come back for more.

And Stellan Skarsgard is supernaturally right as the Broker. He’s also friendly and funny, a very charming guy. I pointed out to him that the Broker wasn’t as evil as the guy he played in GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and he said, “So I am progressing.” I brought him a vintage copy of THE BROKER and he was quite taken with the sleazy paperback edition (and pleased to see his character get top billing). He was fascinated by the terrible mustache worn by the Broker on that cover.

The cast is amazing. Kurt Yaeger (SONS OF ANARCHY) plays a Quarry adversary and had done incredible homework, bringing a well-read copy of the Foul Play Press paperback edition of QUARRY for me to sign. He’s friendly and fun and an awesome athlete (“awesome” in its true meaning). Nikki Amuka-Bird (LUTHER) was pleased and amazed to find out that Barb and I were fans of the outrageous UK series BAD GIRLS, on which she was a regular in season six. She was a delight to chat with, and she too had been reading the Quarry books. She plays the wife of Quarry’s Vietnam buddy, Jamie Hector (THE WIRE), who I met briefly. Very friendly, and I watched him tear it up with Logan on several scenes. Just before we left, I was able to shake hands and briefly talk with Noah Taylor (GAME OF THRONES), who plays Buddy, a character based on Boyd from QUARRY aka THE BROKER. (My understanding is Boyd became Buddy to avoid confusion with the Boyd Crowder character on JUSTIFIED).

The first of two on-set days began mid-afternoon at a ranch-style home in Mississippi that stood in for Joni and Quarry’s house (there’s a pool where Quarry loves to swim). Warm, but nothing Iowans aren’t used to. The rest of that day was spent at a gravel and stone quarry, where Quarry and the Broker confab (we had brought our bug spray). The second day was in Memphis at several funky bars, only a few blocks from our hotel.

Memphis is a great town. I much prefer it to Nashville, even if the latter is where I recorded “Psychedelic Siren” with the Daybreakers back in 1967. I despise country western, as is fairly well known (exceptions: rockabilly and Patsy Cline), and a town where both rock ‘n’ roll and soul music have such deep roots holds huge appeal to me. We did not go to Graceland – it’s very hard for me to do things I’m expected to do – but we made the Sun Records tour, which I enjoyed very much…standing in the same space as Howling Wolf, Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee was like being a believer in church. No remodeling to speak of has been done in the studio, where bands are still recording to this day (or night…it’s evenings only, due to the tours). Next time we will hit the Stax Museum, highly recommended to me by my Crusin’ bandmate Brian Van Winkle.

It was hard to leave Memphis, and not just because of the food there or the ten hours that lay ahead on the return voyage to Muscatine (we broke that in two on both ends of the trip, to spend time with Nate and Abby in St. Louis).

I haven’t spent this much time on set since ELIOT NESS: AN UNTOUCHABLE LIFE, and it really reminded me of how much I miss filmmaking. I am hopeful that I will be part of the process, when…you can’t make me say “if”…this pilot is picked up. Working with these people would be a blast.

And that dated usage reminds me to comment on just how much fun seeing QUARRY produced in ‘70s period is. The costumes and art direction takes you back to an era that remains vivid in my memory, and yet has somehow how become a long time ago.

As I write this, they are still filming, with two days to go. I do wish I were there.

* * *

Something wonderful and wonderfully strange popped up on the Net recently. Somebody posted at Harlan Ellison’s chat site, complaining about writers continuing the work of other writers, included me on the list of infamy, for finishing Mickey’s work. Harlan stepped up and defended me loud and long in his own inimitable fashion. He and I don’t agree on Mickey as an artist, but I can’t tell you what it means to me to see one of my favorite writers – and Harlan is that, all right – defending me and saying I’m a terrific writer myself. For a guy like me, it doesn’t get any better. This sparked some interesting responses (including one from our friend Mike Doran), so scroll down to Harlan’s piece, then take in the responses. [Nate here—New posts will push the older ones down, eventually into an archive. Look for “A VERY FRIENDLY BUT VIGOROUS TAKING-BY-THE-SHOULDERS AND SHAKING FOR JIMMIEJOE IN KOKOMO” on Sunday, August 4 2013]

David Williams is a smart, straightforward reviewer who has been systematically reviewing the Heller novels. He usually likes them a lot (not always), but he has been a huge supporter of the series and of me. This link will take you to a TARGET LANCER review, and this one will take you to a very nice overview of the series from this reliable reviewer.

Another of those “movies you didn’t know were from comic books” has popped up. Not bad of its kind.

This is an interesting, somewhat positive review damaged by the reviewer’s agenda (a rather stunning misreading of the women in COMPLEX 90). It’s intelligent, though, and worth reading, if for no other reason than seeing how political correctness can spoil a book for you. Velda is called “Thelma” by the female reviewer at one point, and considering THELMA AND LOUISE, that’s an interesting Freudian slip.

This look at graphic novels properly credits ROAD TO PERDITION for its historic role in the rehabilitation of the art form.

Here’s a look at Hard Case Crime and THE FIRST QUARRY from a reviewer who likes my work but isn’t crazy about the tough, nasty, sexy nature of my books there (and other books as well). Interesting stuff, showing how you can not like something and do so in a measured, non-hysterical way.

Keep an eye out for VCI’s new DICK TRACY serial releases (DICK TRACY – COMPLETE SERIAL COLLECTION, DICK TRACY – 75th ANNIVERSARY EDITION ORIGINAL SERIAL). Phil D. and I prepared new video documentary material for these (and they include older doc material by us, as well, plus a commentary by me on the first several chapters of DICK TRACY).

And now I’m going to turn the update over to Nate for some more Memphis pictures.

M.A.C.

Quarry Set 2013
All signs point to a series pickup

Quarry Set 2013
with Nikki Amuka-Bird

Quarry Set 2013
with Director John Hillcoat

Quarry Set 2013
with Logan Marshall-Green aka The Right Quarry

Quarry Set 2013
with Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller (and the mad photobomber)

Quarry Set 2013
Pure 70s

Quarry Set 2013
Kurt Yaeger says “See you next week!”

Trimming the Weeds & a Reprehensible Ranger

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

I have completed KING OF THE WEEDS, the final novel created from the six substantial Mike Hammer manuscripts in Mickey Spillane’s files.

This does not mean my collaborations with Mickey are at an end – I hope to fashion three more novels from shorter but still significant manuscripts. There are also short Hammer fragments (five or six pages) that I will continue to flesh out into short stories with an eventual collection the goal. In addition, considerably more non-Hammer material awaits in Mickey’s files, including three unproduced screenplays that I hope to turn into novels. Plus, there are short but significant non-Hammer fragments ranging from a chapter to two or three chapters, sometimes with notes, that could possibly be converted into Hammers. In addition, several outlines for Hammer novels remain (like the one I used as the basis for the audio play ENCORE FOR MURDER).

Mickey wrote and published thirteen Mike Hammer novels. I think it would be very cool if I could add another six novels (to the six I’ve completed) plus a short story collection and double that list. On the other hand, I have reached my first and most important goal – to complete the manuscripts on which Mickey had done considerable work. In several cases – like COMPLEX 90 and the Morgan the Raider novel THE CONSUMMATA – the books had even been announced in the publishing trades. I think Mickey truly intended to go back and finish most of these.

As I’ve mentioned, I will be talking with the folks at Titan at San Diego Con about continuing Hammer. I will report when I get back.

Now, while I say I have “completed” KING OF THE WEEDS, I still have work left to do. I have finished the book in the sense that I have reached the end of it. I revise as I go, a minimum of three passes per chapter and often more, with Barb editing along the way – she seeks out inconsistencies, word repetition, missing words, and makes suggestions. I always enter her corrections and deal with any revisions growing out of her edit before I move on.

Today I start the process of reading and revising. I work with red pen on a hard copy, and Barb enters the corrections and revisions as we go. How long this process takes varies book to book – a Quarry novel may take a day or two, whereas a Heller could take a whole week. This Hammer novel, which has a very complicated plot, will take two days minimum. If I hit something that strikes me as problematic, all bets are off – I will go back to the machine and start re-writing any troubled section. This happens seldom, though.

This was a tough one. I think it turned out well, and my fears have lessened that the older Mike Hammer might not please new readers who know only the wild and woolly private eye of THE BIG BANG, KISS HER GOODBYE, LADY, GO DIE! and COMPLEX 90. But the final chapters are as wild a ride as you’ll find in any of those. And I think the older Mike Hammer, with his career winding down — KING OF THE WEEDS was conceived by Mickey as the last Mike Hammer novel, after all – is very interesting.

Next week, we will be going to the San Diego Comic Con. By “we” I mean Nate, Abby, Barb and me. We will post our schedule (including two panels Nate is on) here next week. Then we will probably post brief daily updates from the con.

* * *

The Fourth of July weekend was a lot of fun with very beautiful weather. The Crusin’ gig at the Brew in Muscatine went extremely well, and lots of locals who hadn’t seen us in a while got to see the current strong line-up – earning us many great comments.

We also spent a good deal of time with my old high school buddy Ron Parker and his very cool wife Vickie, visiting from Florida where they retired after careers in the military. Ron is very smart and funny, but don’t tell him I said so. He is one of the last surviving members of our group of poker-playing pals who went through school together. How far back does this go? Well, we began playing poker together when MAVERICK was airing first-run episodes. Ron and I reminisced about Jon McRae, the basis for the John character in NO CURE FOR DEATH, and our late friend Jan McRoberts, whose mysterious death I fictionally explored in A SHROUD FOR AQUARIUS. Jim Hoffmann, who produced the MOMMY movies, was also part of that group, is also gone. Alive and well of the poker players are Mike Bloom, Nee Leau, John Leuck and David Gilfoyle – the latter the funniest of a very witty bunch of guys. Dave was nicknamed “Wheaty,” and you will meet him in my previously unpublished 1974 novel SHOOT THE MOON, if you buy the Perfect Crime collection EARLY CRIMES coming out late this summer.

The Lone Ranger

With Ron and Vickie, Barb and I went to THE LONE RANGER. I don’t like to write negative reviews, but I found the film reprehensible – misguided, misjudged, misbegotten. If we hadn’t have been with friends, we would have walked out. Disney is a company built on family entertainment, and THE LONE RANGER of radio and TV was the most wholesome of western heroes – he used silver bullets so that would not shoot his gun carelessly, and (like Superman) never killed. This LONE RANGER is an unpleasant western filled with stupid violence put together by a gifted director who wanted to pay tribute to ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and not the actual source material. The new film’s Lone Ranger is a clumsy goofus and Tonto a nasty lunatic. The tone is uneven to say the least – forced unfunny humor is interspersed with bloody violence. And it’s as slow and long as you’ve heard. Oddly, much of the 2013 LONE RANGER seems culled from the previous disastrous take on this material, the notorious 1981 flop THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER, which did not make a star out of Klinton Spilsbury. Remember that one? The producer alienated every baby boomer on the planet by suing the ‘50s TV Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore, to keep him from doing personal appearances in his mask. LEGEND is a hard film to see – my widescreen copy is from overseas – but it’s actually better than this new RANGER film (faint praise), which lifts from LEGEND such elements as making John Reid (think Clark Kent) a virtuous attorney, turning Butch Cavendish a madman, setting an action set piece on a moving train, mounting a Gatling gun massacre, and showing the Ranger and Tonto dynamiting a bunch of stuff (a bridge in the new picture, a dam in the other).

The 2013 movie actually ends with the Lone Ranger finally uttering his signature line, “Hiyo Silver, away,” and Tonto telling him never to say that again. The Ranger apologizes, of course. The final line of the movie is a reminder that “tonto” means “stupid” in Spanish. These filmmakers are embarrassed by the material they were hired to re-boot, and should be ashamed of themselves. When would Barb and I have walked out had we not been with Ron and Vickie? How about when Tonto, for a cruel gag, drags a barely conscious, wounded Lone Ranger through horse dung? Or maybe when the grand steed Silver drinks beer and belches. RULE NUMBER ONE IN ADAPTING FAMOUS MATERIAL: Do not have contempt for it.

M.A.C.

Navigating the Weeds

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Let me wish everyone a safe and fun Fourth of July. I will be playing an outdoor gig with Crusin’ in Muscatine (the Brew, five p.m. till 9 p.m.) and I am hopeful the current decent weather will hold up. Last year, playing a similar gig on the Fourth in a heat wave damn near killed me.

This will be a short update, because I am very deep in the writing of KING OF THE WEEDS, which is a difficult but rewarding project. I hope to finish the novel before San Diego Comic Con, which comes up soon (July 17 – 21), where I’ll be meeting with the Titan folks to discuss the possibility of three more Hammer novels from shorter Spillane fragments.

What makes this one especially tricky is that Mickey started the book twice, with one version containing only one of the two major plot strands. Then he combined the manuscripts, but when he set the book aside to do THE GOLIATH BONE instead, he had not yet done the carpentry to merge the two versions. This makes for a dizzying task as in most cases even the names of characters are different between versions, and some scenes appear twice, accomplished in two different ways. This means I have to make choices as well as weave and blend material together, in addition to adding my own connective tissue and input.

But it’s a most interesting book, conceived by Mickey as the final Mike Hammer novel (much more overtly than he did in his GOLIATH BONE manuscript). It’s not as rip-roaring as LADY, GO DIE! or COMPLEX 90, but it should be very strong.

More on it later.

Quick movie recommendation: THE HEAT is a very funny buddy cop movie with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, populated by any number of funny people in character parts.

* * *

Here’s our first WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER review. Just a reminder that this thriller, which Matt Clemens worked on with me, comes out in September.

Here is a lovely valentine to Mickey Spillane with some nice nods to my work on the unfinished novels.

And this terrific COMPLEX 90 review is well worth a look.

M.A.C.

Nero Nom For Antiques Disposal—Satisfactory

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Barb and I (and for that matter our son Nate) are huge Nero Wolfe fans. Our preferred mode of enjoyment is the fine series of audio books read by Michael Pritchard, which Barb and I have listened to perhaps five times. I am also a fan of Bob Goldsborough’s continuation of Rex Stout’s great series – he was a role model for me in my work on Mickey’s unfinished novels.

So it was with particular pleasure and even a little pride that Barb and I learned that we’d been nominated for the Wolfe Pack’s prestigious Nero Award. This award is, rivaled only by the Edgar, the remaining award in mystery fiction that I still dream of winning – in part because it’s physically cool, being a bust of Wolfe himself. Read about it at the Rap Sheet, where you can see who the other three nominees are (like I’m going to tell you!).

The other big news this week is that top-flight actor Stellan Skadrsgard (THOR, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO), has been cast as the Broker in the Cinemax QUARRY pilot. This will be a recurring role, if the pilot goes to series, at least for the first season (regular readers of the Quarry books know why the Broker will not likely be around for the long haul…).

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: I have learned that reviews of WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER cannot go up on Amazon until after the book has been published. So those of you got review copies from me will have to wait until then, although you can post at Goodreads any time and the also on blogs of your own. When the book comes out in September, I will remind you to post those reviews.

By the way – and this was mentioned in a comment response here, but many of you may not have seen it – I am close to signing with Hard Case Crime to do another Quarry novel, which I would write later this year. The title will probably be QUARRY’S CHOICE. It will not be a “list” novel, but will return to the period where Quarry works for the Broker. (THE WRONG QUARRY will be out in January, and I immodestly suggest it’s among the strongest in the series.)

* * *

Favorable reviews of COMPLEX 90 continue to roll in, but I really get a kick out of it when a young woman like the reviewer at Nerds in Babeland connects with Mike Hammer and his world, particularly a smart one who recognizes how strong Velda and the other female characters are.

A very well-conducted interview, part of the COMPLEX 90 blog tour, is here, at Celebrity Cafe.

And here’s another one, nicely handled by the interviewer, at blogcritics.

David Williams continues to review Heller novels in succinct, smart fashion, as in this look at BYE BYE, BABY.

And Just a Guy That Likes to Read liked reading TRUE CRIME very much, as his review indicates.

An annotated reprinting of my BATMAN comic strip story (illoed by the great Marshall Rogers) is here. I’ve posted this before, but this is a revised, expanded version.

And here’s a fun look at the “Barbara Allan” Marilyn Monroe thriller, BOMBSHELL, a book that really got lost between the cracks until Thomas & Mercer gave it a new lease on life.

M.A.C.