Posts Tagged ‘Covers’

Mike Hammer Under Cover

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

I’ve mentioned in previous updates how pleased I am with THE LITTLE DEATH, the MIKE HAMMER audio novel I wrote for producer Carl Amari, which Blackstone will be issuing momentarily (Amazon lists it as already in print, but I haven’t seen a copy yet).

As you may recall, I got to go to Chicago and watch Stacy Keach and a gifted cast (including Second City veteran Tim Kazurinsky) bring my script to audio life. This is the second volume of THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER, but I didn’t write the first (which was two short stories as opposed to one novel). I based it on material Mickey had prepared in the fifties for both a radio version and a television one; I had adapted this during Mickey’s lifetime into the short story “The Night I Died.” And about ten years ago, I had developed it as a screenplay for Mickey and his longtime partner, Jay Bernstein, for a TV or possible theatrical movie. But a film never happened.

Now it’s a reality, as an audio “movie,” and Carl and Stacy really hit the ball out of the park. Anybody with even the slightest interest in either Mickey’s work or mine will love this. Interestingly, it marks the first time Stacy has ever played Hammer in a piece directly derived from a Spillane story.

There was a nice response from my behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the cover of the forthcoming Spillane/Collins HAMMER novel, THE BIG BANG. So I thought you might enjoy seeing the several versions of the audio cover.

Here was the first try from Blackstone’s terrific art department:

The Little Death First Revision
Image copyright 2009, Blackstone Audio

I liked this pretty well, but Stacy Keach objected to using his image so directly. He felt it made this brand-new project look like some kind of re-release of his HAMMER material from several decades ago. Carl and I agreed, and so the artist at Blackstone listened to various suggestions from all of us. I sent along attachments of the early HAMMER paperbacks, which never really showed Hammer dead-on, creating a man of mystery.

The Little Death Second Revision
Image copyright 2009, Blackstone Audio

Everybody liked this better, but Stacy (and all of us) felt Hammer could use with a better-looking “babe.” Not that this model was unattractive, but Stacy wittily pointed out that she belonged on a Jane Austen cover, not Mickey Spillane. Also, a bearded, cigar-smoking Hammer was a no go—we asked that the mustache be kept (this is the Keach HAMMER, after all) and the cigar go away, Mike being strictly a Luckies kind of guy. The final version that the artist came up is terrific.

The Little Death Third Revision
Image copyright 2009, Blackstone Audio

We had a nice turn-out at Mystery Cat Books in Cedar Rapids, despite being up against an Iowa Hawkeyes game (tough competition in this part of the world). We dined with Ed and Carol Gorman and had a great time, as Ed and I tried to top each other’s publishing horror stories.

Work continues on the graphic novel RETURN TO PERDITION, and Terry Beatty has turned in his first, finished pages—and they are knockouts. I predict this will be our best work together, at least until next time.

Quarry continues to attract fine reviews. Rod Lott at Bookgasm used his knowledge of the Quarry novels to write a particularly insightful review of THE LAST LULLABY.

And another knowledgeable Quarry fan, crime novelist Tom Piccirilli, has a Quarry-centric interview up at his blog that you may get a kick out of.

Happy Thanksgiving! For those of you in Eastern Iowa, we’ll see you at Plamor Lanes on Saturday night for our first Crusin’ gig at this venue.


Quarry in the Middle Cover Sketches

Monday, September 21st, 2009

We’ve had our first print review of QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE, by Mike Rogers in Library Journal and it’s a rave:
Collins’s eclectic hit man returns. With his “Broker” (the guy who arranges his kills) dead and Quarry in possession of the man’s records, he begins turning the tables on his fellow assassins by warning their soon-to-be victims and offering to save their skins by cleaning the cleaners—for a hefty fee. Looking to make one last juicy score so he can retire and get out of the life before his own ticket inevitably is punched, business takes him to Haydee’s Port, IL, a backwater sleaze pit that’s “all sex and murder and money.” There he approaches Richard Cornell, a casino owner who’s about to have a fatal accident courtesy of rival gambling boss Jerry Giovanni. As usual, things don’t go quite according to plan, and Quarry finds himself between the two when his cover is blown and Giovanni’s crew come gunning for him instead. Of course, in between shootings and beatings and double crosses Quarry manages to engage in satisfying sex with top-shelf honeys from their 20s to their 50s (he doesn’t discriminate).

Collins masterfully balances the standard sex and violence with humor and style, and like the series’ previous installments, Quarry in the Middle is a lightning-fast-can’t-put-it-down read. As soon as you finish it, you’ll be aching for the next one. Let’s hope Quarry never retires. Highly recommended for mystery collections.

Copyright 2009, Library Journal
Speaking of Quarry, Nate suggested that we show you the preliminary sketches by master noir paperback artist Ron Lesser that led to the published cover of QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE. One of the things that has made Hard Case Crime’s great reputation are the retro covers; another thing that makes the company great is editor Charles Ardai allowing the writer to have input into those covers.

Quarry in the Middle Sketch
Quarry in the Middle Sketch #1, Copyright 2009, Ron Lesser

Quarry in the Middle Sketch
Quarry in the Middle Sketch #2, Copyright 2009, Ron Lesser

Quarry in the Middle Sketch
Quarry in the Middle Sketch #3, Copyright 2009, Ron Lesser

The three rough sketches Charles sent me were all terrific, and he liked them all, but his least favorite was the sketch that ultimately became the basis of the cover. Charles actually allowed me to overrule him. I think he was surprised that I wanted to go with the slickest of the designs, the other two being very much the kind of dark, sexually disturbing image you’d see on a Spillane paperback (or imitation Spillane paperback) in the late fifties or early sixties.

But I liked making the obvious visual pun of having Quarry in the middle of two beauties, and I also liked the fun of putting my everyman hitman into a James Bond-ish image. The book wasn’t written yet, and I knew I could justify Quarry’s spiffier look, clothes and all, in the text. That’s something that happened with THE FIRST QUARRY—the painting came first, and I wrote the scene into the book, just like pulp writers used to in the old days.

The painting itself was tweaked a little to my specifications, as Quarry was depicted as very blond at first and, at my request through Charles, artist Lesser darkened the hair.

Quarry in the Middle

Now that Quarry is “back” (for at least a few novels), embracing the Bond-ish series look in one of the covers seemed appropriate and a hoot.


The Big Bang Cover Proofs

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

My Nathan Heller story, “The Blonde Tigress” (which appeared in ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE), has been nominated for a Private Eye Writers of America “Shamus” award. The awards are given at the annual PWA banquet at Bouchercon. This is the third award I’m up for at the con — THE FIRST QUARRY is up for Best Paperback “Anthony” and Best Paperback “Barry.”

Last week, my longtime research associate George Hagenauer came to Muscatine to stay for several days as we discussed and compared notes on our respective Marilyn Monroe death research for the first new Heller novel in almost ten years — BYE BYE, BABY. The book is now plotted and fulltime work on it begins very, very soon. TOR will publish either next year or early the year after.

People seem to enjoy inside stuff about the publishing process, so here’s something a little special. Over the last several weeks, the cover for the new Mike Hammer novel (to be published by Harcourt next Spring) has been developed. Oftentimes publishers just foist a cover on an author, but Harcourt allowed Jane Spillane, editor Otto Penzler and myself to weigh in.

Their first attempt was a bold one:

Big Bang Cover First Revision

The shocking pink was calculated to really attract attention — a slap. But none of us felt pink was remotely appropriate for Hammer. Also, Otto reminded Harcourt that the contract required equal billing for me (starting with Hammer #2 — you may recall my microscopic byline on THE GOLIATH BONE). And I submitted a laundry list of suggestions, including a “reading line” as follows: “The Lost Mike Hammer Sixties Novel.” I wondered if we might have go go girls, too — something sexy and of period. Everyone agreed that the notion behind the use of pink, to suggest the wild colors of the ’60s, was a good one, just too off-the-wall for a Hammer book, pink having “chick lit” connotations.

What Harcourt’s art department came up with next responded to all of my concerns and all of my suggestions — perhaps too much….

Big Bang Cover Second Revision

This cover seemed too busy to Jane, Otto and me — not a bad cover, but more like a trade paperback edition of a classic hardboiled novel, not a new hardcover. Most bestseller type books (and Mickey was the bestselling writer of the 20th century) put the byline on top. I liked this much better than the first cover, but Jane liked it less, who found the emphasis on white off-putting.

Our editor at Harcourt, Tom Bouman, was beyond patient with us. Any other editor would have thrown us out the window by now. But I wrote suggesting we revert to to first cover with a different ’60s-centric color, and that we keep my “reading line.”

What they came up with was very strong, I think. And this is the cover to look for next March:

Big Bang Cover


G.I. Joe & Red Sky in Morning

Monday, August 10th, 2009


By the time you read this, G.I. JOE will have hit theaters, and I’ll have seen it, and so will some of you. This is one of the most eagerly awaited — and vilified — movies of the summer. I have no idea whether it will be good or bad, but I’m fairly confident it will be entertaining. I have written four other novels for Stephen Sommers movies, and none of the screenplays have seemed liked masterpieces to me, and yet they all made entertaining movies…and books.

My two G.I. JOE novels have been out for quite a while, but they should get a boost from the film’s release. I think the books are fun, and am particularly happy with the prequel (which Matt Clemens helped me with). Creating a novel out of an action-heavy, stuff-blows-up screenplay is harder than, say, adapting and expanding THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE or AMERICAN GANGSTER, which are more suspense and character-driven. But getting to do a prequel helped the novelization work better.

Ron Fortier, a terrific reviewer, really got what I was going for in his dual review.

One of the complaints about the film (from people who hadn’t seen it yet, though some had read my novelization, which generated web interest) is that the rebooted G.I. JOE organization is international, not American. The very American term G.I. Joe comes from World War Two and may have been coined by David Breger, who did a cartoon under that name and another called PRIVATE BREGER (which had a long post-war civilian run as MR. BREGER). The film script addressed that problem by making two American G.I.s the central characters, and my prequel novel emphasizes those characters (Duke Hauser and Ripcord Weems) even more.

Red Sky in Morning Paperback

While we’re on this military note, I should point out that my World War Two naval thriller, RED SKY IN MORNING, based on my father’s experiences in the Pacific, is out in paperback with a handsome new cover.

I will use the occasion to reveal that the “Patrick Culhane” penname was not my idea, and was to a degree forced upon me, and I have no plans to use it again. I regret that my real byline is not on this very personal novel, or BLACK HATS for that matter, which is one of my most commercial. And while RED SKY IN MORNING is a title I came up with, my original title — U.S.S. POWDERKEG, which I liked very much — was rejected. One of the great frustrations of the writing life is having a title that you have lived with and woven into a book spurned by an editor (or a sales force). I would be thrilled to see the book reprinted at some point with my preferred title and my real byline…but for now, you need to look for the Culhane byline on this one.

Till next week….