Posts Tagged ‘Crusin’’

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.

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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.
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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.

Mike Hammer Goes to Florida

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

This week I will be on hand for the premiere night of Mike Hammer: Encore for Murder, Thursday, January 18, in Clearwater, Florida. Get the details for attending here.

And this article from the Tampa Bay Times will give you the rest of the story.

Plus here is an interview with Encore’s Mike Hammer – Gary Sandy (who some will recall was a star of my film Mommy’s Day, in which he appeared with Mickey Spillane).

The play runs through February 3rd, and kicks off the Mickey Spillane centenary year in a big way.

Here’s more on the show right here.

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Check out this Publisher’s Weekly rave for Mickey’s final solo book, The Last Stand.

This is a nice Will to Kill review, with a look at the paperback’s cover.

Here’s another nice write-up on Crusin’ getting into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

M.A.C.

Crusin’ to the Hall of Fame

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

I am very pleased to announce that my band Crusin’ has been named to the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. The current line-up will be inducted on Labor Day Weekend at Arnold’s Park, Iowa (more on this later). My previous band, the Daybreakers, which performed from 1966 through 1972, was inducted to the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

That both of my bands have been chosen for this honor means a great deal to me – just having two bands from Muscatine, Iowa, in the Hall of Fame would be impressive. That two members of the first band (myself and the late Paul Thomas) formed the second one is really special and an accomplishment I’m proud of.

I have requested that all of the past members, as well as the current line-up, be inducted into the Hall, and that request will be honored.

Here is a new bio of Crusin’, for those of you who came in late (or who have memories like mine).

M.A.C.

CRUSIN’ TO BE INDUCTED INTO THE IOWA ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HALL OF FAME

Steve Kundel, drums; Bill Anson, guitar; Max Allan Collins, keyboards; Brian Van Winkle, bass.

The Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Association’s Hall of Fame will include Crusin’ in its class of 2018. The band will perform at the induction concert on September 1 in Arnold’s Park, as will others of this year’s honorees.

Crusin’ was among the first — if the not the first — ’60s-revival bands anywhere. The band was founded by keyboard player/lead singer Max Allan Collins, leader of the Daybreakers, the celebrated Muscatine, Iowa, combo (1966 – 1972) whose cult single, “Psychedelic Siren,” is one of the most anthologized garage-band recordings of the 1960s. The Daybreakers were inducted into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

Led by bestselling mystery writer Collins (Road to Perdition), Crusin’ continues to present its engaging mix of classic rock and their own ’60s-style originals. The current line-up includes Collins and longtime Crusin’ members, drummer Steve Kundel and bassist Brian Van Winkle, with recent addition guitarist Bill Anson. Bill is a veteran Muscatine musician who over the years has been in groups with Crusin’ members Chuck Bunn, Steve Kundel and Jamie Hopkins.

Crusin’ began in 1974. After the Daybreakers broke up in 1972, several members continued recording together and occasionally performing in coffee houses. Meeting socially, Collins and Paul Thomas (bass player in the final Daybreakers line-up) bemoaned the disco and other unappealing music then on the radio. Both expressed an interest in starting up another rock band, but neither could tolerate the current fare.

The success of the film American Graffiti and of such 1950s acts as Sha Na Na seemed to indicate that a Sixties revival band might also do well, even though that decade was only a few years in the past. Collins and Thomas brought in drummer Ric Steed, veteran of a number of area bands, and guitarist Lenny Sloat, who had been in two well-respected Muscatine mid-’60s combos, the Coachmen and Depot Rains. Their first performance at Muscatine’s popular disco, Warehouse 4, was a smash, with the band immediately booked back on a regular basis.

The quick, surprising success of Crusin’ at local clubs inspired the band to go fulltime, and Sloat opted out. Bruce Peters — the Daybreakers guitarist thought by many to have been one of the Midwest’s greatest rock showmen — was appearing as a solo act at the Improv and other clubs in LA when he wasn’t filling in with Van Halen and other top West Coast bands. Collins and Thomas convinced Peters to come back and join them, and the result was explosive — audiences who had enjoyed the band’s oldies were knocked out by the showmanship and charisma of the new line-up.

In the mid-to-late ’70s, Crusin’ was perhaps Eastern Iowa’s most popular band of any kind, playing to packed houses at such notable clubs of the era as Muscatine’s Warehouse 4, Grandview’s Talk of the Town, Burlington’s Ramp, Davenport’s Al’s Lounge, Conesville’s Thirsty Camel, and especially Dodgeville’s Pub, where for several years Crusin’ played every other weekend to capacity crowds on both Friday and Saturday nights in the Pub’s cavernous “Old Town” setting.

When health problems took Peters out of the group, Iowa City guitarist Rob Gal came in, infusing the group with his New Wave sensibilities. And when Collins left for a time to better pursue his blossoming writing career, the band continued as a three-piece, first as Crusin’ and then as the Ones. This version of the group was enormously successful on the Midwestern college circuit, releasing an LP that won heavy college-station airplay, with the group several times voted Iowa City’s most popular band in radio station competitions.

In the late ’80s, Collins returned and the band appeared under both the Crusin’ and Ones names — depending on the venue. “I Feel Better,” a Gal-penned tune from this period, became a regional hit thanks to Iowa City exposure.

Shortly thereafter, Gal moved to the Atlanta area, performed and recorded with the nationally known band “The Coolies,” and became a successful record producer. Collins and Paul Thomas kept going as Crusin’ with various members — including original Daybreakers bassist Chuck Bunn (who passed away in 2011), but always with Collins and, until his death in 2006, Thomas. The band has performed not only in Eastern Iowa but in Omaha, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Oakland, and Chicago, opened for national acts at Davenport’s Col Ballroom, and twice appeared at the famed Williamsburg, Iowa, World’s Biggest Beach Party.

Over the years, the band released three vinyl LPs, a gold-vinyl EP, and three CDs, most recently a live CD, Rock ‘n’ Roll Happened. Crusin’s recording efforts have been widely praised by music-magazine reviewers: Goldmine called the band “eminently danceable and always listenable”; and Option (reviewing their 1991 CD, Bullets!) raved of “a breezy pop-rock sound that recalls the best of the late ‘6Os.” Their track (“Little Bit Me, Little Bit You”) for Here No Evil, the nationally released 1992 Monkees tribute album assembled by old bandmate Gal, was singled out for praise by reviewers. They frequently performed live on Muscatine FM station KFMH for popular, controversial DJ Steve Bridges (a 2017 Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee).

In recent years, Crusin’ has contributed around a dozen original songs to Collins’ independent feature films Mommy (seen on Lifetime TV with Crusin’ performing on camera), Mommy’s Day, and Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market, all available on DVD.

Crusin’ has appeared in concert with such nationally prominent acts as the Turtles, the Young Rascals, the Buckinghams, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the Grass Roots, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Mary Wilson and the Supremes, Bobby Vee, Peter Noone, Chubby Checker, Freddy Cannon, Tommy Roe, the Kingsmen, Johnny Tillotson, Rare Earth, the Crystals, the Mamas and Papas, Bo Diddley, Iggy Pop and the Romantics.

Their current show is a fun, unusual mix of classic rock, delving deeper into the ‘70s and ‘80s than before, with a sprinkling of originals spanning the group’s many years and many recordings.

Several other talented musicians have been members of Crusin’. Andy Landers, rhythm guitar, is a fulltime performer and recording artist as both a solo act and leader of Mainstreet Struggleville out of Olympia, Washington. Stellar guitarist Jim Van Winkle took over for the late Paul Thomas and was with the band for over a decade. Dennis Maxwell, now in Scottsdale, Arizona, was one of the original Daybreakers; for several years he played bass and guitar with Crusin’. Father and son DeWayne and Jamie Hopkins were both drummers with the band in the ‘90s. DeWayne is the only member of Crusin’ to go on to be mayor of Muscatine.

Perdition, Zorro, Movies and More

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017
Road to Paradise

Road to Paradise is coming to trade paperback in November. I am thrilled with the job Brash Books has done on bringing the complete prose trilogy into print. The covers are great, and though many will read the e-book versions, the physical items are handsome.

Of course, this all hinged on getting the original, complete, previously unpublished Road to Perdition prose novel into print, the first of this matched-set trilogy.

Before long Brash will be bringing out USS Powderkeg (a slightly revised version of Red Sky in Morning) and Black Hats under my name, jettisoning the Patrick Culhane pseudonym the publisher insisted upon.

If you’re a regular reader of mine, please support these great efforts by Brash Books to get my novels out there again and in the manner I prefer.

Check out the Road to Paradise page out at their web site.

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Zorro Vol. 6

I’ve been a fan of Zorro since childhood – some of you may have read my introduction to the Hermes Press collection of Dell’s pre-Disney-TV version of the character, including four wonderful issues drawn by the great Everett Raymond Kinstler.

Well, publisher Rich Harvey’s Bold Venture Press has just completed an ambitious program to collect all of the original novels and stories about Zorro by his creator, the underrated Johnston McCulley. The sixth and final volume was just published, and I had the honor of writing the introduction, in which I detail the torturous route to finally having these rare Zorro tales collected and accessible to readers. It’s a bewildering mystery why the well-written stories by the creator of one of popular fiction’s most iconic characters (on a par with Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan and, uh, well, Mike Hammer) have been so elusive. That doesn’t mean I don’t try to solve it….

The great color covers of those early Dell issues provide most of the cover images of this series.

Read about it (with ordering info) here.

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Two excellent recent crime films are worthy of your attention (and your money).

Steven Soderbergh’s return to movie-making, Logan Lucky, is a clever, funny but not campy heist picture with a Southern twist. The cast is terrific, but the stand-out is Daniel Craig, and to say he’s playing against type is a bit of an understatement – stick around for his hilarious credit at the close. And what a surprise it’s been seeing just how much talent Channing Tatum turns out to have, and this is coming from the skeptical author of the G.I. JOE novelization.

Writer/director Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River is a worthy follow-up to the excellent Hell or High Water (and, yes, I remember how much I hated Sicario, but he didn’t direct that). It begins leisurely and takes full advantage of its beautifully bleak snowy Indian reservation setting before some shocking action kicks in. There’s nothing new here – a fish-out-of-water young female FBI agent is teamed with a somewhat older local fish-and-wildlife man, and the sad backstories of various characters are things we’ve heard before…virtually everything here is familiar. But the kicker is how well done it all is, how quiet and deep the characterizations are, with Jeremy Renner nailing a quiet, modern cowboy with all the right tough-guy moves. He looks nothing like Nate Heller or Mike Hammer, but could play either one admirably.

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Crusin' @ Ardon Creek

Crusin’ played a gig last Friday evening at Ardon Creek Winery – a lovely setting and a lovely evening. We play under a tent, open to a gentle slope where people dance and sit at tables to sip wine and munch bring-your-own goodies. To one side is the vineyard. Really a beautiful venue for us, with an appreciative crowd. We’ll be back next year.

Our new guitar player, Bill Anson, is doing a terrific job; good singer and he plays very well. He had to pick up about 36 songs – well, he brought about five or six suggestions along, which we learned – in about three weeks, during which we played two gigs. As I said about the previous performance, there were a few train wrecks but no fatalities, and we have the makings of a very good version of the band.

We play once more this year – at Ducky’s in Andulsia, Illinois, Thursday evening (6 to 9) – outdoors again, for their “bike night.” Our next scheduled appearance is April ‘18, and over the winter we’ll be retooling our list.

M.A.C.