Posts Tagged ‘Crusin’’

Cruse Control

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

I realize, as the writer entrusted by Mickey Spillane to complete his Mike Hammer novels-in-progress, that I have a good number of conservative fans. Few if any of them are concerned that my views are too left-leaning for the task – I don’t write my point of view when I’m doing Mike Hammer, I write his.

Also, I try not to indulge in politics here. I don’t want to alienate readers, or collaborators who might hold other opinions.

But I would be remiss not to share an opinion in the aftermath of the Orlando tragedy. Here it is: you don’t need an assault rifle to kill a deer, unless Bambi has one, too.

* * *

My first Crusin’ gig post-heart-surgery went well, if not perfectly. It was a hot, humid afternoon in Muscatine, Iowa, though a nice breeze rolled in off the river. The event was open to the public, designed as an after-work event for downtown merchants and businesses. Our host, the First National Bank, did a great, fun job creating a 1970s class-reunion vibe. On the slight downside, this tended to make us background music and not the main event.

I was a little frustrated that I had to curtail my showmanship because of my limited stamina – I feel like I’m just playing and singing, and that’s only half of the job. And during the last half hour of the two-hour gig, I seriously ran out of gas. I don’t think it was terribly (if at all noticeable) by the audience, but I knew it and so did Barb. But I made it. It was a start.


Brad Schwartz and M.A.C.

That was Thursday of last week. On Friday and Saturday, Brad Schwartz and George Hagenauer – both making considerable treks to join me – met at my house to work on the joint Eliot Ness/Al Capone non-fiction book we are doing. We sold the book, based on a proposal and sample chapter, a year ago, and this was our first face-to-face since. There’s a reason for that.

I learned on the set of QUARRY in New Orleans that we’d made the sale…and the night before I’d suffered congestive heart failure. So it’s taken a while for me to get in shape for such a meeting.

But these two guys know their subject inside/out. We talked strategy and scheduling and much more. We also watched two movies about the Capone case – the embarrassingly lousy SPECIAL AGENT (1935) with Bette Davis and George Brent (and Ricardo Cortez as the Capone figure!), and the very, very good UNDERCOVER MAN (1949) with the always top-notch Glenn Ford, directed by Joseph Lewis of GUN CRAZY fame. The latter film is practically a schematic for THE UNTOUCHABLES TV series, though the hero is not Ness but the over-rated IRS agent, Frank Wilson.

* * *

The Rock and Hall of Fame discussion rolls on. Witness Micheal Tearson’s comment:

As for the R&R Hall, that’s been kind of a bugaboo for me. I had to deal with it constantly while I was working on Sirius/XM’s Deep Tracks channel which was pretty closely aligned with the Hall’s own channel (same administrator for quite a while). It became my view that the Hall has long since lost any focus on R&R as more and more artists with little or nothing to do with rock & roll have been honored. My top omission would be Procol Harum (Love is another). I’d also argue they have been very harsh on prog rock by skipping Moody Blues, Yes and ELP, all of whom have had very influential careers.

And “robbiecube”:

As much as I think the RRHOF is a scam, when acts I dig get ignored as disco & rap acts are inducted, I need to vent. And by vent, I mean list the acts I believe should already be in the hall;

Blue Oyster Cult / Procol Harum / Thin Lizzy / Kate Bush / Rory Gallagher / MC5 / Motorhead / Mose Allison / Grand Funk Railroad / Johnny Rivers / X / XTC / Pretty Things / J. Geils Band / Husker Du / The Jam / Deep Purple.

I think Michael’s remarks show that each generation has its own valid complaints about which acts have been forgotten. I certainly can see his prog rock choices as worthy ones.

As for Robbie, I think the same (slight) generational difference is afoot. But I would certainly be in favor of Kate Bush, XTC, Johnny Rivers and Deep Purple. Personally I find a few of the choices less than worthy – J. Geils, Thin Lizzy, Grand Funk – but that’s just taste. And some are just outside my range of musical knowledge – I have heard of Husker Du, but that’s all, and Procol Harem (mentioned by both correspondents) is only “Whiter Shade of Pale” to me. My bad, as the kids (used) to say.

But it certainly indicates how the Rock hall has missed the boat on a ton of significant artists.

* * *

Here’s 10 hitman novels everyone should read (oddly, only one of them is a Quarry, making the other nine pretenders).

Here’s a fun, intelligent look at WILD DOG (although the otherwise well-informed writer refers to my DICK TRACY stint as “short” – fifteen years?!?).

SUPREME JUSTICE is on a top ten list of Supreme Court novels.

Finally, here’s an uncomplimentary look at THE EXPERT. Worth a read, and stick around for my comment.

M.A.C.

What, Me Retro?

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

I was watching the pilot of the Cinemax QUARRY with my wife, son and daughter-in-law (don’t tell HBO), and Barb turned to me when the character the Broker first entered and nudged me and smiled and said: “You did that.”

Well, I did, but a long, long time ago. About 43 years. At the Writers Workshop in Iowa City, where the instructor didn’t like the opening chapters I’d written very much, and most of the class wasn’t wild about it either.

At 67, I suddenly find myself aware of how very long I’ve been doing this, and am gratified that suddenly a lot of what I’d thought to be ephemeral works of mine are turning back up in print, and getting on the radar of a new generation or two of readers. Some of what I’ve written has almost by definition been ephemeral – specifically the movie novelizations and TV tie-in’s – though SAVING PRIVATE RYAN remains in print and a publisher is seeking permission from DreamWorks to do a hardcover edition.

But almost everything else with my byline is available again or soon will be, much of it from Thomas & Mercer, but also such boutique publishers as Perfect Crime, Speaking Volumes and Brash Books.

For these weekly updates, I routinely do a Google search to see what reviews and such have popped up on the Net, for me to provide links here. More and more I am surprised to find write-ups about older books of mine. It’s almost jarring, because often the reviewers are more familiar with the work than I now am.

Of course, the new Hard Case Crime editions of the first five Quarry novels have sparked interest, and in particular QUARRY (the first novel) has received some gratifying attention. Here’s one such write-up.

And here’s another.

And one more.

Fairly regularly, somebody comes along and praises either the entire “Disaster Series” or singles out one of the books in particular, like this piece that focuses on THE LUSITANIA MURDERS.

So many of these reviews of older work of mine just seem to appear out of the blue, like this look at the Eliot Ness novel BULLET PROOF.

But nothing could prepare me for this article specifically focusing on the musical side of my years on the planet, discussing both the Daybreakers and Crusin’.

Here, dealing with a somewhat more recent novel, is a nice review of the Jack and Maggie Starr mystery, STRIP FOR MURDER.

Coming full circle, the just published FATE OF THE UNION is pulling in some nice reviews, like this lovely one from Bill Crider, a writer I much admire.

Finally, my pal Ed Gorman brought in Ben Boulden of Gravetapping to review FATE OF THE UNION on Ed’s terrific blog, also a positive review.

M.A.C.

Crusin’ Returns & Recommended Noir Reading

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015
Crusin'
L to R, M.A.C., Steve Kundel, Jim Van Winkle, Brian Van Winkle

After nine months, Crusin’ was reborn yesterday at Pearl City Plaza in Muscatine (Iowa, for those not paying attention). After a combination of purposely limiting our playing and some health issues that caused us to cancel four bookings, we finally gigged and a very nice gig it was. The outdoor event on the Pearl City patio (for the Second Sunday Concert series) was packed with a very responsive audience. We played for an hour and a half, and it went very well. I felt loose and good, and was (no attempted modesty here) very goddamn funny on the mike patter.

It was just wonderful to be back with my bandmates, Jim Van Winkle, Steve Kundel and Brian Van Winkle. Best moment for me happened before we started when a kid about thirteen wanted to know if we were going to play “the Vanilla Fudge song.” You know we played it, although I pretended we were attempting the Supremes version and failing miserably.

The day this update appears (September 15) is the deadline day for nominating bands to the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Although the Daybreakers are/is in, Crusin’ – celebrating the 40th anniversary this year of its first public appearance – is not. If you have heard and enjoyed the band, either in live performance or on CD, you might consider nominating us. You can get the info on a recent posting at the Crusin’ Facebook page.

* * *

I received an e-mail from a fan asking the following:

As someone with an extensive knowledge of classic crime fiction, I was hoping you could possibly provide me with some recommendations as to what is some of the most “out there”/weird, ambitious, unconventional, interesting, and dark crime fiction from the 30s to 60s?

I’m not asking for a list of a 100 titles or anything like that. Just a handful of writers that never get mentioned amongst the likes of Highsmith, Marge Millar, and guys like Thompson and Willeford etc… but are comparable and are worth seeking out for the enthusiast and ploping down the $100 or so for a barely readable copy.

Here is my response, which you may find of interest:

The list of great hardboiled writers covers most of the really good writing — Hammett, Chandler, James M. Cain, Spillane, Jim Thompson. I’m not a Ross MacDonald fan (not a detractor, either though) but many would add him to that list. I would add Rex Stout.

A key writer, too little discussed, is Horace McCoy. His KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE is an incredibly influential work. And of course THEY SHOOT HORSES DON’T THEY is well-known.

Chester Himes could be added to the list. UK writer Ted Lewis (GET CARTER) is another. Two books that used to be much talked about but that have fallen off the radar are YOU PLAY THE BLACK AND THE RED COMES UP by Richard Hallas and THIEVES LIKE US (filmed twice) by Edward Anderson. But it’s been thirty years since I read them, so….

Elliott Chaze’s BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL is a highly regarded James M. Cain school novel, originally a Gold Medal paperback. I haven’t read it in a while, but when I did, I loved it. William Lindsay Gresham’s NIGHTMARE ALLEY (source of the famous Tyrone Power movie) is a masterpiece. Almost anything by Charles Williams is worthwhile. A lot of people like David Goodis.

Hope this is helpful. I’m sure I’m forgetting some things. I should say that I like Erle Stanley Gardner, too, but many consider him lightweight. I don’t — his subject matter in the Perry Mason novels is right out of the Cain playbook: money and sex.

ADDENDUM: I should have included Richard Stark, although the vibe I got from the inquiry was for earlier stuff than that. I might have included John D. MacDonald, whose work I like but who has never been in my personal pantheon. Many writers whose opinions I trust – Ed Gorman, for one – consider John D. among the very best. Ed and the rest are almost certainly right.

Don Westlake (aka Richard Stark, of course) once told me a story that endeared MacDonald to me. They were guests on a “mystery cruise,” inhabited by a handful of mystery stars and a boatload of fans. Each day each writer offered up a story of theirs for the passengers to read and discuss. MacDonald, who didn’t know Don well, approached him on deck, and tentatively said, “Don, I really liked your story. But were you really fair to the reader?” Don said, “Screw the reader.” MacDonald grinned, offered his hand, and the two shook merrily.

Also, Don didn’t say “screw.”

M.A.C.

Crusin’ With Andy Landers (And More)

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

[Note from Nate:] Before we get to the update, I’d like to highlight a Nathan Heller sale over on the Kindle storefront with ten novels and two collections for $1.99 each. The sale ends on September 20, so don’t miss out!

True Detective
True Crime
The Million-Dollar Wound
Neon Mirage
Stolen Away
Carnal Hours
Blood and Thunder
Flying Blind
Majic Man
Angel in Black
Chicago Lightning: The Collected Nathan Heller Short Stories
Triple Play: A Nathan Heller Casebook

We now return to your regularly scheduled update.

(P.S. The wee baby Sam’s doing great, and Abby and I hope to have him home within the week!)

* * *

Crusin' 2008
Crusin’ 2008 – (left to right), M.A.C., Andy Landers, Chuck Bunn, Steve Kundel, Jim Van Winkle

Last Saturday evening, Barb and I took in a performance by Andrew Landers at the new brew pub in Muscatine, the Contrary Brewery. Andy is a fantastic performer and songwriter, who for some years was involved running various hip music programs at churches (here in Iowa, later in Colorado), but recently has gone “all in” to make it in the music biz. He’s a returning hero who came back to an enthusiastic, capacity crowd on his old turf.

Andy used to do an introspective set, with lots of storytelling and self-reflection. Now he’s unleashing his full showmanship and versatility, including really rocking out and using his big, brash yet somehow unintimidating personality to pull the audience in. If you get a chance to see him, do so.

For around eight years, Andy was part of my band Crusin’, which regular followers of these updates know is a ‘60s revival group that has been around forever…or anyway, 1975. The period during which Andy was part of the band saw us playing five to eight times a year – not as regularly as we have been in recent years, though more than we’ve been playing lately.

My late friend and longtime musical collaborator, Paul Thomas, brought Andy into the band; Paul was part of Andy’s ambitious musical program at a local church. Since I am a lapsed Methodist and just a little less religious than Bill Maher, I was initially not enthusiastic about bringing in a “minister of music.” Shortly I found out that Andy was both a fantastic talent and an off-the-wall loon. That made him ideal for Crusin’.

In that era, I was playing keyboard bass. Andy came in and played rhythm guitar on an acoustic, and a lot of other things, sharing in the lead singing and great on harmony. He was, in many ways, similar to Bruce Peters, who Paul and I had played with in both the Daybreakers and Crusin’, and who was an outright musical genius and amazing showman. Like Bruce, Andy can play anything. When we would do our final number of the night, “Gimme Some Lovin’” (the Spencer Davis classic), during a middle section Andy would take over my keyboards for a solo, then go back and take over the drums for Steve Kundel. We did a number of Andy-written tunes in those years – always risky for an oldies band to do originals, but audiences had no problem with Andy’s stuff – and Andy did some recording with us. He’s on the tracks we did for my indie film, REAL TIME: SIEGE AT LUCAS STREET MARKET (including singing a song I wrote, “Help Yourself”).

When the my first band, the Daybreakers, was inducted into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, our original bass player, Chuck Bunn, came back. Chuck had been suffering from cancer but was doing well, and I could tell he really wanted to play again. I added him to Crusin’ and we began to play more regularly, usually twice a month, which we did till around two years ago. (Chuck’s last gig was our performance at the St. Louis Bouchercon – he passed away less than two weeks later.)

But when we began playing more regularly, Andy decided to step down. He had a band of his own, for one thing, and various responsibilities and ambitions. The image this week is the only band photo that includes both Andy and Chuck – and Andy played only a single gig with that line-up.

I’m so pleased that Andy is doing well. That this charismatic entertainer’s musical dreams and ambitions are being fulfilled. And when I see how much energy he is bringing to his shows, I have to be allowed the luxury of thinking that some of Crusin’ rubbed off on him.

* * *

Speaking of Crusin’, we had four dates lined up this year, but all of one had to cancelled for various reasons. This is our 40th anniversary year, yet it seems we may play only a single gig.

For those of you in the eastern Iowa area, that gig is imminent – this coming Sunday afternoon (Sept. 13) on the patio overlooking the Mississippi at Pearl City Plaza in Muscatine (217 West 2nd) starting at 6 pm. Looks to be a cool, lovely day, by current estimates. We will be presenting an hour and a half concert (with one break). Be there or…you know.

* * *

I note with sadness the passing of my writer buddy, Warren Murphy, co-creator of the Destroyer series, screenwriter (EIGER SANCTION), and author of numerous thrillers as well as the Trace mystery novels. He was a fun, funny, generous guy.

Barb and I were on a “mystery cruise” that Warren and Bob Randisi organized back in the late ‘80s (I think). My most vivid memory of that experience was the lanky, attractively disheveled Warren insisting that each of us write two chapters in a collaborative novel while the cruise was under way. When we complained that we didn’t want to spend precious fun time doing that, he cheerfully berated us, advising us to be grown-ups and pros about it. Then when asked if he was going to write his chapters while aboard, he said, “Oh, hell no – I already wrote them at home!”

That book was called CARIBBEAN BLUES, and features Nate Heller in three chapters, if I’m remembering right.
If you want to know how to honor a writer who has passed, read a book by that writer. It will bring the author back to life in your mind.

* * *

For those keeping score, I completed the new Mike Hammer, DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU, last week, and shipped it via e-mail to Titan in England on Thursday. I’ve been dealing with some health issues this summer (don’t ask) but have bounced back (really, don’t ask) and I wanted to prove to myself I could still do it. And I did. It’s a wild one, even for a Hammer novel.

* * *

Finally, this is a nice overview of mystery in comic books, with an especially nice, fairly lengthy look at Ms. Tree – which the commentator (a very wise fellow) rates my work with Terry Beatty as tops in the field.

M.A.C.