Posts Tagged ‘Crusin’’

Losing Face

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

I’ve never paid much attention to Facebook.

I have two pages, because Facebook imposed a second one on me, but mostly what I have is an “author” page. I use this, in an admittedly kind of half-assed way, as a promotional tool. I’m more serious about my web site, and my weekly update/blog, which I often re-post at Facebook.

I’m also part of my band Crusin’s Facebook page, where we announce upcoming gigs and such.

Last July 4, Crusin’ appeared outdoors at the Missipi Brewing Company in Muscatine, after which some nice pics and a few short videos from that gig wound up on Facebook, on the newsfeed or “home” or whatever it’s called. I went over to that area to see those pics and vids, and became exposed for the first time to all of the stuff posted there.

Now, because I am a professional writer, and want to sell books, my policy is to accept any friend request, whether it’s anybody I actually know or not. If it’s somebody who buys my books, as far as I’m concerned that somebody is automatically a friend! The result is that I have a wide range of people whose posts I see, from all walks of life and of various political persuasions.

I was appalled by much of the tone that I saw in the political posts. Mostly I was seeing cats and dogs and vacation pics and food and what-have-you, the stuff of daily life for just about all of us. But the political posts were alarming.

Not in every case – some folks on either side of the political spectrum presented their views clearly, and sometimes even backed up those opinions with facts. Of course, “facts” are relative, since both sides tend to use the sources they trust. Me, I wouldn’t trust Fox News to tell me what time it is. But lots of people get their news there. And anybody on the other side of the aisle who thinks Rachel Maddow or Lawrence O’Donnell is providing an unbiased read on the news is kidding themselves.

While I don’t love opinion-slanted news, I get it – some people like salt, some like pepper, and many of us turn for our current events to whichever 24-hour news channel and/or opinionated website best suits our palates. In a Presidential election year, however, things get very salty and way peppery.

From my slightly left of center perspective, the stuff from the far right is the most disturbing. But I see screwy stuff from the left, too, with lots of cheap shots everywhere – ugly photos of Hillary or Trump with some dumb biased joke or cheap-shot insult laid on top. I learned the hard way that these folks don’t want to engage in a debate – they want to preach to the choir and get a resounding “Hell, yeah!” and go on to the next falsehood or exaggeration about the hated other side.

I got caught up in this crap for a while – and it is crap, as well as a waste of time. In particular, when somebody on the right would post what I knew to be a hoax – like the stuff about the late hero Captain Khan being a jihadist (!) – I’d provide a link to a debunking of that hoax. It took me a while to realize that the people posting these things didn’t care if the stories were a hoax. In one case, when I pointed out that a list of democratic goals (supposedly written by a famous leftist) was a well-known fake, I was told by the poster that it didn’t matter. That Democrats believed all this stuff, anyway, so that justified posting it.

When you’re dealing with people whose beliefs are so ingrained that facts don’t matter, you should smile politely, nod your head, and make a hasty exit. I am doing that now. I have had acquaintances – not friends, but people I know at least in passing – who have asked me why I always support terrorists, accused me of being a socialist, and attacked me when I suggested that Democrats were Americans, too. I have had angry ALL CAPS rants leveled at me that make me wonder if I’ve been talking to a drunk or a madman or a disturbing combination of both.

The funny thing is I’ve restrained myself, unleashing my sarcasm only once or twice, and then in a watered-down fashion. I’ve learned that trying to talk reasonably to people who are nearly illiterate but passionate about expressing themselves (I’ve been called a “trader” when I rather think “traitor” was the intention) is a pointless and even dangerous exercise.

There are people out there who hate Hillary Clinton with a passion that is frightening. Anything negative about her and her husband is believed. That she and Bill are responsible for enough murders to make Jack the Ripper look like a piker. That the Clinton Foundation is a corrupt wholly self-interested moneymaking machine. That she purposely allowed four brave Americans to die in the Benghazi screw-up. That’s she’s a liar and a criminal and must be locked up. It’s not enough to disagree with her policies or to find her untrustworthy. She must be the devil (as Donald Trump has called her).

And Trump has been similarly demonized. It’s not enough that he’s shown ridiculously poor judgment by denigrating in this campaign women, Mexicans, the disabled, war heroes like John McCain, and the current President (the “founder” of Isis). The left still has to make a cartoon demon out of him, a mobbed-up insane pedophile racist with a yen for his own daughter.

The left and right have become bitter enemies, without an ounce of respect for each other, and it’s a national tragedy – the worst example of America’s team mentality, of its “us against them” tendencies. The only thing remaining of our British heritage is that we are a nation of football hooligans.

The bottom line about Facebook is that, unless you are interacting with an actual friend and not a Facebook “friend,” you are talking to who-knows-who. The person may be violently dangerous or an insane drunk or a sweet nun with a dark side. Who knows?

I don’t.

And I’m not playing that game anymore.

* * *

Crusin’ had a very nice gig at the Pearl City Plaza on Sunday afternoon/early evening. Nice crowd, very responsive, and we even had encores. After some time off due to my medical capers, we are coming back strong.

For those of you in the Eastern Iowa area, we will be at Ardon Creek Winery on August 26 from 6 pm to 9. Wine only improves the Crusin’ experience.

More info here.

M.A.C.

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.