Posts Tagged ‘Crusin’’

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.

Centuries & Sleuths Signing

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

As I’ve mentioned here, Barb and I are doing precious few signings these days, but this Sunday (September 14) we will be at Centuries & Sleuths in Forest Park, Illinois, at 2 p.m. for a discussion and signing. This is a very cool bookstore and ideal for us – it’s a mix of mystery and history, and owner Augie Aleksy is one of the sweetest, most knowledgeable book store guys you could ever hope to meet. The area the store nestles in is full of fun shops (lots of antiquing – like I said, perfect for us) and restaurants.

Here’s the address: 7419 Madision Street, and the phone number is 708-771-7243. For those outside the Chicago area, I’m sure you could order books through Augie and have them signed at the event. Not sure exactly what he’s got on hand, but it’ll likely be: SUPREME JUSTICE, KING OF THE WEEDS, THE WRONG QUARRY and ANTIQUES CON.

Speaking of things I used to do all the time but do only infrequently now (get your mind out of the gutter), Crusin’ did one of its remaining two 2014 gigs this past Saturday. We appeared at Fruitland Fun Days in Fruitland, Iowa, and did 2 ½ hours with just a short break. Glamourous show biz stuff: playing on a truck flatbed with the park bathrooms behind us.

Fruitland Fun Days

Appearing after us was Jake McVey, a rising country star whose stuff I actually like, very rock ‘n’ roll – amazingly nice guy, and his bandmates were extremely complimentary.

In fact, Jake said he thought we’d be perfect for the Midwestern casino circuit and offered his recommendation and networking help. Twenty years ago, maybe even ten, that would have been tempting – casino money tends to be terrific. But we are winding down. Guitar player Jim Van Winkle is probably moving soon – not far away, but far enough to make gigging very occasional – and drummer Steve Kundel has school age kids (and concerts and games to go to). We will always be available for Bouchercon, though.

Fruitland Fun Days

Since my Hollywood trip, things are heating up on that front, and it makes Crusin’ a luxury I dare not indulge in. At least not much. For example, the day after a gig I am so sore, tired and often hoarse that I can’t work (and I am frequently on deadlines that require at least six days a week).

For those of you wondering what we’re working on, Barb is doing her draft of the third of three ANTIQUES Christmas novellas for the e-book trade. We do hope to collect these eventually, likely with a fourth novellas exclusive to the collection. I’ll be getting to my draft (it’s called ANTIQUES ST. NICKED) later this week.

I am working on a TV script – my first – for a top-secret project. I was given two weeks and delivered it in one week. Got notes on Friday. Today I will turn in the second draft on the day the first draft was due. Am I showing off? Not really. Maybe a little. But I like to demonstrate, when I have a deadline-driven new assignment, that I can deliver.

I am convinced that’s how I got the DICK TRACY gig back in 1977. I got the phone call to participate as one of several writers doing try-out scripts, and that same day I wrote it. They had it in lightning speed (at least the “Special Delivery” variety, since this was way before FAXing, e-mail and even Fed-Ex). And they called off the competition and hired me.

Of course, they eventually fired me with lightning speed in 1993….

* * *

I am pleased (maybe even a little bit thrilled) have J. Kingston Pierce – one of our best, smartest crime fiction reviewers – place one of my novels on his all-time favorite list. Jeff has selected the sometimes overlooked ANGEL IN BLACK, the “Black Dahlia” Nate Heller, which is among my personal favorites.

Here the film version of ROAD TO PERDITION is #2 on a list of the five best movies based on graphic novels. Nice things are said about the original book, as well.

M.A.C.

New Mike Hammer Novel Out Today

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
King of the Weeds Hardcover
Hardcover:

E-book:

King of the Weeds Audio
Audio MP3 CD:

KING OF THE WEEDS, the sixth Spillane/Collins Mike Hammer novel, is available now. Those of you who received advance copies can post Amazon reviews now. (Thanks to those of you advance ANTIQUES CON readers who’ve gotten around to posting Amazon reviews.)

Also available will be Stacy Keach’s audio reading of the novel, pictured here. I haven’t heard this yet but will be listening to it very soon – hearing perhaps the most famous screen Mike Hammer read these new Mike Hammer books is a very special treat for me.

As you probably know, the Edgar-nominated Mike Hammer short story, “So Long Chief,” did not win. The MWA has always had a tough time with Mike Hammer and Mickey Spillane (don’t get me started), so I am not surprised. That’s why I didn’t attend the banquet.

Instead, I stayed home and finished another Hammer story for the same magazine (The Strand), “Fallout,” which deals with Mike Hammer and Pat Chamber getting rockily back on friendly footing after the events of THE GIRL HUNTERS. This the sixth Mike Hammer short story I have developed from shorter Hammer fragments in Mickey’s files. That leaves one left to do. These seven stories, plus “Grave Matters” (a Hammer story I originally wrote as a “Mike Danger” with Mickey’s input) would round out what I hope will be an eventual collection. What’s nice about the fragments is that they are the start of Spillane stories, and nobody every wrote better beginnings in fiction than Mickey.

J. Kingston Pierce of the essential blog The Rap Sheet several years ago did the definitive in-depth interview with me. He has returned with a similarly in-depth follow-up on the occasion of the publication of KING OF THE WEEDS. It’s in the two parts. The first part, which is entirely Hammer-centric, appears at the Kirkus web site.

Part two, which is much wider-ranging, appears at the Rap Sheet.

Here’s a brief but very nice KING OF THE WEEDS review at Singular Points.

The American Airlines in-flight magazine has done an overview of continuations of mystery and thriller characters, including Mike Hammer and a quote from me.

And here’s a better-late-than-never one of THE FIRST QUARRY.

* * *

I had my first band job of the year Saturday night. Crusin’ played for a plus-40 Singles Dance, a perfect crowd for us, and a nice crowd danced every song and applauded after every song, too.

This is part of a “hiatus” year for the band due to our drummer, Steve Kundel, having school age kids who generated lots of concerts, sports events and other literal fun and games that require something once known as “parenting.”

In addition, we were worn down by a fairly rigorous schedule for a bunch of guys with real jobs (if, in my case, writing can be called that). We played 24 times last year. This year I have scheduled five. And no bars.

It felt very good to be with the guys again and out there performing once more. I strongly considered hanging it up at the end of last year, but couldn’t face the thought of having live rock ‘n’ roll performing a thing of my past. All of us – with the exception of our young (44) drummer – are reeling in the years, and the rigor of the last five steady years of playing is best behind us. The playing itself is physically demanding – I refuse to sit down while playing keyboards – and the loading of the equipment remains a delight, if by “delight” you mean waking up the next morning in screaming lower-back pain.

I do think fulltime writers like me need to have some outside activity, and I don’t mean mall-walking. It’s nice to get out in the world and see what’s happening – even if it does include a geezer who comes up to the stage and wonders aloud, “Don’t you people do any waltzes?”

That’s right, girls, he’s single….

M.A.C.