Posts Tagged ‘Encore for Murder’

The Big Year

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this will be a big year for me, and for my collaborators Barb, Matt and Mickey.

Some of this has to do with publishers holding onto books a while before publishing; some of what is seemingly a big output has to do with my working with those gifted collaborators I just mentioned. My big fear is that some of this work – all of which, I think, finds us at the top of our collective game – may slip through the cracks. Those of you who follow these updates are encouraged (well, actually I’m begging) to support this stuff, and tell your friends, write about the stuff on blogs, and post Amazon and Barnes & Noble reviews.

Encore for Murder

Writers who are at all prolific suffer – we “grind” out and “crank” out books. People who use that kind of phrase really don’t know much at all about writing. But expect to hear that sort of thing said about me this year. Now, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business is okay. That’s fine. I am still rock ‘n’ rolling, after all.

This week we are sharing with you the first look at the terrific cover of THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER VOL. 3: ENCORE FOR MURDER. This was about as fun and rewarding a project as you could imagine. Working with actors like Stacy Keach, Tim Kazurinsky, David Pasquale, and Mike Cornelison is a dream come true. As I’ve mentioned before, Tim is one of my favorite Second City/SNL talents, and Pasquesi is a great stand-up who shared the stage with Jeff Garlin and Fred Willard at the Second City Reunion last year. And Mike Cornelison is probably the best Pat Chambers ever. The previous Hammer audio, THE LITTLE DEATH, was adapted from a screenplay; but ENCORE FOR MURDER was written specifically for the audio novel format, and I’m really proud of it. Like Sinatra said after listening to a playback, “If you don’t like that, you don’t like ice cream.”

Also coming up in the Big Year are:

ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF, Kensington hardcover, March. Both Barb and I think this is the best of the Antiques novels, both in terms of mystery and funny, and it presents a conclusion to the story arc of the first five books. Best cover we’ve snagged.

NO ONE WILL HEAR YOU, also Kensington but a paperback, and also March. This is the second J.C. Harrow novel by Matt Clemens and me, and we both think it’s superior to the first one (which was well-received, and which we like, but there was room to improve…and we did). It’s a satire on reality TV and features two really scary serial killers. We went for broke on this one. Frankly, if this doesn’t do well, there won’t be another. Please support this one. Here’s an idea: buy thousands, go up in a plane, and dump them over your town. Just a thought.

KISS HER GOODBYE, Harcourt “Otto Penzler” hardcover, May. This was a particularly strong unfinished manuscript from Mickey, circa 1975, and I am hugely happy with the results. I think it’s at least as good as THE BIG BANG. I had great material to work with. Thanks, Mick!

BYE BYE, BABY, Forge, hardcover, August. The first Nate Heller novel in ten years. This was delivered in 2009, and faces the clutter of the other M.A.C. novels out there this year. Marilyn’s murder, solved. Find out what really happened, and see if Heller at age 58 is any less violent or randy than he was back in the ‘30s and ‘40s. (Hint: he hasn’t mellowed.)

QUARRY’S EX, Hard Case Crime, trade paperback, August. Postponed from last year. Made some “best book of the year” lists in 2010 without being published. Good trick, even for Quarry.

THE CONSUMMATA, Hard Case Crime, trade paperback, October. The long-awaited sequel to THE DELTA FACTOR by Mickey with me batting clean up. Cubans, bondage, and Robert McGinnis!

RETURN TO PERDITION, DC Vertigo hardcover, October. Graphic novel. The final chapter in the PERDITION saga, with MS. TREE artist Terry Beatty coming on board. This may not be the final PERDITION novel or even graphic novel, but it is guaranteed the last chronologically. Terry is doing his best work.

In addition, I am close to signing an agreement that will bring all of the Nate Heller books back out in trade paperback and e-book, including two new collections of short stories and novellas. The Ness novels are already out, as are the early Quarrys (though not yet on e-book), and likely Nolan will be next. Also, trade paperbacks of the Barbara/Max Collins collaborations REGENERATION and BOMBSHELL are on the horizon (with e-books), as well as short story collections of both authors. Look for Barb/Max titles to appear as “Barbara Allan” works.

After our exchange of views on his review of an early Quarry novel, David Rachels asked me to contribute to his regular feature “Five Quick Questions” at his always interesting Noirboiled site. Despite the brevity of the format, some new things came up. And David, who teaches Japanese lit, e-mailed to say he had ordered Nate’s book, SUMMER, FIREWORKS & MY CORPSE!

Both QUARRY’S EX and THE CONSUMMATA are nicely showcased in the latest news release from Charles Ardai about the return of Hard Case Crime. It appeared lots of places, but this link takes you (appropriately enough) to the Violent World of Parker site.

Similarly, the news release about the e-book-oriented Top Suspense Group (of which I’m a member) got wide cyber attention, but here it is at my pal (and fellow TSG member) Lee Goldberg’s great website.

Jeff Pierce of Rap Sheet fame has a wonderful site about sexy covers of tough mysteries, and he went nicely nuts over the McGinnis cover of THE CONSUMMATA.

Did I mention that 2011 is my 40th anniversary in the writing game? BAIT MONEY sold in December 1971.

M.A.C.

Better Late Than…

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

A terrific QUARRY’S EX review came in from Daniel Luft – very insightful and a real pleasure to read. Too bad the book didn’t come out last month as promised. On the other hand, and I can say no more, it looks like EX really will be out some time next year…possibly a year late, but…

Mystery File shared two Top 100 Lists by top-notch fan/critics, dating to 1993. I don’t remember this – maybe never saw it – but both lists have Nate Heller novels on ‘em. As you know, I despise such lists…unless I am included. In which case their validity is unquestionable.

I do wonder, when I see such lists, just how much tastes-of-the-moment are in play. In 1993, STOLEN AWAY was getting a lot of attention, rave reviews, a Shamus nod, etc. There hasn’t been a Heller since 2001, so I wonder how many lists today would fail to include one of those novels. We’ll see if BYE BYE, BABY gets Heller back on the radar.

Blood Money NEL EditionThere’s a very interesting look from a UK site about the first two Nolan novels and how they were published with very cool Dali-esque covers over there. If you’ve never seen these covers, it’s worth a trip (to the site, not the UK) (but I’m always up for a UK trip). I left a couple of comments that you may find of interest.

Barb and I listened to a rough cut of the new Mike Hammer audio novel (THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER VOL. 3: ENCORE FOR MURDER) in the car on a Chicago getaway this weekend. Producer/director Carl Amari did a great job, with Stacy Keach just batting that ball out of the park as his signature character. But the rest of the cast is terrific, too – with Mike Cornelison as Pat Chambers (in my opinion, the best Chambers ever), Tim Kazurinsky as a Broadway producer, and all kinds of Chicago talent. This will be out next March. By the way, I play a role in ENCORE FOR MURDER – a small but significant one – and I got the best review possible from Barb: she didn’t realize it was me! This either shows that I did an incredible acting job, or that I don’t make much of an impression, even when you live with me for 40 years.

Also on the trip, we listened to the second pass on the new Crusin CD – CRUSIN’ LIVE – ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HAPPENED – and after just one tiny tweak, we’ll be ready to press the suckers. I’m doing about 100 copies for promo purposes, and a limited edition available here at the site – these will probably be given away “free” when you purchase another item (TBD). This is not a national release because it’s designed to show potential clients what the band sounds like, and includes covers of material that we can’t afford to license. We may be able to offer downloads of the original songs from the album (there are seven, including a blistering “Psychedelic Siren,” first live recording of that we’ve ever issued).

While in the Chicago area, I saw Nate’s book SUMMER, FIREWORKS & MY CORPSE in the science-fiction/fantasy section of Borders! He has arrived!

I would like to mention two of my favorite writers, briefly. First, Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay for the Facebook film THE SOCIAL NETWORK is a stunner – beautifully constructed and the dialogue crackles. Don’t miss this film.

Second, we lost Stephen Cannell last week. He did a lot of TV in recent years that I didn’t care about (starting around A-TEAM time), and I have never been able to get into his novels. But he remains one of my handful of favorite TV writers (Sorkin being another). He gave us ROCKFORD FILES, TENSPEED AND BROWNSHOE, THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO (Mike Cornelison had a recurring role!), and RICHIE BROCKELMAN, PRIVATE EYE. Most important to me, he and Roy Huggins (my other favorite TV writer) came up with CITY OF ANGELS. That’s my favorite private eye show of all time, and I owe Cannell, Huggins and actor Wayne Rogers a huge debt – Nate Heller is their bastard offspring. I never met Cannell, but not long ago I sent him a foreign movie poster of a film version of the three-part ANGELS pilot, “The November Plan,” asking that he signed it. He did, and I will treasure it.

M.A.C.

Encore For Murder

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

MAC and Stacy Keach @ Encore For Murder recording
M.A.C. and Stacy Keach at the recording of “Encore For Murder”

On Sunday May 30, I had the pleasure of working with a highly professional group who assembled to bring my Mike Hammer script “Encore for Murder” to life. Under the leadership of producer/director Carl Amari, this second “audio novel” for the Blackstone Audio series THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER again stars Stacy Keach in his signature role as Mickey Spillane’s famous private eye.

“Encore for Murder” will be volume three in the series. The first volume comprised two shorter Hammer cases (not written by me). The second, “The Little Death,” was the first conceived as an audio novel, and was my first contribution to the series, based on a short story by Mickey. This third volume is another long-form play in the classic radio format – full-cast – and is an original Hammer novel developed by me from a one-page outline in Mickey’s files. It will likely run nearly three hours.

The experience was about as creatively satisfying as they come. The studio was intimate, very warm and conducive to collaboration. The cast was smaller than the one for “The Little Death,” and that turned out to be a plus. The way the studio is set up, the sound techs, the creative team (director and writer), and the actors waiting for their turn at the mic, all sit in a lounge-like area facing the glassed-in soundproofed recording booth. Last time, the actors were kept in a sort of green room/holding area, and brought one-at-a-time-as-needed into a small, modern studio – very efficient and professional, but lacking the warmth and interactivity of this set-up.

I don’t have a cast list handy, but what a talented group they were, with several impressive names – in addition to Stacy, we had my frequent actor-of-choice Mike Cornelison as Pat Chambers, with Second City/SNL legend Tim Kazurinsky helming the major “guest star” role and popular comedian/actor David Pasquesi as the key bad guy. David appeared at the Second City reunion with his pal Jeff Garlin (and Fred Willard). Pasquesi plays a young mob boss and was incredible – both funny and scary. But the entire cast delivered and then some.

I had specifically requested Tim and David, and Carl Amari delivered them – and on a holiday weekend yet!

It’s almost impossible to overstate Stacy Keach’s contribution. We worked a very, very long day – Stacy was at the mic from 10 a.m. till almost 7 p.m. with only a couple of breaks. It was inspiring and damn near unbelievable. What a great actor, and really incredibly nice man. As Mike Cornelison said, “Stacy is who would all want to be when we grow up.”

There’s still lots of work to be done – Stacy has the voiceovers to record (and that’s about one-third of the script), which he’ll do back in LA. Stacy is also composing the music, and has delivered something like 10 CD’s of original music and isn’t done yet. There’s lots of editing to do, sound effects to add, and so on. THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER Vol. 3: ENCORE FOR MURDER should be out before Christmas.

I am very proud of “The Little Death,” but I have feeling “Encore for Murder” is going to raise the bar much higher. I’m very grateful to the players for being so complimentary about my screenplay. Stacy said I’d provided him with the best Hammer voiceover he’d ever got. That’s the kind of compliment a writer dreams of.

These are great people. I came away feeling like we’d shot an entire movie in a day, and with the same warmth and camaraderie that usually only accompanies the long time put in on a film.

I have a couple of pictures to share. Unfortunately I can’t label the cast pic of “Encore for Murder” person by person (I’m the guy Cornelison is trying hard to block).

Encore For Murder Cast

By the way, Barbara Jane Mull married Max Allan Collins, Jr., on June 1, 1968. Why she did that, I’ll never know…but it’s the one thing in my life I really got right.

M.A.C.

Still Offensive After All These Years

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Before I talk about my band Crusin’ appearing at the Riverside (Iowa) Casino last Saturday night – and offending delicate sensibilities – I need to take care of some writing business.

Crimes By Moonlight

Recently I completed “Encore for Murder,” the second Mike Hammer audio novel, and got a lovely phone call about it yesterday from Stacy Keach, who said it contained “the best voiceover ever written for Mike Hammer.” When I stopped crying, I thanked him.

I am working on NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU, the second J.C. Harrow novel right now. Work goes well, not quickly, but steadily. It’s a big book.

Two new short-story anthologies are worthy of your attention.

First, CRIMES BY MOONLIGHT, edited by the rich and famous Charlaine Harris (as Steppenwolf once nonsensically said, “Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sue!”), is a supernatural-themed collection from the Mystery Writers of America. It includes the story “Grave Matter” by me and Mickey Spillane. Mickey gets second billing, which has never happened before, but the story has an unusual history.

“Grave Matter” was originally a Mike Danger short story that was written at the request of the comic book company who were then publishing the DANGER comic book. They never did anything with it, for reasons unknown. A few years later, I used the plot for a third-person novella; but the original story went off to live in limbo. Now it has been turned into a Hammer story (which essentially meant doing a universal search-and-replace, Danger into Hammer) for this anthology. Back when it was a Danger story, Mickey’s contribution was a few notes and his approval, so for once I took top billing.

BLOOD, GUTS & WHISKEY from Kensington is a collection of short stories from Thuglit, noir stories from new writers, edited by Todd Robinson. I have provided an introduction that traces the history of the hardboiled short story from Black Mask to the internet. Check it out!

A very nice overview of MS. TREE, with a focus on the trade paperbacks of yore, has popped up on the web. Terry Beatty and I get questioned on this all the time, and we admit to being frustrated that it’s taking so long to get new reprints of the MS. TREE material out there in book form. I can only say that we are again in very serious talks with a reputable publisher.

Blood, Guts, & Whiskey

Probably a good number of the visitors to this site could care less about my rock ‘n’ roll endeavors. Nonetheless, “Psychedelic Siren” – the 1967 Dial Records (an Atlantic subsidiary) by the Daybreakers, written by yours truly – continues to attract cultish attention. Check out this blog entry from musician Bill Kopp.

At our recent Riverside gig, we were announced as having had the “hit single” “Psychedelic Siren” – though the song was only a regional hit, and appearing was the latest version of the band known as Crusin’, not the Daybreakers. So the first thing I did was tell the audience we wouldn’t be playing “Psychedelic Siren.” No riots broke out.

We had determined to do an eclectic bunch of songs, though we led with a pandering “Mony, Mony” (catnip to Midwestern baby boomers) before doing stuff like “She’s Not There” by the Zombies, “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” by Dusty Springfield, “No Matter What” by Badfinger, “Easy to Be Hard” by Three Dog Night, and “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by Vanilla Fudge (my favorite heavy band). Not too many bands have ever played both Vanilla Fudge and Bobby Rydell (we also did a blistering “Wild One”).

We were part of a Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Association “Hall of Fame” show – our one-hour set was one of four. The other bands were solid, but our song choice set us apart (the Wise Guys of Chicago did soul stuff, very well, and the other two bands did solid ‘50s rockabilly).

As with the appearance of the original Daybreakers at the 2008 Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction concert at Arnold’s Park, we differed from the other acts by doing a certain amount of original material. We have always taken pride in being a “real” band. This included a song by the late, great Bruce Peters (“I Need Somebody”), and another by Rob Gal (“I Feel Better”), who is alive and well and I assume still cheerfully deranged. The band began in 1966 and has gone through many changes and members (beginning as the Daybreakers, briefly called Rox, then Crusin’, then the Ones, then Crusin’ again); and along the way some very good songs were written and recorded. Here’s where you can buy a CD collecting a lot of that material. [Prices are post-paid for the continental US. – Nate]

[2013 EDIT: All options temporarily sold out! We’ll recheck our remaining stock and make a new post soon!]

One of the songs we did was a shirt-tail hit of ours. It’s an infamous number called “Pussy Whipped,” which is the story of a henpicked husband. We didn’t write it – it was a Barnes & Barnes tune that Bill Mumy (its co-author) contributed to the band Seduction of the Innocent, which became a crowd pleaser (and stirrer) at various comic cons in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and was featured on our CD GOLDEN AGE. (Band member Steve Leialoha’s relationship with the great artist/writer Trina Robbins somehow survived her feminist-fueled hatred of the song.) It’s sung on the original album by the incredible Miguel Ferrer, and a fine live version is available here.

[2013 EDIT: All options temporarily sold out! We’ll recheck our remaining stock and make a new post soon!]

When THE GOLDEN AGE came out (it’s out of print, unfortunately), KFMH, a very popular eastern Iowa radio station, with a notorious and controversial dj (Steve Bridges – whose antics earned him a TOMORROW SHOW appearance with Tom Snyder) began to play the Seduction of the Innocent version of “Pussy Whipped.” It became a regional hit. I played keyboards and sang harmony on the cut, and this was played up by Bridges. Crusin’ was very active in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and we began to get requests for the song, and wound up learning it, with me filling in for Miguel as best I could. We even played it live on KFMH on three or four occasions.

The current version of Crusin’ has been paying a lot of attention to our history, doing songs from the Daybreakers to the Rox era (Bruce’s originals were done then) to the Ones version (when Gal was dominant songwriter, with me absent for a year or two), on to the present. Since “Pussy Whipped” was the band’s biggest hit (in its shirttail way) since “Psychedelic Siren,” we have put it back on the list.

We don’t always play it. You don’t want to play the song at a wedding (even as a warning). Nor to you want to make it part of a Valentine’s Day dance. But at a casino – where I understand people are gambling, and children aren’t allowed, and where even smoking is sanctioned – I figured we had an adult audience.

Of course this is the Heartland, and it’s America, where you can get yourself a reality show by having a big butt or sleeping with Hugh Hefner or having way too many kids, where you can form an unintentionally obscenely-titled movement protesting the taxes that have been lowered by the president you despise. So it’s always up for grabs.

Anyway, as for “Pussy Whipped” at Riverside, well, the crowd loved it – we got cheers and applause and there were lots of smiling faces, if mostly male. I made sure my diction was good so that the entire tale got heard, as the emasculated narrator tells his sad story in an amusingly ballsy fashion. Sure enough, while we were quickly tearing down to make room for the next band, a middle-aged woman with glasses and a stony expression approached the stage.

She said, “I want to make a statement. If you have to apologize for doing a song, you shouldn’t do that song. Some people were offended!” She seemed on the verge of tears.

I said, “I wasn’t really apologizing when I introduced the song. That was a joke. It was all meant in good fun.”

She didn’t know what to say, and disappeared off into the crowd.

What can I say? I am 62 years old, still playing “Pussy Whipped,” and offending older women who are probably younger than me.

I must be doing something right.

M.A.C.