Posts Tagged ‘Executive Order’

Books on Sale at Amazon & The Last Word on Reviews

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

Perhaps to celebrate the release of Girl Most Likely – which is still on sale as a Kindle title and as a “real” book – Amazon is having a sale till the end of the month on my other thrillers for their Thomas & Mercer line. This includes What Doesn’t Kill Her and the Reeder and Rogers Trilogy, Supreme Justice, Fate of the Union and Executive Order.

For all the talk about Girl Most Likely being my take on Nordic Noir, the first attempt was What Doesn’t Kill Her, which was meant to be an American twist on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, minus the social comment.

Matt Clemens co-wrote all four of those, though he only got cover and title page credit on Fate and Order. I had to push for that, but you should know that he was fully the co-author of the other two.

A very astute reader of mine told me he thought some of the pushback against Girl Most Likely (more on that later) had to do with my describing it in terms of an American version of Nordic Noir. For what it’s worth, that was never the intention or the plan. It just came up in the first interview I did about the book and it kind of took hold.

Not that it wasn’t an aspect of how the book came to be. I really liked such Scandinavian TV series as The Bridge, Wallander, Varg Veum, and The Killing, and wanted to do something in that vein. No thought of tying my wagon to somebody else’s star was in the mix, although obviously the “Girl” in the title followed that particular trend. Attracting some female readers makes only sense in a marketplace where the fairer sex outnumbers us loutish male readers something like ten to one. That kind of math I can do.

So, reviews. I’ve talked about them here quite a bit, more than anybody wants me to, but I am going to take one last (hooray) swing at it. Let’s start with professional reviews.

Understand that I have been writing fiction a long time, and am rather set in my ways, and arrogantly feel that I know what I’m doing. But to be honest I never did pay much attention to the advice I was given in professional reviews. Almost from the beginning, I had enough faith in my work to believe in it, and me, more than the opinions of others. I mean, once you’ve been schooled by Donald E. Westlake, Mickey Spillane, Walter Tevis and Richard Yates, who cares what anybody else thinks?

No, to me the professional reviewers are all about marketing – about libraries and booksellers seeing good comments from Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist and the irascible Kirkus, and then ordering books. Editors and publishers like to have good reviews from those sources to blurb on covers, fore and aft, and on the first page or two of reprint editions. This is not to say I don’t enjoy reading a positive review from one of those sources. But for me, it’s strictly business. A marketing tool or, if a review is bad, a marketing obstacle.

Now and then, particularly in a newspaper or a really good blog (like The Rap Sheet), I get a glowing review that is really, really smart. Where the reviewer understands what I was up to. Now and then a positive criticism actually does take hold with me, too. Mostly, though, I love it when somebody gets it.

This is often true of the magazine reviews in Mystery Scene, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Crimespree, and Deadly Pleasures, among others. These tend to be written by smart, knowledgeable people, and they are a great source for quotes, and often are positive and give me a nice little ego boost. When I do get criticism worth listening to, it’s frequently here. EQMM’s Jon Breen practically discovered me.

What’s interesting to me is how seldom reviewers notice the weaknesses in a book of mine that I knew were there. This may be because I know how to hide such things, through sleight of hand or sneaky execution. Let’s take Girl Most Likely. A major flaw about it drives me crazy – I did my best to figure out how to fix it or avoid it, and instead I merely had to finesse it largely through pace.

But the two things that the reviewers – mostly amateur ones – have complained about were done by me with full knowledge of the risks. It was absolutely intentional that I did a lot of clothing description, and the occasional brand names were on purpose, too (I’ve already said why in previous updates). The abrupt ending was a choice as well, very much in the Spillane tradition – story’s over, time to get out, let the credits roll. A good number of people hate that. I’m sorry – not really – but I felt it was called for. My book. My way.

Let’s get to the amateur reviewers, who specifically rule at Amazon, where a good deal of misbehavior is tolerated by Amazon itself, which ironically is the publisher of Girl Most Likely.

First, let me get this out of the way – the amateur reviews, overall, have been great. We are sitting at four-stars. The Associated Press review was, again overall, a fine one, and appeared all over God’s green earth. Of the pro publications, some of whom didn’t love it, Booklist was a near rave. So my difficulty with the reviews on Girl Most Likely has almost exclusively to do with the Amazon ones.

Now, if you follow this blog, you know that I encourage Amazon non-pro reviews – I give out books to readers specifically to increase the number of such reviews, and since people reading this weekly update tend to be longtime readers of mine, I can pretty much count on mostly decent reviews being generated by the book giveaways.

The negative reviews of Girl, among the many nice ones, fall into two camps. One appears to be young and female, and an unbiased reader named Barbara Collins thinks I am being punished for writing about a woman when I am apparently a man. (Lots of nice notices from the young women with book review blogs, though.) But I also see an occasional nastiness that reflects a certain breed of progressive that sees something sinister in a daughter who is a professional woman having respect for a father who is a longtime professional in that field himself. The worst of these criticized me for being “a white man.”

Now Amazon is supposed to reject reviews that are hate speech. Yet even the “white man” thing is okay with me. End of the day, it doesn’t bother me much because it’s the kind of review that reveals itself and its maker. Matt Clemens and I got a lot of those ugly reviews from alt-right nincompoops in regard to the Reeder and Rogers Trilogy. Certain early reviews of Supreme Justice were clearly written by people who had not read much if any of the book. Our sin? Of our two leads, one was a liberal, the other a conservative – and they got along!

The other negative reviews, and this reflects an almost surprisingly small number, are those from longtime readers of mine who don’t like the change of pace. For example, the book is billed as “a thriller,” although I have personally characterized it as a hybrid of thriller and mystery. And some have said that this novel – which includes three vicious butcher-knife murders, a street brawl, and the protagonists getting chased through the woods by a maniac – isn’t “thriller” enough. Perhaps this reaction comes from the world of Girl Most Likely not being the criminal one of Quarry, Nolan, Mike Hammer and Nate Heller. A new, more everyday milieu apparently jars some readers.

One particular review is a rather vicious attack on me by a self-professed longtime fan who claims to have read almost all of my stuff, some novels several times. But he is appalled by Girl Most Likely for all kinds of reasons. And you know what? That’s just fine. Everybody has a right to an opinion and to express it.

Of course, when he suggests I am selling out for “the sake of building a nest-egg to retire upon,” I have to wonder – does anybody who really follows my work think I look like I’m planning retirement soon?

Authors these days live and die on Amazon. Please support not just me, but all of your favorite authors – write positive reviews (again, even a line or two is fine), click on “helpful” on the more detailed reviews when you agree with whatever insights they provide.

Amazon is the biggest bookstore in the world. Go in there and support your favorite authors. If you read a book, particularly one you buy there, that you really like, tell the world about it, in a brief (or an extended) review. It’s a way to pay your favorites a favor, and to keep them in business.

Authors are real people, trying to make a living out of entertaining you. Any time you can express your satisfaction with a positive review at Amazon and other sites, you are helping the writers whose work you enjoy stay in business. If they disappoint you, you have every right to say so in a review.

Just don’t be a dick.

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Check out this very smart review of Girl Most Likely.

This reviewer has an interesting take or two on the novel.

Finally, here’s a very nice look at the Nathan Heller series.

M.A.C.

“The Will to Kill” Coming to Audio

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

This is one of those Good News/Bad News situations, only it’s really Good News/Bad News/Good News.

Stacy Keach
Stacy Keach

Many Mike Hammer fans – myself included – were dismayed when Blackstone Audio ceased releasing the new Hammer novels on audio, performed by the great Stacy Keach, starting with the current Will to Kill.

All of the previous Spillane/Collins “Hammer” collaborations, read by Stacy, remain available on Audible and elsewhere – they include The Goliath Bone, The Big Bang, Kiss Her Goodbye, Lady, Go Die!, Complex 90, King of the Weeds, Kill Me, Darling, and Murder Never Knocks. In addition are the two Audie-honored radio-style, full-cast audios, The New Adventures of Mike Hammer Vol. 2: The Little Death and The New Adventures of Mike Hammer Vol. 3: Encore for Murder. (There’s also a volume one that Stacy appears in but I did not write, more keyed to the ‘80s TV show than the novels).

Now a new audio publisher, JournalStone, has stepped in, with The Will to Kill first on the docket. Efforts to secure the rights to the short story collection, A Long Time Dead, are under way (I don’t personally hold those). That’s the very good news.

But the bad news is that Stacy Keach is stepping down.

Having ten works of mine (and Mickey’s) with the participation of perhaps the most famous screen Mike Hammer has been a privilege and a gift. I can’t convey what a thrill it’s been hearing Stacy’s voice roll out of those speakers, playing Hammer in stories I co-wrote. I remain thrilled and grateful to Stacy, and he and I will continue to explore projects (both Spillane and otherwise) to do together.

In the meantime, JournalStone has accepted my suggestion for a new audio Mike Hammer in the form of Dan John Miller.

Dan John Miller and his very Velda-like wife Tracee Mae Miller
Dan John Miller and his very Velda-like wife
Tracee Mae Miller

Dan is singer-songwriter and actor from Detroit, currently guitarist and lead vocalist for the gothic country-garage band, Blanche, which also features his lovely wife, Tracee Mae Miller. He has appeared in a number of films, notably Walk The Line, playing Johnny Cash’s guitar player Luther Perkins. Among his many outstanding musical accomplishments, Dan collaborated with Jack White in the band Two Star Tabernacle. (He is also a man of great musical taste, once calling Crusin’s “First Step” on the Bullets CD “the perfect rock ‘n’ roll song.”)

For our purposes, however, it’s his work as one of the top audiobook narrators in the field that is most pertinent.

Dan was named a Best Voice by AudioFile magazine for performances of Pat Conroy’s The Lords of Discipline and Philip Roth’s My Life As a Man. In 2009, he was nominated for two Audies, as well garnering an Audiofile magazine Golden Earphone award, and a Listen Up! award from Publishers Weekly.

Even more important, for anyone likely to be looking at this update, is that Dan John Miller has been the voice of Nate Heller for several years now. He has recorded every Heller novel to date, from True Detective to Better Dead, as well as the short story collection (Chicago Lightning) and novella omnibus (Triple Play). He has done an outstanding job and – much as I’ve looked forward to hearing Stacy as Hammer – the new Heller novels of recent years have only seemed “real” to me after Dan has brought them to life.

At my urging, other audio publishers have tapped on Dan’s shoulder for the Mallory series, entries in the Disaster series, a Quarry (The Wrong Quarry), and the Reeder and Rogers series, currently Executive Order. He brings tough characters to life with both an edge and warmth, and I am very fortunate to have him agree to pick up where Stacy left off with Mike Hammer.

No release dates yet. In fact, I may be a trifle premature here, because some of the negotiations remain under way. But everything looks good – and will sound good.

If you’re a fan of my work, I couldn’t recommend Stacy and Dan – and their respective contributions to the Collins canon – to you more highly. The JournalStone releases will be available on CD, and as downloads from Audible.

Stay tuned.

* * *

Appropriately, Ron Fortier has posted a nice review of The Will to Kill.

Here is a rather unflattering review of the same Mike Hammer book. I generally do not respond to critics, but I have asked my grandson Sam to reply for me. You will see his reply below the link to the review.

Finally, here’s a positive review of The Wrong Quarry, one of my favorite books in the series.

M.A.C.

Still Crazy About “Gun Crazy”

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

People are always asking me what I read.

It’s one of the most common questions a writer gets, and I guess I understand it – apparently comes from a desire by a reader to get recommendations from someone whose work they like, and/or validation for books they like from that writer.

I disappoint people when I reveal how little I read of contemporary crime fiction. I’ve stated my reasons many times, but one reason I haven’t discussed much is the busman’s holiday aspect – not that, at the end of working day immersed in crime and mystery, I want nothing more to do with my genre of choice. Rather, that the writing process has worn out the same muscles that are used for reading.

So come evening, Barb and I watch plenty of crime and mystery TV and movies, although admittedly the movies tend to be older ones (like the books in the genre that I do read) and the TV tends to be British. I have a PAL friendly DVD player, and a Region B friendly Blu-ray player, letting me order discs from the UK all the time. We just watched the third season of Broadchurch, for example, and liked it very much. We also watched an excellent British series called The Forgotten, about very old, very cold cases. Also the fourth season of Endeavor and the third season of The Fall. We are looking forward (I’ve already ordered them) to seasons of Midsomer Murders, Murdoch Mysteries, the first season of Tennison, and the last season of Ripper Street.

So I’m very much still interested in the genre, although much of the American brand of TV mystery leaves me lukewarm to cold.

And much of my “reading” of mystery fiction these days is listening to audio books in the car. We have six-hour drives to St. Louis to see son Nate and his bride and our grandson, fairly frequently, and our day trips run to Chicago (four hours one-way) and Des Moines (three hours one-way). We listen to my own stuff – right now, Dan John Miller is doing a great job on Executive Order – and are happy to have Antiques Frame on audio to listen to next. We re-listen to Rex Stout novels and novellas for the umpteenth time, have been through all of Christie, and quite a few Simenon “Maigrets” (after watching the complete French/Belgian series starring Bruno Cremer – loved it).

What I do read, and it tends to be late at night, is a certain amount of non-fiction. Currently I’m reading Brian De Palma’s Split-Screen: A Life in Film by Douglas Keesey, and enjoying it. But I want to recommend a book that you have to go to some trouble to lay hands on.

Gun Crazy: The Origin of American Outlaw Cinema

Gun Crazy: The Origin of American Outlaw Cinema by Eddie Muller is available only here:

http://blackpoolproductions.com/guncrazyretail.html

No Amazon. I stumbled onto a bookstore that carries it (Mysterious Bookshop in NYC). It’s the first American edition of a French book that was available with a wonderful elaborate Blu-ray edition of Gun Crazy.

Muller should need no introduction – he’s the undeniable guru of film noir, the man behind the Noir City Festival and the Noir City Foundation, with its wonderful e-mail magazine and yearly annual. Not surprisingly info is available at www.noircity.com. He’s written acclaimed fiction and non-fiction in the noir vein, and he appears regularly on TCM, every Sunday morning, your time much better spent than watching the Sunday political shows or going to church.

His book on Gun Crazy is remarkable – it’s like reading a terrific Gold Medal paperback that happens to be true, digging into all of the history from my fellow Iowa author MacKinley Kantor to blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, from the maniac King brothers to my favorite B-movie director, Joseph H. Lewis. The pictures are so great – photos, documents, script pages – that the book worked beautifully in French, which I can neither read nor speak. In English it’s sheer delight. Muller contends the auteur theory is crap, an opinion with which I don’t entirely agree, but he makes an excellent argument, using Gun Crazy – so often credited to Lewis more or less exclusively – as a case in point.

My history with Gun Crazy goes back to 1967. I saw Bonnie and Clyde before the fuss, and my life was changed – the fusion of true crime and the fiction genre I loved was taken to a whole new level. I was so in the thrall of Bonnie and Clyde that I read everything I could get my hands on about the real outlaw couple, even looking at old newspapers on microfilm (setting the stage for Nathan Heller research), and I set out to see every movie derived from their story.

That was no easy task in 1967. VCRs were almost a decade away, so I was left to the whim of late-night movies and a University of Iowa film series at the student union, where mostly kids came to laugh at old movies that they were so much smarter than. One by one I picked the movies off: The Bonnie Parker Story (1958), cheapjack sleaze (which is okay by me, generally); They Live by Night (1948), terrific movie directed by Nicholas Ray; You Only Live Once (1937), a Fritz Lang-directed film and another good one; and finally Gun Crazy (1950). As a kid, I’d seen a Naked City episode called “A Case Study of Two Savages” that had frightened and excited me, but had no idea Rip Torn and Tuesday Weld were doing Clyde and Bonnie. I caught up with it again a year or so ago and saw the connection, and wondered if it had inspired in any way the Arthur Penn 1967 Bonnie and Clyde.

It’s surprising that the outlaw couple had already generated very good Fritz Lang and Nick Ray movies (also not surprising that a cheapjack Roger Corman-produced film existed, as part of the drive-in movie cash-in on The Untouchables TV show). But what was astonishing about Gun Crazy (in addition to a thousand other things) was that it was better than Bonnie and Clyde. That after having my life changed by Bonnie and Clyde, Gun Crazy changed it all over again, more deeply, and became a movie on my very, very short list of favorites (regular readers here may recall the others: Vertigo, Kiss Me Deadly, Phantom of the Paradise). It’s a love story in the way the best James M. Cain novels are, and that’s high praise.

Eddie Muller’s book on Gun Crazy is so terrific, so entertaining, I had a reaction that I rarely have: Oh, good – I don’t have to write this book…somebody else has done it for me.

* * *

A local paper has published a nice little article about my Grand Master “Edgar” honor, here (look past the misspelled first name, will you?).

And here is Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine’s editor’s blog on the Edgar event, with a nice shout-out to me.

M.A.C.

“Please Sir, I Want Some More…”

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers has announced the Scribe Award Nominees for 2017, and I pleased to have three nominations.

Acknowledging excellence in the tie-in field, the IAMTW’s Scribe Awards honor licensed works that tie in with other media such as television, movies, gaming, or comic books. They include original works set in established universes, and adaptations of stories that have appeared in other formats and that cross all genres. Tie-in works run the gamut from westerns to mysteries to procedurals, from science fiction to fantasy to horror, from action and adventure to superheroes.

The Scribe Award winners will be announced at ComicCon San Diego in July. The exact day, time and location of the Scribes Panel including the award ceremony will be announced once it’s known. I am weighing whether or not I’ll be attending this year – if I am, I will host the panel. If not, I have a distinguished author lined up to take over for me.

Here are the nominees:

Adapted – General and Speculative
Assassin’s Creed by Christie Golden
Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins
Suicide Squad by Marv Wolfman

Audio
Dark Shadows: Blood & Fire by Roy Gill
Torchwood: Broken by Joseph Lidster
Torchwood: Uncanny Valley by David Llewellyn
Doctor Who: Mouthless Dead by John Pritchard

General Original
24: Trial by Fire by Dayton Ward
Don Pendleton’s The Executioner: Missile Intercept by Michael Black
Murder Never Knocks by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Robert B. Parker’s Slow Burn by Ace Atkins
Tom Clancy’s True Faith and Allegiance by Mark Greaney

Short Fiction
“A Dangerous Cat” by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
X-Files “Drive Time” by Jon McGoran
X-Files “An Eye for an Eye” by George Ivanoff
X-Files “Love Lost” by Yvonne Navarro
X-Files “XXX” by Glenn Greenberg

Speculative Original
Assassin’s Creed: Heresy by Christie Golden
Warhammer: 40,000 Warden of the Blade by David Annandale
Star Trek: Elusive Salvation by Dayton Ward
Supernatural: Mythmaker by Tim Waggoner

* * *
Edgar winners 2017
Edgar winners 2017

My thanks to all of you who wrote comments here or dropped me e-mails, or even called, to congratulate me on the MWA Grand Master award.

Your kind thoughts, and this award, mean a great deal to me. My career has included so many different kinds of things that an award for the body of work is especially meaningful. For example, no Edgar category is available for a graphic novel like Road to Perdition; no category acknowledges something like the long-running Ms. Tree. A series like Nate Heller or Quarry, however well-received and influential, rarely has one of its entries singled out for an Edgar nomination.

So this feels especially gratifying. Thank all of you, including the MWA.

Thank you, too, those of you who requested books in our recent giveaway and are starting to post Amazon (and other) reviews. For the rest of you, Amazon and B & N reviews (and they can be very brief) would be much appreciated for the new books – Executive Order, Antiques Frame (Barbara Allan), The Will to Kill, and the paperbacks of Murder Never Knocks and The Big Showdown.

* * *

I know what you’re thinking – what movies have you walked out of lately? Well, Barb and I have been trying to be smarter, making our movie selections more discriminately.

That doesn’t mean we skipped Fate of the Furious – we just went in with our eyes open. And it was the big, dumb fun we expected, if even bigger and dumber. Dumbest thing? The great Jason Stratham phoning Vin Diesel to report the latter’s kidnapped baby boy has been saved before the gunfight to do so begins. Well, that and just about every law of physics being broken. Best laugh: the sincere family prayer at the end from Diesel. Yes, I enjoyed the film, but I hated myself in the morning. No – in the parking lot.

Needing no apologies for liking it is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, one of the best films of its kind I’ve ever seen. A perfect continuation of the first installment (in which this one is carefully set up), Guardians 2 combines thrills and laughs with offhanded skill – whenever it threatens to get sentimental, the movie quickly slaps us silly with a cynical pay-off or aside…somehow never undercutting the growing affection the characters have for each other. What director/co-writer James Gunn has done is draw far less on Marvel’s convoluted universe and more on Firefly/Serenity and classic Star Trek, which was a very good call indeed.

* * *

Check out this great review of The Big Showdown at Gravetapping.

I receive a nice mention at this Detectives Without Borders posting.

And this one, too.

Here’s a piece about villains who had balls enough to visit the Batcave, featuring my Tommy Carma.

Finally, here’s a nice review of Better Dead, posted a while back that I only just ran across.

M.A.C.