Posts Tagged ‘Interviews’

First Man and Four Insidious Films

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

First, let me proudly announce the first award won by Scarface and the Untouchable:

Earphones Award Winner
Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago
Max Allan Collins, A. Brad Schwartz, Read by Stefan Rudnicki, Max Allan Collins, A. Brad Schwartz • Unabridged • OCTOBER 2018
Harper Audio • Trade Ed.

This audiobook is a fascinating examination of the terrible times when the Mob ruled Chicago, with Stefan Rudnicki doing a pretty solid job of substituting for Walter Winchell’s staccato “Untouchables” delivery. Thoroughly researched and expertly executed, the story’s most surprising revelation is how little Eliot Ness and Al Capone had to do with each other. They met only once, and that was momentary. Yet the super-straight-shooting Ness made it his life’s work to take down the illegal bootlegging operation that Capone headed but operated from a distance. The most revealing part of the audiobook is the incredible corruption that was rampant in Chicago at all levels of government during Prohibition. The chronological work follows the lives of the two men and is impossible to turn off. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine

As promised, here is the video of my presentation at the Iowa City Book Festival. It’s around 45 minutes, so if you don’t want to spend that much time with me, I don’t blame you.

On Saturday Barb and I took in First man, which follows Neil Armstrong in the years before and during the moon-landing period. We almost passed, because the director, Damien Chazelle, had been responsible for La La Land, which both of us disliked, despite all the praise heaped upon it. Well, this is a good example of not ruling out every movie by a filmmaker based on one film, because First Man is the best movie either Barb or I have seen in a long time (and we see plenty).


Ryan Gosling in First Man

Though we saw First Man in IMAX, that’s not really necessary, although the epic sweep of the moon sequences do benefit. Other sequences are intensely claustrophobic as the viewer rides along in the small space vehicle and experiences the disorienting terror. What is perhaps most striking is the level of danger – those of us alive at the time were shielded from just how sketchy, even reckless a lot of this was. You can see every screw and bolt jiggle in what look like cobbled-together vehicles, and feel every tremor and jolt, and feel every carnival-ride spin. At the same time, the story on the ground is compelling as well, and gives you a real sense of what Armstrong (an outstandingly understated Ryan Gosling) and those in his life – his wife Janet (played the Claire Foy, unrecognizable as the queen in The Crown) and the other astronauts and their wives – all went through.

Some critics have complained that the earthbound sequences aren’t as riveting as the space stuff. Insert, “Duh!” here. The film is a masterpiece of showing not telling, which requires a viewer to pay attention and interpret what’s being heard and seen, and not led by the hand. Very rarely do I see a film that I realize is great while I’m seeing it. In my lifetime of thousands of movies the list would include the likes of Vertigo, Chinatown, and Bonnie and Clyde, and only a few others. I haven’t had that sensation in a very long time.

We re-watched The Right Stuff at home after taking in a matinee of First Man. The movies have some similarities, and work well together, with Stuff a prequel to Man; but the tone of the former – often satiric and even humorous – differs greatly from the near horror show feel of the latter’s space travel.

Speaking of horror shows…

October is a month that Barb and I spend watching horror (or as she puts it, “spooker”) movies. Sometimes, knowing that my wife is picky (she married me, didn’t she?), I pre-screen horror films. I had done so with the Insidious films, and felt confident she would like them as much.

We watched them, one a night for four nights, and she agrees with me. This is an outstanding “franchise” (horrible term). I can’t recall a series in the horror genre that has taken as much care to maintain continuity even while making sure each installment stands on its own. There are two reasons for this in the quartet of Insidious films: all star Lin Shaye, an amazing actress of “a certain age,” who should have been nominated (hell, won) the Academy Award for Best Actress for Insidious 4: The Last Key.


Lin Shaye in Insidious 4: The Last Key

The other reason is writer (and sometime director) Leigh Whannell, who has an amusing recurring role in all four films. The scripts intertwine cleverly, as they explore a Poltergeist-inspired narrative – their spirit world “the Further” clearly had a major influence on Stranger Things, a show I much admire despite its habitual borrowing.

The actors in every one of the Insidious films are outstanding, with Patrick Wilson doing typically strong work in the first two films, including the tricky job of being both the villain and hero of the second film. Other cast members include Barbara Hershey, Angus Sampson (in a role very different from his Fargo Season Two turn, also with Wilson), Rose Byrne, Stephanie Scott, Dermot Mulroney and Bruce Davison. The now superstar director James Wan helmed the first two and produced the other two.

* * *

Here’s a radio appearance for Scarface and the Untouchable by A. Brad Schwartz and me. [Starts @ 40:00]

Here, in a proudly conservative publication, I am given credit for suggesting Supreme Court justices need more protection, but am dismissed as a “liberal” (as is my protagonist, Joe Reeder) who might be giving violent liberals dangerous ideas. You know what other dangerously liberal thing I did lately? Voted early.

Finally, here’s a surprisingly complete rundown of my various publications, worth looking at despite a few mistakes (“Frank” Nolan).

M.A.C.

Books, Podcasts…and an Imminent Baby

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

We are on pins and needles (or as the British invasion’s Searchers say, “needles and pins”) waiting for word of the imminent birth of our grandchild, a girl, to son Nathan and our wonderful daughter-in-law, Abby. Our grandson Sam will shortly be deposed from his throne, but I trust he will remain sufficiently worshiped (he will be by us, anyway).

We will keep you posted.

A bunch of Kindle deals are available right now. Until the end of the month, for 99 cents each, you can get the e-books of

Damned in Paradise (Purchase link: )
True Detective
Chicago Lightning
Kill Your Darlings
Nice Weekend for a Murder
The Baby Blue Rip-Off
No Cure for Death
Midnight Haul
Shroud for Aquarius

And at Kobo, through 9/24, you can get the first Antiques mystery as an e-book – Antiques Roadkill – for 99 cents.

I am going to be appearing at the Iowa City Book Festival Oct. 1 – 7 in, not surprisingly, Iowa City. Barb will be along and we’ll both be signing. My specific event is Saturday, Oct. 6, 2:30 p.m. at the Iowa City Public Library, meeting room A. (Map)

A very nice write-up about Nate Heller, and specifically True Detective, appears at the excellent Black Gate site. It’s a pleasure to know a book I wrote thirty-five years ago (my son Nate’s age) is still enjoyed and even lauded today. I love writing the Heller novels, difficult though they are to do, and hope I can stay on the planet long enough to do three or four more. Anyway, here is the article, with a very nice intro and after word (one point deducted for spelling my middle name “Allen”).

Here’s where you can hear the Life Elsewhere interview with Brad Schwartz and me. Part 1 and Part 2. [Note from Nate: I had a little trouble finding where to listen — try this page and look for the 9/9 and 9/16 shows in the drop-down menu.]

Another two-part podcast with Brad and me is here.

Here’s a podcast about Ms. Tree that I haven’t listened to yet.

Brad and I did a very cool half-hour interview at Anderson’s Bookstore in Naperville, Illinois, not long ago, with excellent interviewer Becky Anderson.

There’s also a “Lightning Round” with Becky, worth a look/listen.

M.A.C.

Did I Mention We Got in the Iowa Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame?

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

As promised, here’s a look at the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction weekend at Arnold’s Park, Iowa, perched on the banks of Lake Okoboji. (The photo accompanying this update, however, was taken at Fruitland Fun Days on September 8.) This is mostly about the rock side of my purported talents, so feel free to bail if you have no interest.

Labor Day weekend at Arnold’s Park – and the area surrounding it – is frantic with end-of-summer vacationing, and the traffic that accompanies it. The trip north was both dull and eventful, because Barb and I discovered (on an endless farmland drive best described as a green wasteland) that the credit card we had recently had to cancel and replace got our cell phone service cut off, and at one point got us locked out of our hotel room.

That was the downside. The upside was a weekend that celebrated rock ‘n’ roll, specifically the Iowa variety. The members of Crusin’ all went their own way with their respective families, in this vacation wonderland, but came together for the various band activities. The Sunday morning sound check was not ideal – each group had very limited time, and in truth that led to some problems with monitors that evening. But with a dozen bands performing, that was perhaps to be expected.

In the afternoon a formal induction ceremony was held in a beautiful high school auditorium, and I represented the band with a brief speech, off-the-cuff as usual, which led to me forgetting at first to acknowledge former band member (and Daybreakers founding member) Dennis Maxwell, who only came from Arizona. Sallie Bunn accepted a plaque for her late husband, Chuck – also a member of both Crusin’ and the Daybreakers – and Brian’s brother Jim, who was our guitarist for over a decade, also picked up his award. Other members of the band (there have been fifteen or sixteen of us, over the 43 years) who couldn’t attend should be getting their plaques by mail in a few weeks.

The big event is the Sunday night induction concert, starting at 6 pm and going past midnight, and we had a spot that was at once terrific and terrible – terrific in that we had the ten o’clock slot, which is prime time, and terrible in that we had to follow an All-Star band with some top talent in it…Megadeth bassist David Ellefson sat in for a couple of tunes, for example. The All-Star Band even played two songs that were on our 25-minute set list – “Wild Nights” and “We Gotta Get Outa This Place.”

Now here is where my ridiculous ego comes into play. As we stood waiting in a sort of doorless green room just off stage, I started smiling when both songs were performed…because I knew we did them better. They did another song from our regular list, and I wished we had played that as well.

Understand that in the garage band scene of the mid-60s – at least in my corner of the world – the combos were like street gangs. We were all scrounging after a small number of gigs (sock hops, proms, house parties), and we hated the other bands. Fist fights were not uncommon. There was nothing we liked better than pimping out another group. When we opened for the Strawberry Alarm Clock in the late ‘60s, an Iowa City band that we despised closed their set with a limp “Crossroads” – so we opened with our own blistering version. Once when a promoter stiffed us opening for the Kingsmen – saying we were lucky to be opening for a famous band, then instructing us not to play any Kingsmen songs – we opened with “Louie Louie.” (We also played “Money,” which we weren’t getting, though it was what we wanted.)

Meanwhile, back at the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction concert…

The trouble with All-Star Bands is they are under-rehearsed and they are cluttered with talent. I have no idea how many people were on stage, but there were three lead guitar players alone. And Crusin’ might be a garage band from Muscatine, Iowa, but by God we are a band.

And that was one of the big pleasures of that night. We at least held our own among a dozen bands, some of whom were really, really good and none of whom stunk up the place. I felt we killed, and so did the rest of the guys, but we may be deluded. That’s okay.

Because last summer, after our very talented guitarist Jim Van Winkle left us, and we had to replace him and come up with three sets of material in about a two-week period, we weren’t really a band. Veteran local musician Bill Anson came on board, just to temporarily help us. But he found out how much fun this group is to be in, and he decided to stick around. We are glad and grateful he did.

Crusin’ had a busy summer – busier than I intended – and most of our gigs were outside in awful weather. Just sucky, humid, shitty weather. And we are not kids anymore. I began talking about making this my last summer of gigs, with the Hall of Fame concert my send-off. We discussed limiting performances to two hours (not the standard three and hell no to four hours) if we did come back.

But what happened at the Hall of Fame concert was that we came together as a band. A real band. Any time you change a member in a four-piece configuration, it’s a new band, and it takes a while to gel (and sometimes you just congeal). I knew we had the makings, because Bill Anson is a strong singer with a very different voice and style from mine, which immediately gave us a boost. As for guitar playing, I’ve liked Bill’s work from day one; but he stands in two big shadows.

First, his brother Dave is a fairly legendary guitarist around here. Second, Jim Van Winkle – his immediate predecessor – is something of a genius with guitar. But guess what? At the induction concert – actually after the sound check – I had three people individually come up and comment on how great our guitar player is. “Where did you find that guy? Wow!” That kind of thing.

Another factor was my purchase this year of a new Vox keyboard to go with my Hammond-style Nord. A Vox keyboard hasn’t been produced in decades, but Korg recently put one out. The authentic ‘60s sound of it got me some great comments at the concert. And it, too, makes us a different band.

So maybe we killed, maybe we didn’t.

But we were, in a way, born. If not to be wild, exactly, wild enough to come back for another summer of this insanity…probably with a CD of new original material.

A word about the venue. We were playing at the Roof Garden, one of the Midwest’s most famous ballrooms. Among those who played there were the Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Guess Who, the Shangri-Las, the Yardbirds, and Bobby Darin. We played to a capacity crowd of 1000. The building (the second in the venue’s history) is being torn down by the time you read this. We performed at the last event prior to the building of a new facility with the old Roof Garden name.

I can almost hear my old bandmate Paul Thomas saying, “We’ve closed down bigger joints….”

* * *

So originally I was supposed to be at Bouchercon in Florida this weekend. But Barb and I decided with the long Labor Day weekend, which included not only the musical responsibilities but a very long drive going and returning, that setting out more or less immediately on another big trip was just nothing we could face. Much as I wanted to see my friends and fellow authors (not mutually exclusive categories), I decided against it. Worst part was not being there to promote Scarface and the Untouchable.

But I am so glad we cancelled.

Why? On our return to Muscatine on Labor Day evening, we discovered our basement was flooded and half of the electricity in our house was out. The latter included the washer and drier, and the TV (cable box fried), though the refrigerator was running (neither of us had the energy to catch it).

We spent all day Tuesday dealing with an electrician, getting electricity back around 5 pm, and the rest of the week was taken up with dealing with our sopped basement.

Miraculously, I had – after years of putting it off – recently turned the hoarder’s nightmare that the basement’s library area had become, bringing in new and additional bookcases and thoroughly sorting and downsizing. So very few books or magazines were destroyed. And the band room had few instruments or amps on the floor, since Crusin’ had been on the road when two torrential rainstorms hit Muscatine.

Today (Sunday the 9th as I write this) we have the basement dried out enough to bring the carpet cleaners in on Thursday.

We would have had to leave for Florida and the Bouchercon on last Thursday morning. Our Tuesday and Wednesday were nightmarish enough, let alone factoring in getting ready for another major trip.

* * *

As the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers’ outgoing president (in the sense of leaving, not being bubbly), I sat for an interview with new president, Jonathan Maberry. You can read it here.

The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine blog has used a piece from me about Mickey Spillane’s 100th.

The Seattle Times gave Scarface and the Untouchable a terrific review. (They don’t like it if you’re blocking ads, though.)

Finally, since this update started out with Crusin’ (and Bouchercon), we’ll finish the same way. Jerry’s House of Everything mentions Crusin’ doing “Incense Peppermints” (by Strawberry Alarm Clock – their second mention this column!) in 2011 at the St. Louis Bouchercon.

Sadly, this was bass player Chuck Bunn’s last gig – he passed away two weeks later. Jerry’s You Tube link didn’t work for me, so here it is again (in a clip put together by the great Eugene George).

M.A.C.

Crusin’ Inducted Into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

Dennis Maxwell and his wife Chaffee. Denny is an original Daybreaker and also played with Crusin’

NO rest for the wicked: Joe LeValley at the Meet and Greet at Arnold’s Park for the Hall of Fame induction brought along books for M.A.C. to sign — a board member no less!

M.A.C. interviewed with Crusin’ looking on at the interminable “Meet and Greet” presentation, drummer Steve Kundel amused by my quick, short answers to get it over with.

Crusin’ at sound check Sunday morning (9/2/’18)

Crusin’ at the awards ceremony

M.A.C. Steve Kundel (standing) and Bill Anson signing autographs after the induction ceremony.

Crusin’ in the Rooftop Ballroom at the Sunday night induction concert.

M.A.C. at the induction concert

M.A.C. at the induction concert

Crusin’ alumni Dennis Maxwell (coming from Arizona!) joins Crusin’ onstage at the induction concert.

Crusin’ with Maxwell at induction concert.

* * *

Here’s a nice Scarface and the Untouchable review.

This fun interview with Brad Schwartz and me focuses on our reading habits.

The UK Daily Mail weighs in on Scarface and the Untouchable — favorably!

M.A.C.