Posts Tagged ‘Interviews’

Hey Kids! Book (and Audio) Giveaway!

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes
Digital Audiobook: Amazon Kobo
Audio CD:

Hardcover:
E-Book: Google Play Kobo
Digital Audiobook: Google Play Kobo

Digital Audiobook: Amazon
MP3 CD: Amazon
Audio CD: Amazon

We have a giveaway again of two books – the new Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery, Antiques Ravin’, and the new Caleb York western, Last Stage to Hell Junction. Ravin’ is a finished hardcover book and Last Stage a nice, trade paperback-style Advanced Reading Copy, including the color cover. Nine copies of each are available. State your preference but also your willingness to look at the other title as a substitute (or your lack of willingness/interest in doing so).

As usual, the idea is that you will write a review at Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble, or at your own blog (multiple appearances encouraged). I ask only that if you hate the novel you receive in the giveaway, you consider not reviewing it at all; but that’s up to you, of course.

Write me directly at macphilms@hotmail.com. If you have won before, don’t assume I already have your address – you must give me your snail-mail info in that e-mail. No foreign (and this includes Canada) entries.

Ravin’ is out now, so reviews can appear immediately. Last Stage isn’t out till the end of the month (May 28 to be exact), and Amazon won’t run reviews until the book is published. So wait before you submit. Not sure what the Barnes & Noble policy is.

Now for my first audio giveaway. I have three CD versions of Girl Most Likely and three MP3 CD audios of it, as well. You must specify which format(s) you can use. Your review will appear with the regular reviews of the e-book and “real” book write-ups, so I’d encourage you to mention you are reviewing an audio and address the quality of the narration, as well.

Speaking of reviews, Murder, My Love has a rather skimpy number of reviews (although very good ones) at Amazon, and if you’ve read and liked the book, I’d appreciate you weighing in there. Reviews need not be lengthy – you can go long and detailed or short and sweet, as you like.

It occurred to me to do my first audio giveaway here because Barb and I just finished listening to Girl Most Likely as read by Dan John Miller. Dan is a terrific reader, and – as some of you know – he has been the “voice” of Nate Heller for years now. He’s also narrated a Quarry and two Mike Hammer novels, as well What Doesn’t Kill Her and the Reeder and Rogers political thrillers by Matt Clemens and me. He’s a fantastic narrator and in much demand, and I’m lucky to have him.

Remember when I said I wouldn’t talk about Girl Most Likely reviews here anymore? Did you really believe that? Truth is we’ve had many very good reviews (I’ll link to one really nice one below), and continue to hold at four stars on Amazon, with 72 reviews currently. What is different about the Girl Most Likely reviews is the nastiness of the outlying bad reviews, which – as I’ve said – seem largely to come from fans of my more overtly noir-ish material (like Quarry, Heller, Hammer) and from young women with politically-correct agendas.

When the novel came out, I kept track of the reviews at Amazon and Goodreads (including the bizarrely nasty ones from the UK, where readers had access a month early). I did this because Girl Most Likely is published by Amazon – actually, Thomas & Mercer, their mystery/suspense line – and I am keen to keep working with them, so I needed to know what kind of response they were getting.

So, in the process, I got a little battered by the occasional snarky, nasty reviews. This made hearing Dan John Miller read Girl Most Likely (Barb and I listened to it on a recent Chicago trip) a pleasure and, frankly, a relief. It reminded me that I’d been proud of the book when I delivered it, and allowed me to be proud of it now.

I did understand some of the negative response better. Some readers were really put off by the cover labeling the novel “A Thriller.” What a thriller is, exactly, no one really knows. Like noir, it’s a term that everyone defines for themselves and then holds others to that definition.

Otto Penzler, for example – a mystery fiction expert if ever there was one – holds the ludicrous position that no private eye book or movie can be considered noir. Okay, but nobody told Chandler that when he wrote the Marlowe novels and certainly nobody told Mickey Spillane when he created Mike Hammer. One Lonely Night isn’t a noir novel? Kiss Me Deadly isn’t a noir movie? Otto, you prove that an informed opinion is still just an opinion.

The closest I can come to defining the modern thriller is that it has, well, a lot of thrills in it – action and suspense – and the antagonist is known to the reader and the protagonist. In other words, not a mystery.

But I conceived Girl Most Likely as a hybrid of thriller and mystery. The killer would get point of view chapters, but I would withhold the killer’s identity and add a mystery aspect to the plot. This seems to have wildly confused certain readers. (By the way, the killer’s chapters are not “first person,” as many reviewers have stated – they are in second person.)

A good number of reviewers – both amateur and professional – have gotten hung up on the thriller definition provided by the cover. One particularly smug reviewer at Amazon said the novel was a “cozy.” Right. A cozy with three on-stage butcher knife slayings by a maniac, and a nighttime chase in the woods by said butcher knife-wielding maniac of the two protagonists, with the maniac (SPOILER ALERT) dying a graphically bloody death, as well. Yessir, a cozy. Pass the tea and cookies.

Probably what hearing the audio did for me was remind me that some of the things certain people don’t like about the book – the lack of a tough guy hero, the somewhat abrupt (Spillane-style) finish, the clothing and physical descriptions, the setting descriptions, the Chicago mob sub-plot – were all very deliberate choices. And I don’t regret one of them.

A writer of fiction, as I’ve noted here before, is collaborating with each reader. I always assume that the reader is at least as smart as I am, and this has never really failed me. Yet not all readers, even very smart ones, know how to meet a book (or a film or a piece of music) on its own terms. And, of course, not everyone’s taste is the same.

Take Antiques Ravin’. There are four “trade” magazines in the publishing business, and these days it’s rare for a book in a long-running series to get reviewed at all. Just scoring a notice from one of these publications – even if it’s a negative review, and these are all tough places to get good reviews – is a big deal these days, for a novel in a series.

But take a gander at these (all of these originally included lengthy plot summaries):

“The melodramatic Vivian and pragmatic Brandy play off each other like foils in a 1930s screwball comedy, and Poe puns, witty asides, and quirky townspeople keep things light. Series fans and newcomers alike will have fun.”
–Publishers Weekly

“Plenty of plausible suspects make this one of the best in Allan’s long-running series, which is always humorous and full of tips for antiques hunters.”
–Kirkus Reviews

“Framed effectively by the antique business, and including plenty of details about Poe and his work, this satisfying, humorous cozy – with its well-drawn, quirky characters – is a hoot. Chapters end with tips on how to collect rare books.”
–Booklist

“Wordplay and fun references to Poe combine in this humorous cozy follow-up to Antiques Ho-Ho-Homicides. The humor is doubled with two narrators, Brandy and Vivian, who are supposedly writing a ‘nonfiction true crime account’ of this latest mystery.”
–Library Journal

That, my friends, is a Grand Slam, and I don’t mean at Denny’s. I can’t think of another time in my career when I got reviewed by all four of these trades, and favorably, in one fell swoop.

And yet the Lesa’s Book Critiques blog finds the humor too broad in Ravin’, complaining about the wordplay, even though she admits, “Their characters certainly are original, and, as I said, the mystery is actually well done,” but she “won’t be picking up the fourteenth in the series, but I know this cozy series has a devoted following.”

Is Lesa wrong?

No, Lesa knows what she likes, and her review is well-written and thoughtful. But we are not to her taste. Humor is a very personal thing. So she doesn’t make a good collaborator for us. But she does not go off on a hissy fit about it, or a snarky rant either.

Barb and I knew from the beginning that the Antiques novels would not be to everyone’s taste. I knew the same thing about Quarry, even back in 1972 when I created him. What I wanted to do – and what Barb and I, as “Barbara Allan,” wanted to do – was create something of our own. Something distinctive.

When you do that, you won’t please everybody. Of course, nothing pleases everybody, but with Quarry, and with the Antiques series, we knew that we would turn a certain number of people off. But we also knew, instinctively, that the people who connected with us – who were good and, well, worthy collaborators – would love what we were doing.

Now, the tricky thing for me is that I have rather broad tastes, and somewhat oddball ones at that. So I have had to come to terms with the fact (and it is a fact) that very few readers out there are going to like everything I do. That within my readership will be groups who only like this, or only like that.

Here’s an example. A good number of Quarry fans won’t read Heller because the books are long. If you read both series, you know how compatible they are, thematically and stylistically and so on. But a Heller novel is a commitment for the reader (just as it was to me). And some fans of a certain style of novel – think Gold Medal Books – just don’t know how to handle a book that’s 100,000 words long.

Here’s another. Some readers of comic books (okay, graphic novels) are not anxious to read prose novels. They are fans only of my comics work. To me, the idea that you would love Ms. Tree, but not gravitate as well to Quarry and Nate Heller is nonsensical. But there it is. And even more common is the reader of my novels who disdains comics. Look at the Amazon reviews of my graphic novels and you’ll see outraged one-star reviews – “This is a comic book!”

As we say in the funnies, sigh.

So what can I do about it?

Not a damn thing. Somebody once said something about following a quest and following a star. Of course, hopeless was in there, too, but what the hell.

Anyway, no more talk about reviews.

I promise.

* * *

At J. Kingston’s Pierce’s wonderful Rap Sheet, he announces the honor that A. Brad Schwartz and I have received for Scarface and the Untouchable. Very cool – do check this out.

A lot of you seem interested in my appearance (and my Scarface co-author’s) in the Dick Tracy strip (thanks to my pal, writer/cop Jim Doherty). This link will take you to a nice write-up about the continuity, with more links to read the entire thing.

Here is a lovely review for Girl Most Likely.

Check out this nice review and interview with me for Girl Most Likely. This was an actual phone interview as opposed to the usual e-mail one.

Another nice Girl interview here, with fun graphics.

Finally, I don’t exactly know what this is, but it looks like a good deal – a “book bundle” that includes some titles of mine.

[Note from Nate: I’ll copy Humble’s explanation below. The short version is: DRM-free highly discounted bundles of eBooks that benefits charity. This bundle includes The Consummata and the Mike Hammer and Quarry’s War graphic novels at the $1 tier, The First Quarry at the $8 tier, and Seduction of the Innocent at the $15 tier.]

The best in hardboiled crime fiction. Ranging from lost noir masterpieces to new novels and comics, these ebooks feature jaw-dropping cover paintings and hold your attention from the first sentence to the last page. With determined detectives, dangerous women, vengeance seekers, and fortune hunters galore, you won’t be able to put these novels down!

Pay $1 or more. Normally, the total cost for the comics and ebooks in this bundle is as much as $333. Here at Humble Bundle, you choose the price and increase your contribution to upgrade your bundle! This bundle has a minimum $1 purchase.

Read them anywhere. The comics in this bundle are available in CBZ, PDF, and ePub formats, so they work on your computer, e-readers, iPads, cell phones, and a wide array of mobile devices! The ebooks in this bundle are available in PDF and ePub formats, so they work on your computer, e-readers, iPads, cell phones, and a wide array of mobile devices! Instructions and a list of recommended reading programs can be found here for comics and here for ebooks.

Support charity. Choose where the money goes – between the publisher and the ACLU via the PayPal Giving Fund. If you like what we do, you can leave us a Humble Tip too!

M.A.C.

The New Mike Hammer Audio Rocks (Said the Author)

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Note from Nate: The entire Barbara Allan Trash ‘n’ Treasures series of eBooks are on sale now through April 1. Most are $1.99, but a couple are $.99 or $2.99. The newest novel, Antiques Ravin’ comes out April 30, making this the perfect time to catch up and fill in any you’ve missed! I’ve provided links to all major online eBook storefronts, but if I’ve missed your preferred store, please leave a comment and I’ll add it.

Scroll down for this week’s regularly scheduled update. Thanks!


Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Kobo

Google Play


Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

* * *


Audiobook (digital): Kobo Audible
Audiobook (MP3 CD): Amazon Nook
Audiobook (Audio CD): Amazon Nook

Barb and I are listening to the audio of Murder, My Love in the car. We had a trip to Cedar Rapids recently (more about that later), which took us through half of it. Another trip, this time to the Quad Cities and back, got us about 3/4’s of the way.

It’s quite wonderful.

I have been very blessed to have perhaps the actor most identified with Mike Hammer – Stacy Keach himself – reading all of the Hammers for audio starting with The Goliath Bone and ending with Murder Never Knocks. I have no way to express how cool it was to hear that voice, so identified with Mike Hammer, reading the books I’ve written in posthumous collaboration with Mickey Spillane himself.

Stacy also was Hammer in the two audio book radio-style presentations of mine in the New Adventures of Mike Hammer series (I wrote volumes two and three of the three produced) – The Little Death (Audie award winner for best script) and Encore for Murder (Audie award nominee for best script). I actually acted with him in a couple of scenes on both. Bliss.

When for various reasons, the very busy Mr. Keach stepped down, another of my favorite readers took over – Dan John Miller, the voice of Nate Heller, who read The Will to Kill and Killing Town. He did a fine job and made a particularly good younger-sounding Hammer, appropriate to Killing Town in particular. (He has just done Girl Most Likely, which I haven’t listened to yet, but definitely will.)

Now Stefan Rudnicki has picked up the mantle. Stefan claims to love my work, and I certainly love his. He’s been the reader of the Quarry novels for a while now, and also did an award-winning job on the massive Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago by A. Brad Schwartz and me. An amazing job by a reader/actor who really knows how to bring a book alive.

Now he’s taken on Mike Hammer, and he is doing a fantastic job. He gets every nuance of the tough-guy and smart-ass stuff, as well as the noir poetry. If you have stepped away from these audios, because Stacy isn’t doing them anymore (and I get that), you need to get back on board. Stefan in particular brings an older Hammer to life, which is perfect in Murder, My Love, a chronologically later book in the canon.

Don’t miss these. Also, we’ll get to keep doing them if you buy ‘em. The problem with a long-running series, particularly on audio, is that at a certain point the audio publisher feels there are enough books in a series – say, Mike Hammer – to suffice.

Speaking of Scarface and the Untouchable, if you’re going to Bouchercon, and haven’t sent in your Anthony ballot yet, shake a leg. That book is eligible, as are Killing Town and Antiques Wanted, and the Spillane/Collins stories “The Big Run” (EQMM) and “The Punk” (Mystery Tribune).

* * *

Last week Barb and I appeared at the Ed Gorman Celebration of Popular Fiction at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. (We were the only guests at the inaugural event. As Miles Davis once said, told he was going to be late for the show, “I can’t be late for the show, man – I am the show”).

Barb and I taught a full classroom of interested and obviously bright students, who took lots of notes and asked plenty of smart questions. That evening I spoke for an hour, a good portion of my talk devoted to my late friend Ed Gorman and what a wonderful writer he was, and what an incredible friend he was to me (and to Barb, whose writing career he encouraged and supported with anthology invites).

Ed’s lovely, gracious wife Carol drove us around and kept us company. We stayed overnight at the DoubleTree in downtown CR, because it was a long day. I mention this because some of you may be wondering why I so seldom do this kind of thing anymore, especially since I tend to be really good at it (no brag, just fact, some asshole said) and so obviously enjoy myself doing such dates. The signing afterward was similarly fun and I loved talking to longtime readers and new ones alike.

But I have to say such events are going to be few and far between now. I doubt I’ll do more than one convention a year, and it will probably be Bouchercon. I am available to be a guest of honor at just about any other mystery or comics con, as I am easily flattered and like to have my hotel room and transportation paid for. Who doesn’t?

Coe made for a long day. We took that hotel room so I could rest between the teaching session and a cocktail party meet-and-greet followed by the speaking engagement. The long day required me to go up a lot of stairs and walk all over the campus, or at least it seemed that way to me. Listen, I’m not really complaining – I enjoyed the hell out of it, and I got a lot of laughs during my speech, which is almost as good as a fat royalty check. Almost.

This is not about my health issues, or at least is only partly about them. The medication I’m on can give me dizziness, and my gait gets unsteady when I get tired, ever since the minor stroke I had on the operating table. People think because I am energetic and charming and witty as hell that I am a Superman. Maybe, if he had pockets full of Kryptonite.

This is something Barb and I are dealing with. I noticed it for the first time in Vegas at the Mob Museum, where at my first of two appearances I felt I stunk up the joint (I was very good at the second event, a day…and a bunch of rest…later.) At the same time, I am preparing for my band Crusin’ and our “season,” which begins early summer and lasts through early fall. Last year we played around nine gigs, mostly out of doors, which makes me wonder if I should make this my last gigging season.

Nonetheless, I am hoping we will make a new CD this summer, all original material.

The one thing that doesn’t seem to be terribly impacted by age and occasionally sketchy health is my writing. I am more prolific than ever, which makes it hard for some readers to keep up with me. But that’s when I feel the most myself and the most alive – at the machine. Making up stories.

I am not looking for sympathy, which I do not deserve, and don’t mean to imply I am unwell, which I am not. I feel very good almost all of the time. It’s a matter of energy, and I think when this dreadful Midwestern winter gets tired of torturing us, and I get out walking again – and gigging again – I will start to feel in shape.

Just know that the reason my book signings and con appearances are more and more infrequent doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It means that I have to watch my energy level and make sure any appearances are infrequent and, when I do take one on, designed to give me time for rest…and to drop me at the door by car of wherever I’m appearing, with Barb at my side.

What I want to spend most of my time doing now is writing books, and short stories and non-fiction pieces and movie and TV scripts. And I think that’s probably how you’d prefer I spend my time, too.

* * *

Here is what I consider a first-rate interview with yours truly, in support of The Girl Most Likely.

Supreme Justice is chosen one of the best 21 legal thrillers of the 21st Century. Hey, Matt Clemens – we are in some heady company, my friend!

The Rock Island Dispatch-Argus lists some men who made their mark who come from the Quad Cities area. I sort of make the list by hanging onto John Looney’s coattails.

Finally, here’s some stuff about Batman: Child of Dreams by Kia Asamiya and me. Looks like some collectibles were generated from that, unbeknownst to me.

M.A.C.

71 Candles, the Anthony Awards & a Big Thrill

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

If you are attending Bouchercon this year, you probably have already received your ballot for the Anthony Awards nominations. This is your reminder that Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness and the Battle for Chicago by Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz is eligible in the non-fiction category. Your votes would be much appreciated, as it’s an opportunity for us to strike back at the Edgar snub.

Other things of mine you might wish to consider are Killing Town by Spillane & Collins and Antiques Wanted by Barbara Allan in Best Novel. Also eligible are the two graphic novels, Mike Hammer: The Night I Died and Quarry’s War in Best Paperback Original; and “The Big Run” by Spillane and Collins in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine; and “The Punk” by Spillane and Collins in Mystery Tribune are eligible in Best Short Story.

Only Bouchercon attendees can vote, and the ballot that will emerge from these early nominations will be distributed at the convention itself in Dallas, Oct. 31 – Nov. 3.

Deadline for returning the ballot (which you can do via e-mail) is Tuesday, April 30.

* * *

Yes, as I write this on March 3, 2019, I have turned seventy-one years old. Considering where I was three years ago – just getting out of the hospital after open-heart surgery and a stroke – I am pleased to be that. I am pleased to be anything.

But I think about the difficulties Harlan Ellison had staying an angry young man after fifty, and realize my boy wonder days are over.

My beautiful wife Barb (my only wife – that kind of sounds like I also have a plain wife and a homely wife stashed away somewhere) showed me a wonderful time today, despite the freezing cold weather. We spent the day in the Quad Cities, having breakfast at the Machine Shed (the best breakfast around), shopped at Barnes & Noble and BAM!, saw a very good black comedy/horror movie (Greta), and had my annual lobster dinner (at Red Lobster). The evening was spent watching episodes of the classic UK crime show The Sweeney, taking time out to watch myself and A. Brad Schwartz on Backstory with Larry Potash on WGN-TV.

It was pretty good. Brad and I come off well, although I am not thrilled that we were left out of a segment about the Eliot Ness scrapbooks at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. I mean, I discovered those scrapbooks and their value and pointed them out to Case Western, decades ago, and to Larry Potash, a few months ago.

On the other hand, there was footage of Brad shooting a machine gun. He is clearly having too much fun doing so, which is a joy to see.

Oddly, I’ve been on national TV several times lately. Muscatine and I are featured on Fireball Run, a gumball rally type show whose premise I do not understand – I was interviewed at the Musser Museum and displayed (brought from home) original Chester Gould art and Mickey Spillane manuscript pages, among other precious artifacts. [The series is available on Amazon Prime Video at this link; Season 11, Episode 12: “Max and Me” –Nate]

I was also interviewed for a full half hour show on Fox Nation streaming service. Below is the preview of the episode, but be forewarned that the suggestion – at times the statement – that the episode is based on the Collins/Schwartz book is not the case. And Fox has been so informed, and corrections have been made, but not everywhere. It’s an interview about the book, interspersed with vintage footage and, oddly, a photo identified as Ness and used throughout the episode that isn’t Ness at all.

Such are the vicissitudes of media coverage when you’re out promoting a book or film.

Among the best birthday gifts I received this year was an unintentional one – The Big Thrill e-magazine from the International Thriller Writers put me on their cover and have given me (thanks to writer Alex Segura) a fantastic review of The Girl Most Likely and an article about me drawing upon an interview I gave Alex. The pic shows me in front of the actual St. Valentine’s Day Massacre wall, as preserved at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. And this review/article is required reading.

M.A.C.

Stan Lee, William Goldman, Orson Welles and Much, Much More!

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

By the time this appears, Brad Schwartz and I will have made our Chicago appearance at the American Writers Museum. But as I write this, Barb and I haven’t even left Muscatine yet. So any report will have to wait till next time, when I’ll also talk about Thanksgiving with son Nate, daughter-in-law Abby, and grandkids Sam and Lucy.

But there’s plenty to talk about first. Let’s start with two great names in American pop culture, both writers, who met their final deadlines recently.

I interacted with Stan Lee any number of times. Coincidentally, the first and most memorable was at WGN in Chicago, where Brad and I will be taping something the day before this update appears. Brad and I will be doing television, but Stan and I did a radio show, where he fielded questions about Marvel and I did the same about the Dick Tracy strip, which I was writing then. I’m guessing this was early ‘80s. Stan was friendly and everything you’d expect him to be, and we got along fine. In future, I would encounter him at comics conventions, mostly just saying hello. He always seemed to remember me, but I doubt he did.

While I have little interest in Marvel today, and have only written a handful of things for them, I was a big fan in junior high and high school (and even college). I knew of Stan Lee by his byline on pre-superhero monster comics and even Millie the Model (I read lots of different comics). I’m sure it made an impression on me that this was a writer getting a byline on comics without doing any of the drawing. I bought all his early superhero stuff at Cohn’s Newsland in Muscatine, including the first issues of Spiderman, Fantastic Four, The Hulk and The Avengers. I knew of Jack Kirby, too – I subscribed to Challengers of the Unknown in grade school. Kirby was why I was buying monster comic books featuring creatures like “Fin Fang Foom,” “Mechano” and (yes) “Groot” (many Marvel super-hero characters had earlier incarnations as monsters).

How long was I a Marvel fan? As long as Ditko (and then John Romita, Sr.) was drawing Spiderman and Kirby Fantastic Four, I was in.

What I liked about Stan was the humor he brought to his super-hero work, and the way he interacted with fans. I was a charter member of the Merry Marvel Marching Society. Some have tried to diminish his work by saying he screwed over Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, but I know nothing of that and don’t want to know. What I know is he entertained and inspired me, and was friendly to me in person. Excelsior, Stan.

I never met William Goldman, who was a friend of Don Westlake’s – occasionally Don told me stories about his buddy “Bill.” I admired Goldman as a novelist (Soldier in the Rain, Marathon Man), although his screenwriting was where I think he really made an impact. He brought a storytelling touch to the form that made scripts read like, well, stories, not blueprints. He did this to save his sanity and also to make the screenplays compelling to the studio execs and directors who read them.

Goldman is, of course, the man who revealed to the world that the first and only rule about Hollywood is, “Nobody knows anything.” And he gave us the book that became the film Princess Bride. I wrote the novelization of his Maverick, not his best screenplay by a longshot but still good and a pleasure to turn into a novel that some (myself included) consider superior to the film. I like having a small connection to the man.

By any yardstick, William Goldman was a writer who left the world a better place for what he did while he was here. Let’s say it all together now: “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!”

* * *

So Netflix is making theatrical movies now, and streaming those movies even as they are hitting theaters. This is a tragedy, because it almost certainly means I will have to buy an even bigger TV.

So are the movies any good? Having seen two, I may not have enough to go on. But both are worth talking about.

First, Outlaw King. This historical epic is essentially a sequel to Braveheart, although only the dismembered arm of William Wallace appears (apparently not contributed by Mel Gibson). Reviews on this have been mixed, but Barb and I thought it was terrific. Pine was fine (sorry) as Robert the Bruce, the Scottish warrior king who faced seemingly impossible odds in a struggle to win independence from Britain – as an American whose grandparents on my pop’s side were name MacGregor, I can relate. The filmmaking is first-rate, with an opening shot that goes on forever without a cut, just a dazzling piece of work from director, co-screenwriter David Mackenzie. There’s even a decent love story. Barb was happy with Chris Pine’s nudity (me not so much) but the final battle scene was a bloody wonder, making Braveheart look like a garden party. High marks for Netflix on this one.

Then there’s The Other Side of the Wind. Netflix backed this assembly of footage from 96 hours Orson Welles shot between 1970 and 1976. Welles was attempting something new, influenced and I think intimidated by the American wave of young filmmakers that included Dennis Hopper (who appears in the film) as well as Coppola, DePalma and Scorsese.

To call the production troubled is like saying Citizen Kane is pretty good. Cast members came and went, sometimes due to availability; locations meant to suggest California include Arizona, Connecticut, France, the Netherlands, England, Spain, Belgium and sometimes even California. The cast is stellar, to say the least, but the shifting players means nothing really coheres – Peter Bogdanovich plays (not particularly well) a role based on himself that was originally acted by Rich Little, who left the production to meet a prior Vegas gig. Lilli Palmer is in a few scenes (shot in Spain), interacting with almost nobody, though it’s supposed to be her house where the interminable Hollywood party is happening. John Huston reveals how limited his bag of acting tricks is, and does himself nothing but harm.

It’s a mess – something of a glorious mess, and that it works at all is due to editor Bob Murawski somehow stitching it all together. Cuts come quickly, from black-and-white to color and back again, creating an auto accident of a movie about a filmmaker’s (off-stage) auto accident. Much of Wind is a film-within-a-film spoof of pretentious European films of the Antonioni variety (at least I hope it’s meant to be a spoof) starring Welles’ female companion/partner, Oja Kodar, billed as co-writer, who is mostly nude (I did enjoy her nude scenes more than Chris Pine’s).

It’s a hateful, ridiculous film, clogged with Welles bitterly attacking Hollywood in general and critic Pauline Kael in particular (via Susan Strasberg, quite good), with side dishes of bile reserved for his supposed friend Bogdanovich, among others. But it is of course fascinating as well, and probably required viewing for any real film buff.

Better than The Other Side of the Wind is They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, a Netflix documentary, itself feature-length, that looks at the making of the beleaguered film.

For all the hoopla surrounding The Other Side of the Wind supposedly having been finished along lines that would have satisfied Welles (who did leave about 45 minutes of the two-hour feature in an edited form), a similar situation with a great French filmmaker has led to a different approach and a much better film than Wind or even the documentary about it.

Available from Arrow on Blu-ray, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno is a 2009 documentary by Serge Bromberg that deals with another legendarily unfinished film. Clouzot, the genius who gave the world Diabolique and Wages of Fear among other masterpieces, stumbled in 1964 with his film, Inferno. Similarly to Welles, Clouzot was dealing with changing times and specifically the changing approach to filmmaking represented by the French New Wave. As far as I’m concerned, no New Wave filmmaker can touch him, but filmmakers are human and Clouzot allowed himself to get caught up in fascinating but largely pointless visual experimentation. He landed the leading starlet of the moment, Romy Schnieder, and cast an actor who’d been in a previous film of his, Serge Reggiani, in a story of sexual obsession and jealousy. It’s essentially James M. Cain’s Postman Always Rings Twice, if the older man with a younger wife is only imaging an affair she’s having with a younger man, and is driven mad to the brink of violence.

Working from fifteen reels of film, with most of the soundtrack missing, the documentation assembles the unfinished Inferno into sequences that appear, roughly, in narrative order. But these scenes are interspersed with revealing test films and interviews with cast and crew. Some of the missing scenes (there actually don’t seem to be that many) are staged with actors Bérénice Bejo and Jacques Gamblin, who provide dialogue. The imagery, particularly of lovely Schneider, is stunning. Like Welles in Wind, Clouzot shot in both black-and-white and color; but the French auteur had a method to his madness – the color footage, which was processed to have bizarre coloration, represents only the would-be cuckold’s warped imaginings.

Clouzot ultimately crashed with Inferno because his authoritarian treatment of actors drove his leading man to quit, shortly after which the director had a heart attack and production was halted, never to be resumed. (Clouzot did make another film, La Prisonniere, before his death in 1977.)

Unlike Wind, Inferno might have been a great film, had Clouzot (who wrote the script, as usual) been able to finish it. (Claude Chabrol shot the screenplay years later, but I haven’t seen that…yet.)

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And now, my final verdict: Rotten Tomatoes, and the largely rotten reviewers whose opinions it gathers, is officially worthless.

Barb and I were very much looking forward to Widows. We were aware the source material was a two-season 1980s series from the dependable Lynda LaPlante, creator of Prime Suspect (but we had never seen it). The idea of a group of widows who take over for their late heist-artist husbands seemed pretty foolproof. The reviews for Widows are mostly raves. Rotten Tomatoes has it at 91%.

SPOILER ALERT: it stinks. We walked out, but not until we’d been subjected to an hour of poor direction and stupid scripting. Steve McQueen (much better an actor in The Great Escape than a director here) (yes, I know the British McQueen won a Best Picture Academy Award for 12 Years a Slave) co-wrote with Gillian Flynn. I suspect the original LaPlante series was good.

Virtually every sequence of Widows begins with a disorienting shot (for example, a substance that turns out to be hair being teased, when the camera pulls back; and a lengthy pointless sermon by a hypocritical black-church preacher, in close-up forever before revealing his stereotypical congregation). A sadistic diminutive thug (so sadistic he tortures a wheelchair-bound victim – he’s a baaaaaaad man!) constantly does things for no reason other than to shock the audience. Scenes go on endlessly, and are often staged in a ridiculously show-offy manner – how about a conversation between a Chicago candidate for alderman and his Lady Macbeth of a wife entirely from one-locked down angle on a car in motion, with no view of the people talking.

I seldom hate a film. I hated this. I knew at once (a real SPOILER ALERT sort of coming) where it was headed when Liam Neeson’s character was killed in the first five minutes (maybe I should saying “apparently killed”). I checked on line to see if I was right. And of course I was (Barb, too).

So Rotten Tomatoes gets a 0% fresh rating from the Collins household.

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Paperback Warrior has posted an excellent review of Quarry’s Choice. This is really a wonderful, smart write-up of what is one of my two favorite books in the series (the other is The Wrong Quarry).

If you want to hear me talk about something that isn’t movies, go to Mystery Tribune for an interview with me on the new Mike Hammer: The Night I Died graphic novel.

Crimespree is giving away Scarface and the Untouchable. But, of course, you’ve already bought a copy.

The new issue of The Strand has the Spillane/Collins short story, “Tonight, My Love.” An important piece of the canon, though brief. It’s the holiday issue and a fine way to end the year in a Spillane centenary fashion. Check it out.

And here is a page with info about the next Caleb York western novel, Last Stage to Hell Junction. Next May, but why not start wanting it now?

M.A.C.