Posts Tagged ‘Interviews’

Quarry on Cinemax

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

The QUARRY pilot, recently green-lit by HBO/Cinemax, has been cooking for about a year. I was never involved as a writer, but Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller, the two writers who wrote the pilot – and are developing a first-season story arc – began by spending two hours on the phone with me. I was hugely impressed not only by their intelligence and creativity, but by their excellent taste – they love the QUARRY books. Their familiarity with the material, and the way they “got” it, made me feel I was in good hands. They asked all the right questions.

I have been promised two scripts per season, if the pilot is picked up. I’ve read and given notes on the pilot script, and I’m very happy – the writers solved problems that I knew they would face, and did so in ways that hadn’t occurred to me. I was thrilled (though surprised) to find out that the series would be set in “period” – that is, the early seventies. As I’ve said elsewhere, you know you’ve been around a while when something that was contemporary when you wrote it is presented as a period piece by filmmakers.

QUARRY (and that was my original title for the novel, not THE BROKER) was begun at the University of Iowa in 1971. It did not get a particularly warm reception in Workshop (the instructor, William Price Fox, was dismissive, but then that was typical) though two or three in the class thought it was great. I completed it after graduation, in 1972, after selling BAIT MONEY and NO CURE FOR DEATH. It took three or four years for QUARRY to sell, and I’d almost given up on it. When it sold, I immediately got a contract to write three more.

At the time, I thought it was the most original thing I’d done. It took a step past the Richard Stark “Parker” books that had so influenced “Nolan,” by challenging the reader with a killer (not a thief) in a first-person (not “safe” third-person) narrative. I still think Quarry is one of my two major contributions to the mystery genre, the other being Nathan Heller (and the combination of history and noir). I would put the PERDITION saga in next position, and MS. TREE right after that.

I am very hopeful that QUARRY will become a series, and a really good one – it can be done (see JUSTIFIED). I know that both HBO and its sister Cinemax wanted to do it – that Cinemax, because it’s in the midst of a major re-branding with an action/adventure slant, wound up with it. If the casting goes well (one of the key aspects), QUARRY should be in good shape. They have a terrific director (John Hillcoat) lined up, and the producers are also top-notch. I will probably have some kind of producing capacity myself, which will be essentially creative consulting. That’s still being negotiated.

The news was all over the Net last week, and you can read the first story that came out right here.

I will not post every re-hash of that information, but here’s a typical example.

And I was happy to see Jeff Pierce include the news at the Rap Sheet.

I’ve done only one interview on the subject, for a local paper, the Quad City Times, written by David Burke (who was on the ROAD TO PERDITION junket!).

* * *

I am working on ANTIQUES A GO GO. Barb gave me a great first-draft, very funny with great NYC color (it’s set at a comics con in Manhattan). I’m having a blast.

We went to two entertaining movies this weekend: a really strong 3D conversion of JURASSIC PARK, which actually improves the movie, and a respectful re-boot of THE EVIL DEAD. The latter is not really a comedy, despite what some reviews say, and harkens more to the first grim EVIL DEAD than the overtly comic EVIL DEAD 2 and ARMY OF DARKNESS. If you are an EVIL DEAD fan, as Barb and Nate and I are, you will want to sit through the credits for a nice surprise.

I have a couple more links to share, starting with this nice inclusion of DEADLY BELOVED and THE FIRST QUARRY on a Hard Case Crime “essentials” list.

And the reprint of KILL YOUR DARLINGS has elicited this nice review.

M.A.C.

Murder Me Quickly

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

No, that’s not the name of a missing Stacy Keach MIKE HAMMER TV movie. It’s what some readers, critics, and editors wish I would provide them with: a murder in the first chapter. Better still, the first page.

Antiques Maul

This is a relatively new phenomenon, at least as pertaining to my work. It first turned up when the editor on the ANTIQUES series (a very good editor at that) was unhappy that the murder in ANTIQUES MAUL didn’t occur until a third of the way into the book. Barb and I did not want to drastically restructure the novel, nor do any elaborate rewrite, so our solution was to begin with the murder and flash back to the events leading up. Our editor put up with that easy fix, but I don’t think she was really happy. (By the way, ANTIQUES MAUL has been long out of print and will be back in paperback, with a new and much better cover, very shortly.)

From time to time, complaints that murders in my mystery novels take too much time to happen began popping up in blog reviews and in Amazon customer comments. SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT has sparked a lot of those, in the midst of mostly highly laudatory responses. You see, the murder victim, the Dr. Frederic Wertham stand-in Dr. Werner Frederick, doesn’t get bumped off till half-way through.

And don’t accuse me of neglecting to give you a spoiler alert, because any mystery reader who doesn’t realize in the first chapter or two that Dr. Frederick is going to be the murder victim is a very new and naive mystery reader indeed. The very Golden Age traditional set-up brings most (not all) of the suspects on stage, and spends a good deal of time with Wertham in order to show why people might want to kill him. To my way of thinking, one function of a good murder mystery is to paint a portrait of the murder victim. If the murder victim is just a pawn in the game of Clue, then why not just play a round of friggin’ Clue? The book should, in part, be a character study of the murder victim.

Didn’t any of these readers and reviewers ever read a Perry Mason novel or see the classic TV series? Maybe not. But Erle Stanley Gardner took his sweet time killing the murder victim, whose identity was almost always obvious to the reader. Murders frequently don’t occur till a third of the way – sometimes half of the way – through many great mysteries by the likes of Agatha Christie and Rex Stout.

Since I read precious few contemporary mysteries these days, maybe the world and time have passed me by. Well, here’s me waving them goodbye and not giving a damn.

Is it TV that has trained people to expect the murder victim right away? Most of the mysteries shows I watch are British, and some – like the droll MIDSOMER MURDERS – do tend to dispatch the murder victim quickly…although not until a good number of suspects have been trotted out, and after we have met the murder victim in the flesh, and have seen what it is about him or her that makes them eminently killable. By the way, an hour mystery show is not a 300-page novel.

Part of why our ANTIQUES editor wants the murder to come quickly is the practice of putting a sample chapter from the next book at the end of the current paperback of the previous book. This is good marketing, and I get it, I really do…but that strikes me as a tail wagging a dog (in this case, Sushi) (a reference for readers of the series). To me, the only valid question is, “What is good for the novel?” Writing with an eye on how the book will be marketed is undignified even for a lout like me.

SEDUCTION has received a lot of praise (and maybe a smidgen of criticism) for spending many of its pages on the comics industry in the 1950s. As I’ve mentioned here before, at the suggestion of my editor and my agent, I trimmed perhaps 10,000 words of material on the subject, in an effort to make sure the book wasn’t too “inside baseball.” One much published (and inaccurate) mini-synopsis of the book has Dr. Frederick murdered on his way to testify at the Congressional hearing on comic books and juvenile delinquency. In the book, however, the doc makes it there alive and well; we get both his slanted, unfair testimony and that of the Bill Gaines stand-in, Bob Price, on stage.

I will be goddamned if I will omit something that important – to the novel, and to me – just to get a corpse on stage a few chapters earlier. I am not at all interested in the Short Attention Span Reader.

This is not to say I don’t occasionally kill the victim right away. In the first Jack and Maggie Starr mystery, A KILLING IN COMICS, the murder does happen at the end of the first chapter…but not until after we’ve met a passel of suspects at the cocktail party where the murder occurs.

The point is, if there is one, that I structure each murder mystery as seems best for the successful rendering of said mystery. In SEDUCTION, getting a full picture of Dr. Frederick, as well as a real sense of the state of the comic book industry in 1954, struck me as key. The overwhelmingly positive response to the novel convinces me I was right.

* * *

This weekend Nate was home for some general computer and web site work, and for some preliminary talk about our possible Kickstarter film project (more soon). He, his mom and I went to the new theater (the Palms) here in Muscatine and saw a really big, really dumb action movie called OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, which you’ve probably heard described (accurately) as DIE HARD IN THE WHITE HOUSE. It is absurd and often extremely stupid. It is also enormously entertaining, particularly if you like tough guy stuff that ventures into the brutal. Gerard Butler goes on my short list of potential screen Mike Hammers.

Somebody (not me) posted a nice You Tube vid about SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT. Here’s your chance to get an auditory glimpse of the great audio-book reader Dan John Miller (who has done all of the Heller audios to date) as Jack Starr.

The terrific Film Rejects site did a podcast interview with me here. Might be worth your time.

And the SEDUCTION reviews keep comin’, like this one at Celebrity Cafe.

And this one at Pulp 300.

Here’s a comic-oriented review at Con Sequential.

And a short but sweet one at My Big Honkin’ Blogspot.

And another at Atomic Moo (gotta love these blog titles).

Here we are at Kvlt Kvlture.

And finally a perhaps overly analytical review at Chamber Four.

M.A.C.

“Veronica Mars” and Kickstarter

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

It’s been all over the place – not just the Net – that the “Veronica Mars” movie has been funded via Kickstarter. The two-million dollar goal was reached in ten hours (and I contributed, thanks to Nate giving me a heads up). Last time I looked they were at $3.5 mil. “Veronica Mars” is a huge favorite among the Collins clan, and I rate it as probably the best private eye show of all time (make it a tie with “City of Angels”). So this is very good news. No, I did not contribute enough to get a speaking part….

Just as this is happening, serious discussions are under way to do an M.A.C. Kickstarter project. We are looking at doing a “Fangoria/Dreadtime Stories” film here in the Midwest, and the goal will be considerably less than $2 mil. Carl Amari, Phil Dingeldein, Nate Collins and I will be meeting very soon to put together our plan of attack. A draft of the script is written – “House of Blood” – and you can access the radio show version, free right here.

Stay tuned for developments.

Warm Bodies / Oz the Great and Powerful

Barb and I saw two very good movies this weekend – the zombie romance “Warm Bodies” and “Oz the Great and Powerful.” The former initially didn’t grab me, as I think I’m zombied out; but it quickly showed itself to be very much its own quirky animal, clever and funny with a surprisingly good heart. The latter we saw at the new 10-screen cineplex in Muscatine, a lavish movie palace that I can’t believe is in our little home town – we’ve had four shabby screens for so long, I feel like I’m hallucinating. “Oz” is something of a return to “Evil Dead” form for director Sam Raimi, and James Franco is charming and funny as the charlatan at its center. We saw this in an IMAX-style theater in 3-D – excellent, eye-popping 3-D, Raimi really taking advantage of the medium – and it was enormous fun, a valentine to L. Frank Baum and the original MGM musical. It’s not perfect – the pacing can be sluggish and ten or fifteen minutes of trims would have made this a near masterpiece. On the other hand, we walked out of JACK THE GIANT SLAYER a few weeks ago (starring Nicolas Hoult, who has the odd honor of having the lead in both the excellent WARM BODIES and the dreadful JACK at the same time).

* * *

SEDUCTION reviews continue to pop up, like this great one at that stellar book-review site, Bookgasm.

Here, at Books and Writers is a brief interview that covers some new ground.

My old pal Mike Gold – whom with George Hagenauer of course, was instrumental in the research of the first five Nate Heller novels – weighs in with a clever review at Comic Mix. Lovely words, although I do think he sells the band Seduction of the Innocent rather short.

We interrupt these SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT reviews to bring you a swell LADY, GO DIE! one from Popcults.

Meanwhile, back at SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, Spinetingler has a review that couldn’t have been much better if I wrote it myself.

Finally, here’s another excellent review, this time from the American Culture.

M.A.C.

When I’m 64 – I Mean, 65….

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

As I write this, my 65th birthday is winding down. I’m in St. Louis with Barb, and we’ve been visiting with our son Nate and his incredible bride Abby. It’s been a lovely weekend, filled with food, the RiffTrax version of HUNGER GAMES, lots of great conversation, an upgrade to the Tennessee Williams Suite at the Moonrise Hotel (Williams, a St. Louis boy, is a fellow U of Iowa Writers Workshop grad), a fun/moving British movie about (fittingly) old people, QUARTET, and just so much more. And yet I find myself reflecting on the reasons why so many people who hit this age choose to retire…and how last week, another fairly rigorous week in the “blog tour” for SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, I began wondering how long I would want to keep doing this.

Anyone who knows me at all well understands that I love writing, and that I’m very competitive and want to stay in the game. I feel great and have not lost my enthusiasm for life and creativity. How many guys my age are still in the garage band they started in high school? But there are trials. There are trials. Here are three reasons why some day I may decide to kick back, and just read the books that have been stacking up for decades, and watch the Blu-ray discs that have been piling up for years.

1. The uncertainty of the publishing business. This has always been a precarious business to be in – freelance fiction-writing – but lately it seems to be in serious freefall. Borders gone, Barnes & Noble wobbling, e-books taking over. Some of it has benefitted me – TRUE DETECTIVE has sold more copies in the last year than it did in its first year, a thirty-year-old book, thanks to Amazon. But one gets weary of the ground shifting under one’s feet. Like old age (thank you, QUARTET; thank you, Bette Davis), freelance writing isn’t for sissies.

2. Copy editors. I am half-way through the copy edit of ASK NOT. For the umpteenth time in my career, I have had to go through a manuscript painstakingly putting Humpty Dumpty back together. This is despite the lengthy memo I attach to my manuscripts with a detailed description of the elements of my style that a copy editor might think was just me screwing up. I had a particularly intrusive copy editor on TARGET LANCER, complained, and was assured a different one would be assigned this time. No – I got the same intrusive, tin-eared copy editor. I spent an hour just putting the first chapter back together. I have gone through this many, many times, and if I ever retire, I promise I will not miss it.

3. Abuse. Now and then I can get hate mail. Occasionally I get a bad review. The nature of Amazon is that geniuses may comment on a book of mine, and also imbeciles – such is the price of democracy. I’ve also had enemies (yes, I have managed to alienate a few people in these 65 years) who have used the Amazon and B & N reviewing portals to get even with me. I have learned to live with this. But occasionally somebody really steps over the line, as when I got death threats over FLYING BLIND because I suggested Amelia Earhart may have been bisexual.

This week I did an article and slide show for the Huffington Post about controversial comic book covers, as part of the SEDUCTION blog tour, arranged by my publisher. I used primarily 1950s covers. I also used one of Terry Beatty’s MS. TREE covers on the slide show, in part in a self-aggrandizing fashion, but chiefly to demonstrate it as one of the indie comics involved in the famous Friendly Frank’s comic book shop bust that in 1981 got its store owner a sentence of one year (later overturned) in Illinois. That issue of MS. TREE was objectionable because of nudity – of course, that nudity was a statue in the hall of the Justice Department in D.C. (This is explained in text that accompanies the cover – each cover pictured has a paragraph on why I chose it.) George Hagenauer helped me on the slide show, and between us probably a work day went into that; I spent another work day on the article itself. I got paid exactly nothing – it was part of the publicity for my new book. That’s how it works – you do a free article, you get some PR. Huffington Post put a slightly inaccurate headline on my piece, making it look like I had chosen these as the “most” controversial comic books of all time. Among assorted comments, many good – but many from readers who objected to my choices of covers, having clearly not read the article (“Where’s PREACHER?” “Where’s THE LEATHER NUN?”) – came the following:

“I feel this a legitimate question. How can you allow article authors to pompously include their OWN work in the top list? Isn’t that self-promotion and editorially questionable? I feel its a fair question for people to address. Unless this author is really that self-absorbed that he believes his work is that worthy. This is a valid question, please post it.”

Okay, a little shrill, but a valid question I guess, and immediately answered by another reader who understands how the Huff Post trades PR for free copy. But the same day I received the following e-mail from the same individual:

“Nice article in the HuffPost.
Do you realize how shameless and self-aggrandizing it is, to include TWO of your own comic books on the list? Not to mention, how it perverts the integrity of said article?
How can anyone take you seriously?
I’m surprised you didn’t put Wild Dog on the list as well. Or just fill it with ALL of your comics.
You’re a narcissistic putz, who has no original stories, just totally derivative from everyone else.
Even your look is stolen, Mr. Elton John.
Ha ha ha ha ha.
p.s. You’re little blonde is even more derivative.”

I am probably am something of a narcissistic putz – most entertainers are. And I am derivative of those who came before me, as are almost all genre writers, although I think I’ve put my own spin on the ball. There was only one of my covers used (Huff Post tagged on the cover of the novel I’m promoting.) Still, these opinions are valid enough, if rudely stated. But then the writer, who is blessed of a literary style derivative of the letters Jack the Ripper wrote to the London police, takes a shot at my appearance – making him the ten thousandth person to notice my unfortunate resemblance to a singer whose music I don’t particularly like – and I’m a big boy, so it comes with the territory.

Then he takes a shot at my wife. And he cc’s my son. All while hiding behind a fake name (of a Charles Bukowski character). I may be all the things this guy says I am. But I am not a cowardly prick, nor am I a rat bastard who attacks the family of someone he dislikes.

Though I am 65, and this is the point in the action movie where the aging lead says, I’m getting too old for this shit…and then goes right on kicking ass, till the end of the movie.


“The Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory,” Penny Arcade

Here’s the Huff Post piece my “fan” loved so much (the subject of his e-mail was “KUDOS”):

And here’s an article on how I came to write SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT.

I am dizzy from doing interviews, but I salute my questioners, who came up with their own unique angles on the book and its subject (and author). Here’s one from 8 Days a Geek.

And one from the wonderfully named blog Death, Books and Tea.

Here’s one at Fanboy Comics.

And at Speak Geeky to Me.

Here’s one at My Bookish Ways. Love these blog titles.

Another at Too Busy Thinking About Comics.

And at the UK site, SHOTS.

One at the Geek Twins.

And at Comic Buzz.

More UK attention at the wonderful site Crimetime.

The reviews, I’m pleased to say, have been very favorable. Check out this one at Jildy Sauce.

Here’s a combo article and review at Gnnaz.com.

Tony Isabella, a great comic writer himself, knows plenty about the subject, so it was great to get this terrific review from him.

Here’s a solid review from (wonderful name) Unleash the Fanboy.

And another at Swiftly Tilting Planet.

Also at (another name I love) 8 Days a Geek.

There’s an excerpt at Daily Dead.

And a review at Popcorn Reads(another fantastic title).

Speaking of pop, here’s one at Popcults.

And one at Bullet Reviews.

Finally – stop the presses – it’s an early review for the new Mike Hammer, COMPLEX 90, due in May.

M.A.C.