Posts Tagged ‘Jack and Maggie Starr’

Write and Wrong

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

I will be tweaking THE WRONG QUARRY today, doing final rewrites, and I hope “shipping it” (i.e., e-mailing it) to editor Charles Ardai) today. It was written largely in two frenzied weeks, although my fourteen-day-no-day-off stay in the bunker was preceded by a week of prep and plotting, and now a day (or two) of tweaks and rewrites.

A writer my age should probably not undertake to write a novel in this fashion, working till 1:30 a.m., rising at 7:30 a.m. and starting in again, before going down for orange juice and English muffin. But I have always written Quarry novels in two to three weeks (with the exception of the first one, which took six months) because they are stream-of-consciousness affairs that require me to live inside the story (and Quarry’s head) for the duration.

The story is set in the early ‘80s, and falls into the Quarry sub-category of our hero helping the target of a hit contract. It takes place in a small town in Missouri, during the off-season of its tourist industry. This may sound like a fairly ordinary Quarry set-up, but I assure you it’s wilder than Mr. Toad’s ride. In fact, Barb gave me the best Quarry review ever: “Who is this twisted man I’ve been sharing my bed with?”

This will be, since I obviously have work to do, a brief update. Barb and I saw SIDE EFFECTS, the Steven Sonderbergh thriller starring Jude Law, Rooney Mara (American GIRL WITH THE DRAGON etc.), and Catherine Zeta Jones. Very good twisty piece of work, sort of like ‘70s DePalma but slightly less overt in the sex, violence and style department. Like PARKER, a throwback to kind of grown-up genre piece that the theaters used to regularly offer.

My anti-Super Bowl rant last week got some interesting comments, particularly Mike Doran aptly pointing out that my lack of interest in pro sports may be related to my living outside a metro area. No big sports franchises in Iowa. Good point. The U of I’s Hawkeyes are worshipped in this state. My father fetishitically bought black-and-gold everything, including a Cadillac once.

Odd postscript to my sports “bloviating” (as one commenter termed it): I often love sports movies and sometimes books. Mark Harris’ Henry Wiggins novels are among my favorite novels. DAMN YANKEES is high on the list of my favorite movie musicals. And I’ve already written here about TV’s FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, one of my favorite shows.

Ah yes, I am an enigma wrapped in a riddle. If an occasionally bloviating one.

Here’s a terrific early COMPLEX 90 review from Ron Fortier, an excellent writer his own self.

And here’s a terrific review of my new collection (as complete as possible) of the MIKE HAMMER comic strip.

My friend (and great excellent crime writer) Ed Gorman was kind enough to post this generous review of SPREE, the final Nolan (to date, anyway).

Just in time for the publication of the third Jack and Maggie Starr (SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT), here’s a nice review of the first one, A KILLING IN COMICS.

Speaking of which, here’s a fun review of SEDUCTION from a gaming site.

And to celebrate finishing THE WRONG QUARRY in 2013, here’s a good review of the 1976 Quarry novel, QUARRY’S LIST.


Downton Abbey Bowl

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

You want to know how secure in my masculinity I am? While other supposedly redblooded American males were watching the Super Bowl Sunday evening, I was watching the last two episodes of the third season of DOWNTON ABBEY on Blu-ray.

DOWNTON ABBEY is much better this year than last, but I am not here to praise that very popular series (actually, not near the top of my UK list but a fun show), but to brag about never having seen a Super Bowl game. I never have enjoyed watching sports, with the exception of boxing, and my interest in that has waned. I can abide basketball, particularly in person with good seats. Baseball to me is Chinese water torture with hot dogs.

I played football in high school. I viewed it as an opportunity for a bookworm with glasses to hide behind a protective helmet and dish out punishment on bigger, dumber kids. I was pretty good at it, and had scholarship offers. I was smart enough not to take them, because I would have been decimated by actual football players.

My point is, I don’t have to watch football. I played it. And I don’t find overblown half-time shows and commercials directed by modern day Caligulas any more entertaining than watching steroid-happy hired goons give each other brain damage. Nor do I relish the thought of guacamole-engorged cholesterol-ridden middle-aged men pursuing their homo-erotic fantasies by watching younger men collide at high speed.

But that’s just me.

I actually understand the bonding men and for that matter women (though most are pretending) share in their enthusiasm for college and professional sports. I have marginally more tolerance for college sports, though the fact that when I was at the University of Iowa there were maybe two guys actually from Iowa (way down on the bench) slightly undercuts whatever rooting interest I might have.

The best I’ve seen this bonding portrayed, in a funny, slightly dark but almost heart-warming manner, is the film SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. I almost envied the father/son bonding and the joy the friends with a similar enthusiasm shared. That’s a really good movie, by the way. I avoided it because I get enough mental illness at home, but it’s a unique and entertaining romantic comedy.

For my readers who are into sports, please know that the above rant was satire. I don’t really believe any of it. I think you guys are absolutely not out of your minds. Really. Honest. So forgive me, would you?

And pass the guacamole?


Those who haven’t bailed may be interested in a video interview (an audio version is available) posted here. It’s about SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, among other things. Caveat: I couldn’t figure out how to play the video, though I did figure out the audio. Non-Luddites will do better.

Another interview appears here at Comic Book Resources. A decent one, I think.

Here’s a review of TWO FOR THE MONEY, the Hard Case Crime combo of BAIT MONEY and BLOOD MONEY. Insightful and, when critical, fair. I continue to find it weird seeing forty year-old stuff of mine reviewed currently.

Jeff Pierce at his cool Killer Covers site did a nice write-up on the excellent new Disaster Series covers from Thomas & Mercer.

You might enjoy this lively discussion of Bob Goldsborough’s Nero Wolfe novels – I pitch in, as a fan of Bob’s.

The second collection of DREADTIME STORIES on Audio is reviewed here. I only have one radio play, “Mercy,” but it’s my favorite of the series.

What I believe is the first COMPLEX 90 review appears here. Pretty good, but it mistakes Titan for Hard Case Crime.

Finally, I will confirm here that I am indeed writing a new Quarry novel, THE WRONG QUARRY. That should help to explain my anti-Super Bowl rant above, but understand I am currently in full Quarry mode. I hope to be able to report exciting news about a potential Quarry TV series for cable. Stay tuned. In the meantime, I have to take a call from Bill Maher, who says this week I have gone too far.


Pop Culture Clash

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Starting about ten years after I graduated from college, I began having an experience that has repeated itself many times since: I would read some entertainment publication, perhaps Rolling Stone or Entertainment Weekly, and feel hopelessly out of touch with the popular culture around me. Since I make my living in pop culture, and have been a fan of pop culture since early childhood, this is distressing. I have prided myself, over the years, for being more connected to what was going on in entertainment than the average person of my advanced age (whatever that advanced age happened to be at the time…in this country, all ages past 35 are advanced).

That happened again to me over the weekend, as I sat down to read Entertainment Weekly’s 2013 preview issue. And my recurring problem – shared possibly by other purveyors of popular culture who aren’t in their twenties or early thirties – reasserted itself with a vengeance. I understand that the popular culture is fragmented. We don’t have, and haven’t had for some time, the kind of shared experience we once had – Elvis and the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, or the premiere episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, or opening week of Thunderball.

There are, obviously, some pop culture experiences of today that rival the shared experiences of the Twentieth Century. The Super Bowl and American Idol, for instance, neither of which I’ve ever seen, but have an awareness of because of their all-pervasiveness. Michael Jackson and Madonna were last gasps of the shared pop culture experience (and even they were not on an Elvis/Beatles level), as they were part of the MTV era that flowed out of the greater cable TV explosion that so fragmented our entertainment experience. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, just an undeniable thing. I don’t believe Lady GaGa has a pop cultural resonance on a level with Madonna, just as Madonna doesn’t have a pop cultural resonance on a level with the Beatles. (On the other hand, the Beatles were on a level with Elvis, just as Elvis was with Sinatra before him.)

But for a writer, even one who often deals with historical subjects, to lose touch with the pop culture is death. And at 64, I’ve reached that age the Beatles once sang about in relation to a distant old age, so I know death is also an undeniable thing. Yet somehow it chills to me read an issue of Entertainment Weekly and see so much I know little or nothing about.

What follows are rhetorical questions, and you may post answers if you like, but understand that’s not the nature of these questions.

Who the hell are Niall Horan and One Direction? Must I watch a show called GIRLS on HBO and endure “superawkward sexual encounters”? Why would anyone want a Blu-ray boxed set of the Jackson Five cartoon show? (Not understanding nostalgia may represent a hardening of the arteries in someone as drenched in nostalgia as I am.) Who the hell are Nick Kroll, Hunter Hayues, A$AP Rocky, Conor Maynard, and M83? Who are Campo, Chainz featuring Dolla Boy, and Arcade Fire (the last falls into a category that I would designate as Actually I Have Heard of Them But Have Never Knowingly Heard Their Music). Why are there so many TV stars I am unfamiliar with (Chris Coffer, Monica Potter, Season Kent, Manish Raval, Thomas Golubic)?

The reason I am posing these questions rhetorically is that if they were actual questions, the obvious answer to all of them is: I’m out of touch. But fragmentation is a mitigating factor, as is bad pop culture that a reasonable human shouldn’t be expected to endure. You make decisions, as you trudge through life, about certain things you aren’t going to put up with. For me, Rap/Hip Hop falls into that category, as does country western music. Both pander to our worst instincts, though I am aware that intelligent defenses can be made of various artists and specific works within those fields. Country western music gave us Patsy Cline, so it can’t be all bad. Rap is a travesty, and I refuse to call it “music” since at his core is a lack of melody. I know doggerel when I hear it – I am an English major, after all.

Not that there isn’t plenty in this issue of Entertainment Weekly that I’m familiar with – probably a good share of which would be unfamiliar to a lot of people my age. But this is that moment, which has repeated so many times in my life, where I feel the popular culture is rolling over me, flattening me like a steamroller in an old cartoon.

* * *

This weekend we saw two films, one of which (ZERO DARK THIRTY) will likely be among my favorites this year, and another (GANGSTER SQUAD) which will likely be among my least favorites. Despite the political squabbling (by parties with varying agendas) in the media over the use of torture, ZERO DARK THIRTY is a gritty, involving docu-drama reminiscent at times of the great BBC series SPOOKS (aka MI-5). The real-time Bin Laden raid is stellar filmmaking. By the way, if you lit a match under my foot, I would gladly give you the atomic bomb secrets. So maybe with some weak-willed persons, torture does work.

GANGSTER SQUAD is a handsomely mounted but incredibly dumb supposed look at Mickey Cohen’s reign as a mob boss in post-war LA. I have never seen a more inaccurate “true crime” film, which is essentially a sloppy, riciulously violent re-do of THE UNTOUCHABLES, with Sean Penn’s smirky, sneering one-note performance managing to be even less true to Mickey Cohen’s character than the moronic screenplay. I hate movies like this, because not only do they suck, but they usually flop and make it tough for good period crime movies (say, based on a Nate Heller novel) to happen. Though over the top and obvious, the art direction makes sumptuous eye candy, and Josh Brolin is very good as a Mike Hammer-ish cop. He would make an excellent Hammer. On the other hand, sleepy-eyed, whiny Ryan Gosling remains the opposite of charismatic, a walking void who sucks the life out of any scene he enters.

* * *

I spent the week doing my draft of a 12,000-word novella called “Antiques Slay Ride,” a Christmas-themed e-book being done as a promotion for the Trash ‘n’ Treasures series. It will appear, not surprisingly, toward the end of this year.

Congrats to Dan John Miller, who was selected as one of AudioFile Magazine’s “Voices of the Year” for his performance of FLYING BLIND. If you’re a Heller fan who listens to audios, I highly recommend Dan’s readings of all of the novels (yes, he’s done them all, and the short story collections, too). He really is Nate Heller.

Some nice Net reviews have rolled in of late, including this one on CHICAGO LIGHTNING.

And here’s a swell TARGET LANCER review.

Short but sweet, this review of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT comes from the UK’s Crimetime site.

Speaking of the soon-to-be-published SEDUCTION, here’s some Goodreads reviews of the novel.

Here’s a review of the previous Jack and Maggie Starr mystery, STRIP FOR MURDER, with a fun discussion of Fearless Fosdick.

Finally, check out this perceptive review of BYE BYE, BABY, and you may want to read my comment posted below it.


Road to Heller

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

This is a brief update, as Barb and I are on the road with the TARGET LANCER book tour. We have already done Iowa City (Prairie Lights), Scottsdale AZ (Poisoned Pen), and Houston (Murder by the Book), and will have done Left Bank Books in St. Louis by the time you read this. Check the above listing of a few other appearances.

M.A.C. discusses TARGET LANCER at Left Bank Books, Central West End, St. Louis

Great reviews for TARGET LANCER continue to appear, like this very smart one of Scene of the Crime.

Mystery People continues to give us great TARGET LANCER coverage at their web site and now with a You Tube video.

And the very first SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT review has popped up by terrific writer Ron Fortier. The book comes out next February, which suddenly isn’t so far away.

Quick recommendation: HITCHCOCK with Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, playing art houses mostly (at the moment anyway).

More next week.