Posts Tagged ‘JFK’

Bloody House

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
IMPA 2013

In Des Moines over the weekend, Barb and I attended the 22nd annual Iowa Motion Picture Association awards banquet. My screenplay “House of Blood” was nominated for Best Screenplay (Unproduced), and won the Award of Excellence.

The IMPA is an organization I was extremely active in from the mid-90s until maybe five years ago. I am a three-time president, and Barb and I ran the award shows (with me hosting and Barb giving out the awards) for maybe half a dozen years. I was on the IMPA board for ten or twelve years, and this required a monthly drive (about a three-hour one) into Des Moines, which finally wore us down. But I made a lot of friends there, some of whom I got to see at the Saturday night event – we had the fun of sharing a table with screenwriter Shirley Long, the “godmother” of the IMPA, and documentarian Kent Newman, also a multiple past prez of the organization. The evening of course brought to mind my late friend and prized collaborator, Mike Cornelison, who won numerous IMPA awards himself. A number of people spoke to me about Mike. Being on his home turf brings the loss sharply into focus.

The organization has hit some rough patches in recent years, reflecting the film industry in Iowa getting tarnished when an ambitious tax-credit program went belly up in a haze of scandal and buck-passing. I don’t know what really went on, but I do know this multi-million dollar program was run by one man in an OFFICE SPACE-style cubicle at the Department of Economic Development. This was a huge government bungle, and is responsible for me having to seek doing my indie film work in Illiniois and Louisiana (and California, of course). There is talk, among some legislators, of the industry making a comeback in this area, and a new Film Office chair person will be named soon. I am guardedly hopeful.

The “House of Blood” screenplay that won was the feature film version. It now looks like I will be converting the script into a one-hour TV anthology format, bringing it back closer to its original form as a 45-minute Fangoria’s Dreadtime Stories radio play. Serious talk is afoot for both a series, which I’d be heavily involved in, and a slate of four movies, which I have been told would include two M.A.C. properties, possibly with me directing. I’ll keep you informed.

The keynote speakers – very informal and funny – were Darryl and Darryl from Newhart – Tony Papenfuss and John Voldstad. I spoke to John and he was a very sweet guy, and a fan of ROAD TO PERDITION. He was one of the many great comic actors in one of our family’s favorites, STRIPES.

On the way to and from Des Moines, Barb and I listened to the Brilliance audio of THE LONDON BLITZ MURDERS. That novel, which I was quite proud of at the time, received little attention when originally published, and has received some harsh reviews at Amazon and particularly Amazon UK. So I was a little gun shy about listening to it. But I was pleasantly surprised – I think I did just fine, writing a true-crime story set in the UK with Agatha Christie as the detective, even if some of the Brits at Amazon UK think I was about as convincing as Dick Van Dyke in MARY POPPINS. My credibility takes a huge jump thanks to the reader, British actress Anne Flosnik, who does an incredible job. To my ears, she really brought Agatha and the book to life. After hearing her (and Simon Vance on THE HINDENBURG MURDERS), I would be tempted to have all of my books read by actors with English accents. On the other hand, I can’t imagine a better Nate Heller than Dan John Miller. (Unfortunately, Brilliance won’t be doing the forthcoming ASK NOT – another company will be, TBA – but I will certainly recommend Dan.)

If you are a longtime reader of my work, I think you might have a really good time revisiting my novels in audio form. Brilliance has done a fantastic job with the Hellers, the “disaster” novels, the Mallorys (Dan John Miller again), and assorted others (REGENERATION, BOMBSHELL, MIDNIGHT HAUL).

Speaking of Amazon reviews, let me remind readers that a great way to support the writers you enjoy is to write and post a review at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and other sites. A two- or three-line positive review at Amazon, and nice high star rating, takes little time and is most helpful to authors. There are some dumb readers out there, and nasty ones, who do authors damage, and you can help. I speak not just for myself, but for any author whose work you enjoy. Those star ratings are important, because they are averaged. And so often the bad ratings are not for the book, but for perceived bad service, or in my case now and then, a reader angry that ROAD TO PERDITION or CSI: SERIAL turned out to a “comic book.”

End of telethon, although your continued contributions would be appreciated.

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Here’s a nice SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT review from Blogcritics, which got lots of play on the Net.

And another one from BookSteve’s Library. The reviewer has some problems with the front end of the novel, because he’s so familiar with the history already, but gets on board when the mystery kicks in. It’s been interesting to see how many readers really love the front end of the book, with its fairly detailed account of the comic-book witch hunt, and how many others prefer the mystery portion that kicks in half-way. This reviewer falls into a small but distinct category of readers who are a little bored by encountering history they’re already familiar with.

Here’s a very nice and flattering review of the new edition of NO CURE FOR DEATH, from a Kindle site. This was my second novel (well, third if you count MOURN THE LIVING) and it’s a relief to see a reviewer liking it at this late date.

Finally, here’s a terrific review of ANTIQUES CHOP from Bill Crider (himself a helluva writer).

M.A.C.

A Buck-Twenty-Five A Movie

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

If any of you are interested, THE BLACK BOX, the boxed set DVD collection of my indie movies – MOMMY, MOMMY’S DAY, REAL TIME: SIEGE AT LUCAS STREET MARKET and SHADES OF NOIR (which includes the original, longer cut of MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE as well as the Brian Keith “Mike Hammer” pilot from 1954) – is on sale at Oldies.com for $4.98. That’s a savings of $30.

I want to thank all of you who sent supportive comments (sometimes as private e-mails) after my post last week, complaining about various aspects of the writer’s life, now that I am officially old enough to be a complaining coot. I am considering putting a rocking chair on the porch and writing further updates there on a laptop.

For the record, it took four work days to put ASK NOT back together (also for the record, my editor at Forge was completely on my side and reinstated everything I requested). To give you an idea of how extreme the ASK NOT copy edit was, I also dealt this week with the copy-edited manuscript of the upcoming thriller WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU from Thomas & Mercer. It took one work day.

Dead Man Down

We saw an interesting crime movie that I am going to recommend, though it is not perfect: DEAD MAN DOWN. It’s directed by Niels Arden Oplev, of the original GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and stars the “girl” herself, the indelible Noomi Rapace, probably my favorite actress working today. I used to not care for Colin Ferrell, but as his star has faded somewhat, his acting has improved immeasurably – he’s terrific here in a subtle, understated performance as a guy who is anything but subtle and understated. It’s a revenge film, with a great premise, but I sometimes felt the foreign director didn’t entirely understand the English language script – it’s a little too long, and some things don’t quite track. But the central romance between two damaged souls and the outlandish shoot-‘em-up finale are well worth the time of anybody interested in crime movies. It has one of the great screen Mike Hammers, Armand Assante, in a small but pivotal role.

SOTI

The reviews for SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT continue to roll in, in a very positive way. Let’s start with something I rarely do – customer reviews at Amazon, which includes one from Bookreporter. By the way, if you want to help out your favorite authors (including, I hope, me), a great, easy way is to post a brief four- or five-star review at Amazon, assuming you like what you’ve read. Those reviews really, really count.

Here’s a cool one from the International House of Geek (the fantastic blog names just keep coming).

And here’s a great one from Mystery People.

A somewhat horror-tinged positive review appears here, at The October Country (R.I.P., Ray Bradbury).

Here’s a patronizing but ultimately positive review from the UK’s Telegraph.

Here’s Comic Buzz on SEDUCTION. I’m very pleased that so many comics blogs have picked up on the book.

And what author doesn’t love getting an A+, as happens here at Fandom Post.

Publisher’s Weekly is getting cranky in its old age, but this review of the upcoming ANTIQUES CHOP is pretty good.

PW also isn’t much impressed with the upcoming Mike Hammer, COMPLEX 90, considering it more of the same. First of all, if somebody gives you a hot-fudge sundae when you order one, do you complain that it’s more of the same? Second of all, this is the book where Mike Hammer goes to Russia. Not more of the same – one of the most distinctive books in the series, in my opinion, one of Mickey’s most unusual, even unique plots.

Scroll down for a tardy but fantastic review of THE CONSUMMATA.

And finally Pop Cults weighs in with a late but lovely LADY, GO DIE! review.

M.A.C.

Tom Arnold, Paul Williams and More

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

To celebrate finishing THE WRONG QUARRY, I took Barb to Cedar Rapids to Penguin’s Comedy Club to see Tom Arnold. Yes, I am a romantic devil. Actually, my friend Dwayne Clark – a very funny, smart comedian from Des Moines – was the opening act, and he got us tickets for the event.


M.A.C. with Dwayne Clark

I’ve always liked Arnold, consider him an amusing quirky presence who has enlivened any number of movies, including the recent HIT AND RUN, which I’ve extolled here several times. (I will watch anything with Kristen Bell in it, even the fairly awful HOUSE OF LIES on Showtime.) Dwayne as the opening act was his usual funny, wry self, the perfect laidback warm-up for the energetic Arnold, who was something of a revelation.

He was absolutely great. Tom is an Iowa boy and he relates to an Iowa audience in a special way. He is extremely fast, frank and funny as hell. Both Barb and I were mightily impressed. Beyond just his autobiographical humor and his nimble ease interacting with the audience, he proved to be a genuinely nice guy. Between packed shows, he made himself available to anyone who wanted a picture or to have anything signed. The only merch he brought to hawk was t-shirts helping to support his camp for kids with cancer. Great guy.


M.A.C. with Tom Arnold

As those of you who may recall how high PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE ranks on my favorite movie list, you may not be surprised to learn that I am a Paul Williams fan. While he was very funny on talk shows in the ‘70s, he will be remembered as one of the great songwriters of the late Twentieth Century. Sometimes he’s written with collaborators, other times alone (as on PHANTOM), but few tunesmiths tap into love and loneliness better, certainly not of his generation. So I was looking forward to the documentary, PAUL WILLIAMS – STILL ALIVE, and while it’s a challenging, even confrontational work, I was not disappointed.

Filmmaker Stephen Kessler (VEGAS VACATION) essentially makes a documentary about making a documentary, often making himself look bad in the process. This is intentional, as it charts the perils of the doc maker who goes into a project with preconceived notions and then tries to impose them on the film – having done two documentaries myself, I can report that you shoot first and determine the point you wish to make in the editing process. It’s an at times uncomfortable viewing experience, particularly early on, as you feel (and share) Williams’ discomfort and even irritation with Kessler. But it’s worth the trip, and you come away with a good picture of (and good feeling about) the subject. I will be surprised if Terry Beatty, my fellow PHANTOM freak (we saw the film together maybe ten times in theaters way back when), doesn’t find this film fascinating. It’s available on DVD – I spotted it at a Best Buy in their paltry documentary section.

Today I embark on dealing with the copy-edited manuscript of THE WRONG QUARRY – editor Charles Ardai is very fast, which is great, but it does rob me of the usual distance I have when dealing with edits on a work finished months before (as opposed to days). I hate being edited. I despise the copy-editing process. I realize every book needs some editing, but I do not like having an unrequested collaborator on my work. Charles is a very aggressive editor who likes to be part of the process – he has said in print that he wants to be involved with every sentence in a novel he publishes. So our editing sessions are always…interesting. But he is smart, so I can’t just ignore him (I did a fairly elaborate rewrite on SEDUCTION, at his bidding, which is beyond rare for me). Barb knows I will be dealing with copy edits today and has already said she will be steering me a wide path.

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Steve Steinbock, who has the not enviable job of following the great Jon L. Breen as the book reviewer for ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE, has been doing a great job. And I say that at least in part because he seems to like my books. In the current issue, March/April, he praises both LADY, GO DIE! (“Collins has the ear – and the chops – to bring Spillane’s hero to life”) and TARGET LANCER, which he rates as a four-star read. Here’s his conclusion: “While being so unapologetically hardboiled you can crack a tooth on it, TARGET LANCER is also an intricately plotted thriller and a unique epic historical adventure.”

Here’s another fine TARGET LANCER review, this one from the Historical Novel Society.

And the SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT reviews keep streaming on in, like this fine one from the UK site Crime Fiction Lover.

And Geek Girl loves her some SEDUCTION, too.

Plus these nice words from Porno Kitsch.

Keep an eye on the web over these next few weeks (I will do my best to help out). I am about to undertake a “blog tour,” which means I will be doing a dozen or more interviews and articles about SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT. The interviews seem to come from younger readers. Here’s a typical question: “Who the hell are you?”

M.A.C.

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.

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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.

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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.

M.A.C.