Posts Tagged ‘Killing Quarry’

Confessions of a Laserdisc Fiend Pt. 3

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

I know what you’ve been waiting for.

An update on my laserdisc adventure!

Here it is, anyway. The laserdisc player I ordered was a dud. I did receive a refund for it, but that meant trying again, which I did with trepidation. But the new (I should say “new”) player arrived and works great. I am amazed by how good the discs look and think their analogue nature may explain that. They sound wonderful.

Laserdisc collecting was an obsession I truly enjoyed pursuing throughout the 1990s. While I’ve continued on with DVDs and Blu-rays, the thrill of those 12″ silver discs has never been equaled. It’s very similar to the difference between collecting CDs and 12″ vinyl albums. Now, I have not gotten back on board with collecting vinyl – I prefer CDs, having grown up frustrated by pops and clicks and scratches.

But those big album covers, often folding out, and with extensive liner notes and pictures…what a trip that was! How I loved record albums as a kid, and even into adulthood. I still have all my Bobby Darin LPs (in both stereo and mono) (and a second set of sealed copies) (what a shock) and Kim Wilde and Blondie and…quite a few others, still. Bobby Rydell. Selected soundtracks and Broadway musical albums.

Laserdisc collecting, a hobby I have now renewed (after selling hundreds of them cheap over the last ten years), provides a similar buzz with their LP-like covers. But Blu-rays, and most DVDs, blow the lasers out of the water. Only two reasons (three, counting insanity) justify this nostalgic trip.

First, a good number of discs are of material that has not reached DVD (and may never). Oddball movies – B material and below, TV movies and so on – are what a collector like me is after, with ‘80s schlock often in video limbo. That kind of thing and – in particular – music. The discs I had held on to, when dumping anything I’d upgraded to DVD or Blu-ray, are about one third music – concerts and early video collections (“Eat to the Beat!”), everything from Sinatra to the Beatles, with lots of ‘60s and New Wave in the mix. Japan, where laserdisc was big (and even still is, to a degree) issued a lot of American musical material. Scads of British Invasion acts are represented, including the Animals, Them and the Yardbirds; and with New Wave there’s Kate Bush and Bangles and Kim Wilde and Blondie and Elvis Costello and the Cardigans and a bunch more.

(Porn and R-rated Playboy smut might be of interest to some. I, of course, am more refined, as readers of Quarry’s Climax are aware.)

Some of the stuff I’ve been picking up on e-bay, but I already owned a good deal of it, languishing for wont of a hooked-up laserdisc player and a vintage tube TV. (For those who came in late, laserdiscs look awful on flat-screen TVs.)

My son Nathan, home for the July 4th holiday with his bride Abby and kids Sam and Lucy, has enough hipster in him to be mildly impressed by my retro shenanigans. He has helped me select a better stand for my 21″ inch TV with laserdisc player beneath (hasn’t arrived yet – and I will have to talk Barb into assembling it for me) (I am not a man’s man, even if I do write Mike Hammer).

And so, for now, my laserdisc adventure concludes, and yet it continues. Seems so right somehow.

* * *

Even as I spend my late evenings watching laserdiscs featuring acts like the Dave Clark Five, Ike and Tina Turner (what a happy couple!), Dusty Springfield, the Hollies and the Kinks, my own rock ‘n’ roll adventure continues to wind down.

On the 4th of July, Crusin’ played at the Missippi Brew in their beer garden to a nice, and appreciative, crowd. (My buddy Stu Rosebrook, editor of True West magazine, dropped by with his family for the fireworks.) The weather was much better than our recent gig at the Muscatine Art Center, but it was indeed hot and we played around three-and-a-half hours…a long, long time at my age.

The following day I was so wiped out I feared I was back in a-fib. I hadn’t felt so lousy since I was recovering from my hospital stay, and I was worried, as was Barb. But in a day or so, I was back to normal (so to speak), so it becomes ever more clear that my rocking days are winding down. We have three gigs left, I believe, this season. I still intend to make one more original material CD and then do a farewell appearance next summer.

* * *

No politics, but as a true patriot I cannot help but recall the words of Paul Revere via Longfellow: “One if by land, two if by sea, three if by air!”

* * *

Here’s the first (great) Killing Quarry review from longtime Quarry booster, Ron Fortier.

This review of Murder, My Love is pretty good, too.

Finally, out of the blue, came this review of the Ms. Tree prose novel, Deadly Beloved.

M.A.C.

Inspiration, Perspiration and Exasperation

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

USS Powderkeg will be available on February 1. You are unlikely to find it in a bookstore, so go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble or BAM! iTunes has it, too – read about that here.

Info about the book itself is available at Brash Books.

We have used the cover before, but this book – finally under my preferred title with my revised text – is important to me and will require some effort on your part to lay hands on it. This is the novel based on my late father’s experiences in World War II as one of a handful of white officers on an ammunition ship whose crew was otherwise African-American.

After shrugging off our disappointment at Scarface and the Untouchable not getting nominated for an Edgar – my “shrugging off” included expressing how pissed off I was, on Facebook – my co-author, A. Brad Schwartz and I are digging in to make some corrections and additions to the upcoming trade paperback edition (June 4).

This will include a new preface as well as bonus material (in the style of DVD extras) that will focus on the newly discovered case file of one of the Untouchables, which serves to underscore and further verify our conclusions about Ness and how he and his team have been underestimated and short-changed by history.

We are also prepping for a visit to the Mob Museum in Las Vegas over Valentine’s Day, about which more will appear here next week. Brad has also been out on the stump by himself somewhat, as I have been burrowed in, here in very cold Iowa, working on novels. Yesterday day I completed the new Quarry novel, Killing Quarry – although I will be re-reading it and tweaking it and such for a few days this week.

Anyway, among Brad’s adventures in promoting our book (did I mention the criminal overlooking of this major tome by the MWA true crime committee?) included this fine interview.

Speaking of the MWA committee’s neglect, someone I trust has suggested the intimidating length of the book probably put some or all of the committee members off. I suspect some truth might be found in that opinion. Having served on MWA committees, I know it’s a fact of life that the committee members are swamped with books to read in full. On the other hand, the advance notices (particularly the fine mini-review from Grand Master Sara Paretsky) should have encouraged them to do so, anyway.

What can you do to help make the pain go away? Well, if you attend Bouchercon this year, you can vote for Scarface and the Untouchable in the non-fiction Anthony Awards category.

I know I plan to.

Hey, I realize this is undignified and sour grapes and boo-hoo-hoo. I have a love/hate relationship with awards, anyway (love to be nominated, hate not to be, and also losing). But awards as respected as the Edgars bring new readers to the nominated works and especially those that win. They have importance only in that regard, because otherwise it’s just a bunch of subjective nonsense.

I feel much the same way about reviews. I want good reviews not because I need validation, but because more readers will come to the books. I would be lying if I said bad reviews don’t matter to me, because they do, and not just in the sense that they discourage readers (sometimes, oddly enough, such reviews don’t always work that way). But it hurts to have something you’ve put hard work into savaged and/or dismissed, particularly when a smart reviewer nails you for something you’re guilty of.

What hurts about Scarface and the Untouchable is the work, and the years of research, that went into it. I am less angry about this for myself and more for my co-author, whose research (building on my original research in Heller and Ness novels) has upended conventional wisdom about Capone and his tax woes, and Ness and the lack of respect and credit he gets, from those who resent how Hollywood portrayed him. Brad did a stellar, mind-boggling job.

He deserved better.

* * *

As I mention, I finished Killing Quarry yesterday, and will dig into minor revisions throughout the rest of the week. I have a particularly full plate this year, which is why I have written three novels in four months – Murder, My Love with Mike Hammer; the Caleb York novel, now entitled Hot Lead, Cold Justice (my original title, The Big Die-Off, deemed too obscure); and now Killing Quarry. Very shortly I will begin serious work on Girl Can’t Help It, the prequel to the forthcoming Girl Most Likely, a task for which I’ve allowed several months. This will be followed by my draft of Antiques Fire Sale (Barb’s working on her draft now), which I have allowed another month for.

This is, of course, insane. Why do I work so hard? Why is somebody who has five doctor’s appointments with specialists this month behaving like this? Should I slow down? Barb thinks I should.

But I like doing this. I really do. And – while I feel fine and all my reports so far (the dentist today) have been positive – when you are 70 and in a month or so will be 71, you sense that maybe you don’t have all the time left in the world to tell your stories.

And I came here to tell stories.

All of which is prelude to what I want to discuss today. Would you agree that everybody has bad days? Various kinds of bad days, of course – from the simple out-of-sorts day to the depressed-about-bad-news day (not getting an Edgar nomination for a ground-breaking book, to just pull an example out of the air) to the nothing-is-going-right day to…you get the idea.

Now I’m not talking about a sick day (in my business, cold and flu generally don’t count – open-heart surgery does) or a day when tragedy has struck a loved one or friend. Nothing like that. Your favorite aunt dies? Take the day off with my blessing!

No, just that typical terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

When you are writing on a six-day-a-week schedule, with a deadline bearing down, you write anyway. Writer’s block is not allowed, and I never have it, anyway. Recently I thought I had finally encountered this mysterious, possibly mythical beast – I could not get a single workable thing on paper. I always start with a rough draft, knowing that I’m creating the clay for me to shape into sculpture. But this time, I couldn’t get anything on paper worth building on.

Why?

Well, turned out I was effing exhausted! Just flat-out fried. So I took a two-hour nap, as elderly folk are wont (and permitted) to do. When I got up from my snooze, the words flowed. Maybe not like wine, but definitely Coca Cola.

During the writing of Killing Quarry, I had perhaps three bad days – one of them Edgar-related, which of course I won’t go into. Ironically, one of that sorry trio was the last day of the process – the day on which the crucial last chapter was written.

Knowing I was facing a key part of my story, I considered taking the day off – it was Sunday, after all – and just letting my batteries recharge. But I hadn’t run this race to goof off just shy of the finish line. Plus, all of the plot stuff was filling my brain and assembled into good order – I knew exactly what needed doing.

So I did it.

It was something of a slog. I usually do three drafts of every chapter, then give it to Barb, who gives me notes, and I make minor corrections and revisions (sometimes they’re major – Barb has great story sense), and I’m done till the final read-through. Yesterday I did three drafts, took an hour nap, then came back and did another draft. Barb did her read-through and I made a few revisions and corrections from her notes. If you’re keeping score, that’s an additional draft or pass on the chapter.

Now, here is the lede I’m burying (why is it spelled “lede” not “lead”?) (and why don’t I just Google that and not bother you about it?): how does inspiration figure into a working fiction writer’s process?

I would imagine all of us have bursts of inspiration, sometimes entire work session-long ones. Maybe some writers feel inspired for days or even weeks – trust me, they don’t feel like that all the way through a project. Everybody has bad days, remember?

There are two kinds of writers – the ones who can only write on their inspired days, and who navel-gaze on their (many) off days; and the writers who are thankful for the inspired days that God or luck or somebody or some thing grants them, and who on their bad days soldier on. March through the mud to victory, or at least the end of the work day.

Now here is the real dirty little secret about inspiration – the inspired work and the struggle-to-get-through-it work are always of the same quality. When you go back and read through your story or novel, and recall the passages that came easily as if by automatic writing, those passages won’t be any better or worse than the stuff that came hard.

Or anyway those passages shouldn’t be.

Inspiration is just the days the work is going well. If you are any good at all as a writer, you will develop standards that you will not allow yourself to fall below, before you press on. You stay at it till the work you had to work hard at reads just as well as the work that came easy.

* * *

This story about Black Panther’s Oscar nominations mentions a certain other comics-derived film that once-upon-a-time received five nominations (hint: Road to Perdition).

A cry goes out to reprint the Marshall Rogers Batman comic strip. Who was it wrote that again? (Hint: me.)

Finally, Scarface and the Untouchable made Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop best of the year list, as chosen by the staff – see “Mike’s Picks” on page three.

M.A.C.

Pop the Clutch!

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

Hardcover:
Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon Nook Kobo

For those of you who might wonder whatever happened to the Max Allan Collins/Matthew Clemens writing team, this answer is…here’s a new story by us in a great new anthology with a killer line-up of writers.

It’s a visual feast of a book, as the cover itself tells you. But every story has a great illustration, and that includes ours – Steve Chanks did a great job, and I’ve shared it here with you.

Here’s the press release:

Welcome to the cool side of the 1950s, where the fast cars and revved-up movie monsters peel out in the night. Where outlaw vixens and jukebox tramps square off with razorblades and lead pipes. Where rockers rock, cool cats strut, and hot rods roar. Where you howl to the moon as the tiki drums pound and the electric guitar shrieks and that spit-and-holler jamboree ain’t gonna stop for a long, long time . . . maybe never.

This is the ’50s where ghost shows still travel the back roads of the south, and rockabilly has a hold on the nation’s youth; where lucky hearts tell the tale, and maybe that fella in the Shriners’ fez ain’t so square after all. Where exist noir detectives of the supernatural, tattoo artists of another kind, Hollywood fix-it men, and a punk kid with grasshopper arms under his chain-studded jacket and an icy stare on his face.

This is the ’50s of Pop the Clutch: Thrilling Tales of Rockabilly, Monsters, and Hot Rod Horror. This is your ticket to the dark side of American kitsch . . . the fun and frightful side!

Table of Contents includes:

“The Golden Girls of Fall” by Seanan McGuire
“Sea Lords of the Columbia” by Weston Ochse
“Tremble” by Kasey Lansdale and Joe R. Lansdale
“The Demon of the Track” by Gary Phillips
“Outlawed Ink” by Jason Starr
“We Might Be Giants” by Nancy Holder
“Universal Monster” by Duane Swierczynski
“Draggers” by David J. Schow
“The Starlite Drive-In” by John M. Floyd
“Dr. Morbismo’s InsaniTERRORium Horror Show” by Lisa Morton
“Hot Babe” by Bill Pronzini
“The Prom Tree” by Yvonne Navarro
“I’m with the Band” by Steve Perry
“Mystery Train: An Arcane Investigation” by Max Allan Collins and Matthew V. Clemens
“Lab Experiment Turf War” by Jeff Strand
“The She-Creature” by Amelia Beamer
“Fish out of Water” by Will Viharo
“I Was a Teenage Shroom Fiend” by Brian Hodge

* * *

This is one of my shorter updates, because I am working on the new Quarry novel, Killing Quarry, and doing my best to get it done before the upcoming Mob Museum appearance in Vegas by Brad Schwartz and myself, having to do with celebrating a certain day in February (think about it). More, much more, about that very soon.

For now I’d just like to reflect on how interesting it is to me when I see which topics I explore cause a lot reaction and comments, while others – including ones I thought would spark controversy or at least talk – get no reactions at all. At least not in writing.

The two updates that really caught your attention lately were, first, the discussion of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and second, my twelve favorite film directors. I get a real kick out of how my choices of the latter frustrated and irked some of you. As I said in my comments last week, there’s a big difference between a “favorites” list and a “best” list.

I would be remiss not to include, say, Kurosawa and Kubrick (to name a couple K’s) on a best directors list. But I have every right to prefer watching Don Siegel or Joseph H. Lewis movies over theirs. Favorite is personal taste – one would hope somewhat informed taste, but personal. My favorite color is green.

Wanna fight?

* * *

Getting back to Pop the Clutch, here’s a nice review of it.

And here, in addition to Amazon, is where you can order it.

M.A.C.