Posts Tagged ‘King of the Weeds’

Fiddling With Nero

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

[UPDATE: The Davenport, Iowa Books-a-Million signing has been postponed to August 9, 1 – 3 pm.]

First things first: Barb, Matt Clemens and I are doing a rare triple signing this coming Saturday (July 5) at the Books-a-Million at 4000 E 53rd Street in Davenport, Iowa. From 1 pm to 3. We’ll be signing, among other things, SUPREME JUSTICE, KING OF THE WEEDS and ANTIQUES CON.

Speaking of SUPREME JUSTICE, it goes officially on sale today after its month-long promotion on Amazon Prime for Kindle Readers. For the first time, real books (you know, with paper and everything) are available of this title. By the time you read this, we should be zeroing in on 800 reviews. I have never had anything reviewed so many times before, and I may comment at a later date about some interesting trends among the Amazon reader-reviewers.

The other big news is that – surprising the hell out of me – ASK NOT has been nominated for the Nero Award. Check out the full list of nominees here.

I am thrilled to pieces for a lot of reasons. First, I felt ASK NOT deserved award recognition and both the Edgars and the Shamuses ignored the final book in the JFK Trilogy. Second, this is one of two awards I really, really want to win (I still crave an Edgar, because…well, because I deserve one after forty-plus years of this).

My reasons for wanting a Nero are unique to that award. The major reason, obviously, is that it represents Rex Stout and his great detectives, Nero and Archie, and Stout is on my very short list of favorite mystery writers. (Frankly, I figured the Stout-like SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT might snag a Nero nod, and that ASK NOT would likely get Shamus-nominated. They switched it up on me.)

I think there’s a good deal of Archie Goodwin in Nate Heller – who is kind of a mix of Marlowe, Hammer, Spade and the aforementioned – but never expected to have a Heller nominated. Why? Thanks for asking. I’ll tell you, and I’ll tell you also not only why I won’t win, but why it’s a small miracle that I was nominated.

The nominees are supposed to be “in the tradition of the Nero Wolfe series.” Here, prominent among the guidelines, is this: Contains no overt sex or violence. Goddamnit, stop laughing!

Anyone who has ever read a Nate Heller novel knows why I never expected a Heller to be nominated for a much-coveted (by me) Nero. Anyone who has read ASK NOT knows that there’s plenty of overt sex and no small amount of violence. We had a Barbara Allan ANTIQUES nominated a few years back, and I thought that was my only shot.

I’ve always resented that guideline, by the way, because there’s plenty of sex and violence in Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories. Or does the Wolfe Pack think Archie and Lily Rowan spend their overnights playing Parcheesi? As for violence, have they ever read THE GOLDEN SPIDERS or THE BLACK MOUNTAIN? Or any number of others? Pfui.

But maybe two or three explicit scenes with Nate Heller boffing a stripper doesn’t qualify as overt sex any more. Times have changed, after all. Maybe smoking cigarettes waiting for a guy you’re asphyxiating isn’t considered all that violent, these days. Hope so.

Still, I would love to win that thing, for a very sincere if shallow reason – it’s the most beautiful award out there. A bust of Nero Wolfe!

And that’s no flummery.

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Reviews for SUPREME JUSTICE are beginning to sprout like mushrooms (which is better than mushrooming like sprouts) on the Net. Like this nice one. [Note from Nate: With a giveaway contest!]

Some reviews are less than SUPREME but still appreciated and not negative…

…and this one falls into that category, too.

Finally, here’s a short but sweet (if anything about this novel could be said to be sweet) review of THE WRONG QUARRY.


A “New” Writer Reflects

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

As I write this, SUPREME JUSTICE has hit 548 reviews and maintains a four-star average. This is a testament to Amazon’s marketing ability, and has taught this old dog some new things, if not tricks.

I continue to be surprised by the confidence of readers who are quite sure that I’m imitating writers who I’ve never read. Any number have scolded me for trying to do Jack Reacher, and are particularly annoyed that my character Reeder’s name is so similar.

Those of you who have followed these updates for a while know that I am notoriously unfamiliar with the work of other suspense/mystery writers of my time. I am strictly a Hammett/Chandler/Cain/Spillane guy. The last hardcover mystery I bought and read was the final 87th Precinct novel. My idea of a new mystery writer is Donald E. Westlake.

I did the original synopsis of SUPREME JUSTICE – and this pre-dates Matt Clemens’ involvement – seven years ago. I’d never heard of Jack Reacher, and frankly my first familiarity with the character was the Tom Cruise movie – I obviously go to a lot of those. Reeder’s name had nothing to do with Reacher. I’ve never read Tom Clancy either, though I’ve seen most of the Jack Ryan movies.

But Amazon reviewers are confident in this case, and many others, that I’m doing Lee Child or Clancy or Grisham or Sandford or any number of writers I’ve never read. By the way, I mean no insult to them or any writer. I have stated here numerous times that (a) my reading time is largely taken up by research, and (b) I am a natural mimic and avoid reading other suspense fiction for that reason.

There’s another reason, and it goes something like this…other people’s mystery novels fall into one of three categories: worse than me, about the same as me, better than me. Why would I want to read something worse than my stuff? Why should I bother reading something that I could write myself just as well? As for those better than me, well, screw them!

Yes, I’m kidding, sort of, and I do occasionally read contemporary crime fiction, as when I’m on an Edgar or Shamus committee, or when one of my writer friends has something out. Thankfully my writer friends are very good – people like Ed Gorman, Steve Mertz, Bob Goldsborough, Bill Crider, Bob Randisi, John Lutz, and half a dozen more.

And I know that a lot of writers continue to read voraciously in their own fields, so this is probably a weakness on my part. But I mention this chiefly to make the point that if I’m setting out to work in another writer’s wheelhouse, it’s more likely to be Mickey Spillane or Rex Stout than John Grisham or Lee Child.

But there’s something else odd – and frankly disturbing, and certainly humbling – that turns up in a good number of these Amazon reader reviews. A lot of these readers think I’m a “new” writer; a fair amount of ‘em go out of their way to say they’ve never heard of me.

I realize I’m not John Grisham or Lee Child, but while I have not read either of those very popular writers, I am aware of their existence. As someone who spends plenty of time wandering in bookstores, and studying the section where my work is shelved, I have a strong awareness (without reading them) of scores of writers in my genre. I read Mystery Scene, Crimespree, The Strand, Deadly Pleasures, always read the review column in EQMM, and attend Bouchercons frequently. So I know who my contemporaries are.

Yet these mystery fans, writing Amazon reviews…some of them, anyway…haven’t noticed I’m alive during this forty-year career of mine. Haven’t noticed my byline on ROAD TO PERDITION or CSI or the Spillane collaborations or…anything. It’s as if they know only the authors whose names they’ve encountered in airport gift shops.

So when I see SUPREME JUSTICE with 500-plus Amazon reviews, and, for example, KING OF THE WEEDS sitting at 21 reviews, I am as disappointed about the latter as I am thrilled about the former.

And sadly convinced that marketing is king.

Here I thought it was writing. What a schmuck!

* * *

Speaking of EQMM, reviewer Steve Steinbock has nice things to say this month about THE WRONG QUARRY and ANTIQUES CON, and other projects of mine. Here’s where you can see it on line; the reviews in question are toward the end.

A very cool new Facebook page dedicated to Mike Hammer and Stacy Keach is here.

The SUPREME JUSTICE reviews on the Net are starting to hit, like this one from Crimespree’s site.

Here’s another…

and another[Note from Nate: This one’s got a drawing for a free copy too!]

and another.

ROAD TO PERDITION continues to make best comics-to-movies lists.

Finally, here’s a very nice KING OF THE WEEDS review from Nerdspan.


Supreme Debate

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

SUPREME JUSTICE continues to ride high on the Kindle bestseller charts. I am under no delusions about this – it’s a book a lot of readers are getting free this month, but it still feels good to have a #1 bestseller and to have so many new readers exposed to my work. (I should say “our” work because Matt Clemens was my co-conspirator on this one.)

The Amazon reviews are pushing 150 at this point. Keep in mind that the recent Heller novels are lucky to get over 30 reviews (hint hint), and Quarry novels often stall out in the mid-teens. SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT has been sitting at 14 Amazon reviews for some time now, and even TRUE DETECTIVE – which also hit #1 on Kindle when it came out a couple of years ago – has yet to break 100, even with the fresh sales from confused readers who think it’s the HBO show’s source (some revenge, anyway).

What’s most interesting about the reviews is the continuing debate over the book’s supposed liberal bias. There continue to be far right readers who give the book a one star rating without having read it – they’ve just heard the book is a liberal screed, or have been misled by the Amazon write-up, which rather overstates that aspect of the book. Others do read the book, or some of it, but are offended by what they see as a caricature of Clarence Thomas. This is of course odd, since Clarence Thomas is a caricature….

On the other hand, a growing number of conservatives who have read the book seem to like it. Some continue to find more liberal bias than I think is in there, but I may be too close to see it. (Note the Clarence Thomas crack above.) But I am grateful when these readers express themselves honestly and react to the book and not what they’ve heard or assume about it.

I’ve done some limited commenting on reviews, and had an extended, civil exchange with one reader who claimed I’d called conservatives “Nazis.” I pointed out that the word appeared nowhere in the novel. He said I’d used “fascists” and that that was the same thing. I said it wasn’t, no more than “Commie” and “socialist” were the same thing, and so on. The back and forth was respectful and even illuminating. And I tried to make the point that I didn’t call anybody anything – one of my characters did.

Anyway, a new post went up from a prospective reader who had read this exchange, and I thought it was pretty great. Here it is with my response:


I am staunchly conservative and staunchly Christian. I was reviewing the options for the Prime First this month and was reading the reviews for your book. I am getting to the point where media has become exhausting as it tends to lean heavily towards the left. Almost all Hollywood politically set movies make the conservative the bad guy. So as I was reading the reviews, I almost decided to skip past your book as the other reviewers have stated it leans left and I figured it would end up bashing my beliefs as most other forms of media do.

Now, let me tell you why I am not going to do that. This exchange between you and Todd has completely changed my outlook on my decision for reading the book. I refuse to watch any movie that Sean Penn is in, regardless of the content, because I choose not to support him. I will however watch anything Tom Hanks is in for 2 reasons. One, he plays amazing characters. And 2, he has his beliefs, and they side with Sean, but he keeps it to himself. So I choose to support him with my money.

So with all that being said, I will read your book even though, I believe I will feel like it leans to the left, but it will be because I want to support you. Seeing that you were willing to come here to have a civil discussion regarding your book was great. Your first line made me think it was going to head in a direction of an angry internet commentor. “I do my best not to respond to bad reviews… (But I’m going to bash you and your conservative beliefs now.)” That’s not what you did and I respect you enough to support your work. So I will read your book and I will give you an honest and fair review when I complete it. Best of luck to you.

MY REPLY: This was a very thoughtful post, and I appreciate you giving my novel a try. I admit to being a little surprised by the fuss, because the novel was not intended to be liberal or conservative. In fact, I strongly considered having a conservative hero defend the lives of liberal justices. The important thing was that a man be put in the position of defending people he disagreed with…powerful people. I think some conservative Christians misread my use of Rowe V. Wade being overturned by a (fictional) conservative Supreme Court. The idea was not to say anything in favor of or against that move, but to choose a topic that dealt with life and death — that could inspire someone to resort to violence to change the balance of justices. There’s a remark in the book about zealots that I think was probably misjudged on my part, because it’s easily taken as a swipe at Christianity when the intent was to criticize someone viewing his opinion about something as if it were a religious belief. On the other hand, readers who limit themselves to books whose protagonists mirror their own beliefs are…well, limiting themselves. Again, as the writer who Mickey Spillane chose to take over the Mike Hammer books, I am quite accustomed to attacks from the extreme left. And if SUPREME JUSTICE does have a political message, it’s the dangers of extremism. It’s been said that the place the far right and the far left meet is a book burning — they’re just bringing different books. Thank you again for these comments.

* * *

For those keeping track, I have completed KILL ME, DARLING and over the weekend sent it to Titan in the UK via the miraculous Net. I may talk more about the writing experience on this one, much of which occurred while I was on heavy painkillers for my back injury (doing fine, thanks).

* * *

I talk about a lot of movies here, and it must be obvious that Barb and I see a lot of them. We usually go at least once a week. But I can’t remember the last time I reported having seen a great film.

Edge of Tomorrow

EDGE OF TOMORROW is a great film. It’s basically a science-fiction/aliens-attack take on another great film, GROUNDHOG DAY. I don’t want to say much about this other than to advise you to see it, and on a big screen, and preferably in 3-D. Tom Cruise is excellent in the film, and it’s time to admit that whatever we might think about his Scientology lifestyle, he is a superior screen actor who brings passion and commitment to his roles. He’s never been better, and Emily Blunt is every bit as good as he is.

I am, I admit, a sucker for time travel movies. And GROUNDHOG DAY is in my top ten films of all time. I’m also a fan of the 1993 TV movie 12:01 from the Richard Lupoff short story that started it all. EDGE OF TOMORROW is a film I’ll revisit many times. It has genuinely frightening aliens, the likes of which I’ve not seen, and could be viewed as a less overtly satirical STARSHIP TROOPERS. Bill Paxton is wonderful, by the way, as a top sergeant. Does anybody play gung-ho, slightly dim military men better than Paxton?

The ending is controversial. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, so mostly I’ll just say, “Works for me.” You can’t take Bill Murray through the GROUNDHOG DAY experience without having him emerge a better and breathing man. When John Wayne screened THE ALAMO for Mickey Spillane and asked his take, Mickey said, “Change the ending.” Wayne said, “Mickey – it’s the Alamo! You can’t change the ending.” And Mickey said, in his politically incorrect way, “Nobody wants to pay three dollars to see a bunch of Mexicans kill John Wayne.” THE ALAMO was a flop that almost ruined Wayne financially.

EDGE OF TOMORROW, incidentally, is from a Japanese novel, ALL YOU NEED IS KILL, from Viz, who have published several books translated by my son Nate, including the current BATTLE ROYALE.

If you’ve seen EDGE OF TOMORROW, here’s a really good explanation of the ending. The comments are worth a read, too.

* * *

Here’s a nice SUPREME JUSTICE review.

Here’s more on SUPREME JUSTICE.

And finally, here’s a lovely KING OF THE WEEDS write-up.


Back at Work

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

This will be a short update. I have been fighting a nagging back problem that every attempted remedy from chiropractic to massage has only made worse (I am now trying the leave-it-the-hell-alone approach, which seems to be working). Back and neck trouble is a common one for writers, though mine dates back to high school football injuries and hauling band equipment for fifty years.

Right now I am in the middle of the new Hammer, KILL ME, DARLING, and to stay on track, I am devoting as much of my creative energy as possible to just writing about half of what I usually produce per day.

Quick movie notes.

GODZILLA is very disappointing after a strong start, lots of fake conflicts, uninteresting characters and illogical plotting.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST defies all odds and has no right to be the delight that it is, with so much back story and complicated plotting that a good screenplay should be impossible. The actors are spot on, plus it’s a movie starring Picard with a Captain Kirk reference – what more could you ask?

My recent Huff post article on aging and dying fictional detectives has received a lot of internet play, including at Bill Crider’s great site.

Here’s the other Ed (not Gorman) on KING OF THE WEEDS.

And here’s another, from the UK’s Crime Fiction Lover.

Here’s a positive if odd write-up on the film of ROAD TO PERDITION, claiming that Mendes is doing Frank Miller more than my graphic novel. Excuse me while I pretend to sneeze and say “Bullshit.”

Finally, here’s a rare short story review (for the Hammer tale, “A Long Time Dead”). You have to scroll down for it.