Posts Tagged ‘Kiss Her Goodbye’

Top Suspense Mini-Contest

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

As part of the Top Suspense Group, I participated in a Round Robin short story that has recently been completed. I wrote two of the twelve segments, though authors are not identified, and in fact Top Suspense is running a contest for readers who can figure out who wrote what. Check out the contest rules and the story right here.

I think it’s going to be tough for anybody to figure out all six contributing authors, so I’m going to offer free books to the first four followers of my updates who i.d. my two mini-chapters. Write me at – don’t post your entry here! I will have free books for the winners. Though Top Suspense is designed to promote e-books, these prizes will be “real” books. I haven’t picked anything out and will probably give the winners a choice between a number of things.

My friend Ed Gorman, who is also part of the Top Suspense Group, has always been a big supporter of my Quarry character. The first time we spoke, on the phone, back in the ‘80s, was about his love for those books. Since Ed is one of the very best writers in the genre, this has always meant a lot. He was kind enough recently to showcase the new Perfect Crime trade paperback reprints of the first five Quarry novels at his terrific blog.

And, oddly, a review of the forthcoming KISS HER GOODBYE has turned up on the web, and gotten fairly wide coverage. Since this book doesn’t come out till May, it’s a tad early, but it’s a near rave review, so…okay.

I am working right now on THE CONSUMMATA for Hard Case Crime. This is the long-awaited sequel to THE DELTA FACTOR, the second Morgan the Raider novel. It’s going very well, and since DELTA FACTOR was always one of my favorites among the 1960s non-Hammer Spillanes, a great deal of fun for me. Who or what is the Consummata? More later….

I wish everyone a great Christmas and happy holidays. For the record, here are the only Christmas movies worth watching (not including the original I, THE JURY):

1. Miracle on 34th Street (original)
2. Scrooge (with Alistair Sim)
3. It’s a Wonderful Life
4. A Christmas Story
5. Christmas Vacation

In that order. Accept no substitutes.


You Only Blog Twice

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

This week’s Quarry cover is QUARRY’S DEAL. Another great Terry Beatty cover. Ordering info here.

Quarry's DealNate has been in Japan for several days now, and he’s doing a blog (daily, so far). He is posting beautiful pictures and great, often very funny commentary. He is a very talented young man and his father (me) is proud of him. So you get two blog entries this week; this one from me, and this one from Nate.

Because Nate is in Japan, I’m working a few days early on this update, to give him plenty of room to get it put together and posted. So it’s October 30 in Muscatine, Iowa, a beautiful fall day with lots of color in the trees and chill in the breeze. Tonight is the “official” local Halloween night, and I’ve carved the pumpkin (I’m damn good at it – ask Nate) [Nate:It’s true!] and Barb is putting a bunch of scary stuff on the porch…ours is one of the houses the neighbor kids flock to, although some of our goodies are getting long in the tooth (we had to throw away a talking skeleton head after years of noble service).

We’ve been watching horror movies, and Barb – who for decades didn’t like them – is now a fan and catching up. We watched the very funny RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD from the late, great Dan O’Bannon. Our favorite Halloween movie, though, is TRICK ‘R’ TREAT, and if you haven’t seen that wonderfully dark, funny anthology movie, put it on Netflix for next Halloween season. It looks great on Blu-Ray. (So does RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, which features my old pal Linnea Quigley, with whom I almost did a comic book project some years back).

This weekend I am zeroing in on the conclusion of RETURN TO PERDITION, and next week (now, as you read this) I’ll be writing the next DICK TRACY introduction. Nice to have a connection to TRACY again. Next up is THE CONSUMMATA, the DELTA FACTOR sequel by Mickey Spillane that I am completing for Hard Case Crime.

Next year is going to be a big M.A.C. year. Barb and I have ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF (by “Barbara Allan”) coming out in March, and that same month from the same publisher (Kensington), Matt Clemens and I have NO ONE WILL HEAR YOU out. In May the third of the Mike Hammers appears – KISS HER GOODBYE (do not miss this one) – and in August BYE BYE, BABY, the first Nate Heller novel in ten years. Some time next year, QUARRY’S EX will come out, as well. And from DC/Vertigo, RETURN TO PERDITION.

This will no doubt initiate a bunch of “when do you sleep” questions (and putdowns), but the fact is BYE BYE, BABY has been done for well over a year, and three of the titles are collaborations. RETURN TO PERDITION is something I’ve been working on for a year and a half. QUARRY’S EX, of course, was supposed to come out this year and was postponed. What I fear is that some or maybe all of these titles will get lost in the shuffle because there are so many of them. And that drives me crazy, because each of these books is really strong. I get beaten up and sometimes ignored because I am seen as “prolific.”

But I have no intention of slowing down. At 62, I am not fooling around – I have stories to tell. I even have band jobs to play. Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of my first professional sale of a novel – BAIT MONEY to Curtis Books. The following two years will mark the 40th anniversary of me as a published professional (BAIT MONEY came out in December 1972 but was a January 1973 book).

So if any of you connected to writer’s organizations (the MWA has had enough yearly dues out of me to afford to make a statue of me for their lobby, if they had a lobby) or mystery conventions or mystery magazines (attention: Kate Stine) are interested, 2011 is a perfectly good time to start the career tributes and to book me as a guest and to just generally make a fuss. I’m available. I’ll even bring my rock band along.

For a price.

Here’s a fun fan review of my Batman graphic novel SCAR OF THE BAT. Nice to see something from a few years back get noticed now.


Smothers Brothers Comedy Column

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Last week was spent recovering from writing KISS HER GOODBYE. I really should allow myself a week off between projects, but I am stacked up right now and just can’t take the luxury. But it was slow-going, getting anything done. By late in the week I was finally able to finish a 14-page synopsis for the next Mike Hammer radio novel, which is entitled ENCORE FOR MURDER. The basis is a brief novel outline I found in Mickey Spillane’s files, so THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER VOL. 3 (starring Stacy Keach) will again have a basis in Mickey’s work.

I also wrote the introduction for volume ten of IDW’s reprint series of the DICK TRACY strip, edited by my old pal Dean Mulaney, the man who brought MS. TREE to the world of comics. The book winds up 1945, includes the entire run of 1946, going several months into ‘47. This is prime Gould material — great villains, lots of wonderful comic-relief characters, with everything from the intro of the Two Way Wrist Radio to the marriage of B.O. Plenty and Gravel Gertie. Watch for that — it’s one of Gould’s strongest periods.

You Can't Stop MeThe first review of YOU CAN’T STOP ME has appeared, from internet reviewer Harriet Klauser, and it’s a nice one.

I have been in a somewhat nostalgic mood lately, primed by reading a good book, DANGEROUSLY FUNNY: THE UNCENSORED STORY OF “THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR,” by David Bianculli. It’s as entertaining as it is informative, though the author has a bad habit of repeating himself (how many times do I have to be told that Jennifer Warren became Jennifer Warnes?) and sometimes including personal asides (don’t you hate writers who do that? I do!).

Anyway, it prompted me to look at the two seasons of THE SMOTHERS COMEDY HOUR available — actually these are BEST OF’s, selected and edited by Tommy Smothers himself. Season Three, the final season, was released first, followed by Second Two (no sign of Season One yet). This is not Tommy Smothers being quirky, rather realistic. The show began as a fairly traditional comedy/variety hour in 1967, and as the times changed, and the under-thirty crowd got radicalized, the show shifted naturally. By the third season, it was featuring counter-culture musical artists (The Doors, The Who) and hip comedy (George Carlin, Jackie Mason, the Second City-style Committee) with a number of episodes performed in the round. The third season set includes an excellent documentary, SMOTHERED, which chronicles the war between the show (in particular the volatile Tom Smothers) and CBS.

I started with Season Two, and admit to being shocked by how standard a variety show it mostly was — later I learned that Tom Smothers had edited both seasons ruthlessly (sometimes too ruthlessly) because he too realized the memory of the ground-breaking show of over 40 years ago was better than the reality. That, of course, is why he insisted the final season be released first. This is not to say there isn’t a lot of funny material in the second season boxed set — the Pat Paulson run for the president is there, and Paulson was an excellent deadpan comedian. But I fast-forwarded through about a third of the stuff. Leigh French as Goldie O’Keefe, spaced-out hippie chick, remains a lovely young woman, frozen in video amber, with a nice delivery, but the “jokes” run mostly to slipping drug references past un-hip censors. If hearing the word “roach” or “high” tickles your funny bone, you’re in the right place.

TV variety shows of the fifties, sixties and even seventies were pretty dismal. I watched a lot of them as a kid, but they are a tough go to sit through now. Even shows that were hip for their era, like SMOTHERS BROTHERS, FLIP WILSON, and LAUGH-IN, seem about as dated as kinescopes of early TV.

Smothers Brothers Season 3
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour:
Best of Season 3

The third season of SMOTHERS was a revelation, though — while some traditional variety show stuff survives (and Tom S. edited a lot of that out), there is plenty of social commentary and musical acts that could have appeared no where else on primetime TV of the late ‘60s. I find myself not liking the stuff I didn’t like at the time — Mason Williams’ classical gas remains gaseous to me, as does his anti-censorship poem, and self-righteous hippie show biz types like the aforementioned Warnes, the Los Angeles cast of HAIR, Joan Baez and the oh so precious Donovan still give me a pain. If you lived through those years, and were a sort of hippie yourself (and that’s how I’d describe myself then — a sort of hippie, married and going to school but long-haired, in a rock band, and desperately trying not to get drafted), you found a lot of the hippie musical stuff of the era pretty forced and artificial and terribly self-satisfied.

Nonetheless, the bravery of the Smothers Brothers to air this stuff — and to employ as writer/performers young punks like Bob Einstein (aka Super Dave Osborne), Steve Martin, and Rob Reiner — is impressive. The difference in approach and attitude between season two and three is shocking — it’s like one week the show is CAROL BURNETT, and the next week it’s SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Historic performances from Pete Seeger (“Big Muddy” is amazing) and Harry Belafonte (“Don’t Stop the Carnival” to footage of the ‘68 Demo Convention) are alone worth the investment, and not much fast-forwarding elsewhere is required.

At the center of it all are those underrated performers, the Smothers Brothers, hip subversives posing as white-bread American boys. I loved them from the first time I saw them on (wait for it) Jack Parr’s TONIGHT SHOW. In the midst of a lot of smug and self-important folk musicians, the Smothers Brothers came on with their lampoon version of folk that had, in its day, the impact of Andy Kaufman. Initially, Tommy just seemed to be an idiot screwing up the act. We did not know we were witnessing one of the last great traditional comedy teams in the Laurel and Hardy/Abbott and Costello/Martin and Lewis mode. And Dick Smothers was and is a genius straight man.

I had all their albums. Grew up listening to them. Saw them perform at Hot Springs, Arkansas, at a nightclub/casino (a mob operation my middle-American parents took me to), and got to speak to them both and get my first celebrity autographs. They were extremely kind to me. (I would have been, perhaps, 16.) From junior high on, my friend Jim Hoffmann and I did Smothers Brothers impressions at parties and shows — we got great laughs in the time-honored tradition of kids stealing the acts of professionals, butchering those acts, and getting undeserved giddy praise from their classmates.

During the late ‘60s, Barb and I never missed THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS on Sunday night (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE came right after, with Leonard Nimoy in for Martin Landau at this point, Trekkies). We were married in June ‘68, Barb 19 and me 20, and the assassination of Robert Kennedy took place while we were honeymooning in Chicago. Right around this time, I took a draft physical at Des Moines, Iowa, that scared me silly, classifying me 1-A — fortunately, I eventually was re-classified 4-F. Would Barb and I have gone to Canada? Probably. So we were absolutely the target audience of THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS SHOW, but I admit that I never saw anything controversial about what I saw there, and was shocked that censorship was an issue in an era of MIDNIGHT COWBOY and ZAP COMIX.

(Yes, friends, an almost draft dodger with leftist leanings somehow became the caretaker of right-wing icons Dick Tracy and Mike Hammer.)

So watching these DVDs, I find myself experiencing various shivers of memory — delight, sorrow, embarrassment, even pride — as I watch Tom and Dick Smothers on their very important TV show take on the establishment. The stories of Tom’s battles with CBS are so much like mine with the Chicago Tribune Syndicate over DICK TRACY that it made me uncomfortable — we were both punks, and both right. We took a stand, and got fired. I said pride was one of the shivers.

I recommend the book and both DVD sets, which are loaded with special features, each episode bookended with on-air comments by a very uncensored Tom and Dick (prepared for E Entertainment reruns a while back). Anyone my age will find this compelling viewing.


Star Trek and Conventional Wisdom

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

I am immersed in the writing of KISS HER GOODBYE, just completely absorbed by Mike Hammer, Mickey Spillane and their world.

Nice things keep appearing on the net about my work. For example…

My pal Ed Gorman was kind enough to write about the Nolan novel, SCRATCH FEVER, as one of the weekly “Forgotten Books” at Patti Abbott’s website, but also on Ed’s own blog, with some interesting comments only seen there. Easiest way to read SCRATCH FEVER is to track down the omnibus paperback, TOUGH TENDER, which has it and HARD CASH combined.

ROAD TO PERDITION is number one on another list of comic book-derived movies, specifically ones that some people apparently don’t know came from comics.

Barb and I are working our way through the third season of STAR TREK on blu-ray. All day I work on Mike Hammer, and all evening I watch STAR TREK (and in the company of a beautiful blonde). Life is good. But I am reminded by how much I truly, deeply despise conventional wisdom and regurgitated opinions.

I’ve revealed here previously that I am a first-generation Trekkie (not Trekker — Trekkie was the term Gene Roddenberry preferred). Here’s proof: Barb and I went to see William Shatner in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH at the Pheasant Run theater outside Chicago; and attended a George McGovern rally in DeKalb, Illinois, because Nimoy was hosting. Satisfied?

Anyway, Barb and I have watched the second season and third on blu-ray essentially back to back, and the first season not so long ago. Conventional wisdom says the first season is great, the second season very, very good, and the third season an embarrassment. The truth is STAR TREK in all three seasons has embarrassing episodes. And every season has a bunch of solid, meat-and-potatoes episodes. And a handful of excellent ones. If I had to nominate a weak season, it might be the second one, with its many, many earth culture planets (the Roman planet, the gangster planet, the Nazi planet, OMEGA GLORY with its tattered and very unlikely American flag, etc.). But the second season also owns AMOK TIME, one of the very best episodes.

Is There In Truth No BeautyThe third season admittedly has the two worst stinkers in the entire STAR TREK line-up – LET THIS BE OUR LAST BATTLEFIELD, the dismal racial parable (the one where Frank Gorshin does the Riddler as half black and half white, chasing around the Enterprise his fellow scenery chewer Lou Antonio who is half white and half black) and the truly abysmal WAY TO EDEN, the hippies in outer space episode, which manages to waste Charles Napier. But the third season has also the surrealistic gem SPECTRE OF THE GUN (one of the first negative views of Wyatt Earp at the OK Corral – and with DeForest Kelley, who was in the Burt Lancaster/Kirk Douglas film version, as one of the Earps!), and possibly the three best STAR TREK episodes of all, THE EMPATH, IS THERE IN TRUTH NO BEAUTY and ALL OUR YESTERDAYS. Some of the best STAR TREK episodes feature music by George Duning, sometimes re-frying his BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE score.

Without breaking it down, I would say (looking at the entire run of the show), there are probably about eight great STAR TREK episodes, and probably about half a dozen really, really lousy ones. The rest are solid entertainment, if of varying degrees.

I have always felt the success of the show had more than anything to do with the combination of Roddenberry’s concept and an exceptionally well-assembled cast. Say what you will about Shatner, he provides a dashing, charismatic hero (and you have to go to the lousy episodes, where he is really working hard, to find him truly hammy), and Nimoy’s Spock remains one of the great series TV characterizations, endlessly fascinating (I said I was a Trekkie), while DeForest Kelley provides compassionate glue, a friend and irritant to the other two leads, as need be. The rest of the cast is excellent, too, with its interracial components. In the third season, my old friend Walter Koenig in particular shines as Chekov, whose character is poorly defined by the writers but is beautifully portrayed and pulled together by the actor.

Live long, prosper, and quit listening to conventional wisdom.