Posts Tagged ‘Krista and Keith Larson’

A Heller of a Timeline

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Okay, so the new Nate Heller novel isn’t out till next March. What’s taking you so long to order your copy? Here’s a peek at the cover, which I like quite a bit.


Hardcover:
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My old pal Tony Isabella, the gifted comics writer who created Black Lightning, wondered a week or so ago if I had ever put together a time line, so that the Nate Heller stories could be read in chronological order. A fan did something along those lines, still posted here, but not updated (and unfortunately that loyal fan has passed away). So I have made an attempt at answering Tony’s request.

Keep in mind that math is somewhat involved here, and I am only famous where math is concerned for being pitifully simple-minded in its regard. Over the years it’s been a real effort not have Nate Heller in two places at the same time. I present this list more as a deterrent than a suggestion, because it demonstrates what a difficult and perhaps not useful process reading the Heller memoirs in order would be.

The major problem is that a number of the novels often begin in one year and jump to another in a second, and even another in a third section. The novels also often have flashback chapters, and I have only scratched the surface where the latterday things Heller does have been made part of this.

Do No Harm – did I mention it comes out in March of next year, and that you can order it now? – has two sections, one taking place in 1957, another in 1966. That’s why to read the Heller memoirs in chronological order, you have to shuffle the deck just so. To make the job possible, and yet harder, for you, I have included the novellas and short stories.

What this chronology mostly demonstrates is that Heller has been a busy boy, and so has his pappy.

The timeline of the Nathan Heller memoirs:

Stolen Away – March 4 – April 18 1932
Damned in Paradise – later April – May 1932
True Detective – December 19 – December 22 1932
“Kaddish for the Kid” (short story) – summer 1933
“The Blonde Tigress” (short story) – August 1933
“Private Consultation” (short story) – December 1933
True Crime – July 13 – September 1 1934
Flying Blind – March 11 – May 16, 1935
Blood and Thunder – August 30 – September 12, 1935
“The Perfect Crime” (short story) – December 1935
“House Call” (short story) – January 1936
Stolen Away – March 13 – April 4 1936
“Marble Mildred” (short story) – June 1936
Blood and Thunder – October 26 – November 10 1936
Flying Blind – March 17 – July 19, 1937
“The Strawberry Teardrop” (short story) – August 1938
The Million-Dollar Wound – November 6 – 12 1939
“Scrap” (short story) – December 1939
“Natural Death, Inc.” (short story) – March 1940
Flying Blind – May 6 – June 4 1940
Majic Man – September 1940
“Screwball” (short story) – May 1941
The Million-Dollar Wound – November 1942
The Million-Dollar Wound – February 2 – March 20 1943
Carnal Hours – July 1943 – approximately September 1943
“That Kind of Nag” (short story) – May 1945
Neon Mirage – June 24 – August 21 1946
Neon Mirage – December 15 – June 20 1947
Angel in Black – January 1947
“Unreasonable Doubt” (short story) – March 1947
Dying in the Post-war World (novella) – July 1947
Majic Man – March – May 1949
“Shoot-Out On Sunset” (short story) – late summer 1949
Better Dead – May 1, 1950
Chicago Confidential – September – November 1950
Strike Zone (novella) – August 1951
Better Dead – March 26 – June 1953
Kisses of Death (novella) – June 1953
Better Dead – November 1953
Kisses of Death (novella) – February 1954
Do No Harm – 1957
Target Lancer – Fall 1960
Strike Zone (novella) – June 1961
Bye Bye, Baby – May 23 – August 1962
Ask Not – Late summer 1962
Target Lancer – October 25 – November 29 1963
Ask Not – September 1964
Do No Harm – 1966
Flying Blind – February 1970
Target Lancer – a few days before Christmas, 1973

My recommended reading order to give you a roughly chronological read, without whiplash, while letting each case finish itself:

True Detective
Stolen Away
Damned in Paradise
True Crime
Blood and Thunder
Flying Blind
The Million-Dollar Wound
Carnal Hours
Neon Mirage
Angel in Black
Majic Man
Chicago Confidential
Better Dead
Bye Bye, Baby
Target Lancer
Ask Not
Do No Harm

But my preference? I think my development as a writer (and perhaps my inevitable decline) will be better observed by reading the novels in the order I wrote them:

True Detective
True Crime
The Million-Dollar Wound
Neon Mirage
Stolen Away
Carnal Hours
Blood and Thunder
Damned in Paradise
Flying Blind
Majic Man
Angel in Black
Chicago Confidential
Bye Bye, Baby
Target Lancer
Ask Not
Better Dead
Do No Harm

The two collections – novellas in Triple Play and the short stories in Chicago Lightning – can be read any time, and in any order, you choose. You’re welcome!

Gathering this material reminds me how much I like these books. This is not to say I love every turn of phrase or twist of plot. But I am proud of what they accomplish – specifically looking at these famous crimes and mysteries in a fresh, in-depth manner while creating a private detective who I think can stand shoulder to shoulder with Marlowe and Hammer. That’s obviously immodest, but I often think of what my late friend, Stu Kaminsky, said about his Hollywood private eye, Toby Peters: “I really like those books,” he told me. “I have fun doing them.”

I have fun writing Heller, too, although the research has been brutally hard. Writing Do No Harm, I could only think back to the pre-Google days of many trips to libraries to look at microfiche and bound copies of old magazines, the countless trips to used bookstores to search out ancient magazines and forgotten volumes. On second thought, I kind of miss that….

Not really.

* * *

Here is a terrific review of Girl Most Likely in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine:

**** Max Allan Collins, Girl Most Likely, Thomas & Mercer, $15.95. Chief Krista Larson of Galena, Illinois is the youngest female police chief in the country. The night of her ten-year high-school reunion, a beautiful former classmate is stabbed to death. Krista’s father, a retired Iowa detective, makes a connection between this murder and the stabbing of another classmate in Florida several months earlier. Father and daughter and the small Galena police force interview suspects and follow clues to catch the killer. Girl Most Likely reminded me of Longmire crossed with Grosse Point Blank fitted into a closed-circle plot worthy of Agatha Christie.

My co-author, A. Brad Schwartz, appeared at the Mississippi Book Festival in support of our Scarface and the Untouchable. Here’s the true crime panel, on which he did a terrific job.

M.A.C.

Girl Most Likely & Halloween Pushback

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

One of the best things about working with Thomas and Mercer, Amazon’s crime/mystery line, is the way they encourage authors to contribute ideas to, and opinions about, the covers of that author’s books. Girl Most Likely (which will be published on April 1, 2019) (no fooling) went through perhaps half a dozen cover concepts that were executed more or less completely, with many stages of development of the image you see here.

I find this a very strong cover, and appropriate for the novel, which is the first of at least two about Krista and Keith Larson. I hope to do several more, if readers take to the concept, which has a young (late twenties) police chief in tourist-town Galena, Illinois, teamed with her widower father (late fifties), who is a retired homicide detective.

Galena is of course real, and is virtually a character in the novel (and will be in any subsequent ones). Yes, I am pandering after an audience that likes “Girl” in the title, but this is appropriate, as it’s about a ten-year high school reunion and the homicidal designs of a maniac on the successful young woman who was indeed voted “Most Likely to Succeed” of her high school class. The young female sheriff is a classmate who becomes the person carrying out the criminal investigation.

I’ll talk about this novel more as the publication date draws near, but it’s an attempt on my part to do something neither hardboiled nor cozy. While it has its noir aspects – the murderer is a very bad dude, although good at providing creepy, scary moments – I did not depict a traditional tough-guy (or tough-gal) protagonist. Both Krista and Keith are portrayed as real people, decent and working through a personal loss – the fairly recent death of Keith’s wife who is of course Krista’s mom.

While Girl Most Likely is something of a departure for me, my readers (you know who you are) should have no trouble getting onboard.

* * *

A few of you have asked about the status of my partnership with writer Matthew Clemens. Matt was a co-writer on the previous four books I did for Thomas & Mercer, initially credited inside, but the final two Reeder and Rogers novels give him cover credit. Matt and I also wrote two J.C. Harrow thrillers for Kensington, and worked together on many, many tie-in novels, specifically CSI, Dark Angel, and Criminal Minds. He is not, however, co-writing the Krista and Keith Larson novels.

The team has not broken up. We are still writing short stories together (we had two out recently) and are developing a horror noir anthology, to which we’ll contribute at least one story. Later I’ll provide a link to a Publisher’s Weekly review of the antho Pop the Clutch, which singles out our latest story. If we do another novel together, it will likely be developed from one of the two short stories we did this year (the other was for Jonathan Maberry’s Hardboiled Horror).

We have also discussed doing a fourth Reeder and Rogers political thriller, although that series was conceived as a trilogy, each novel focusing on a branch of government. We have brainstormed perhaps half a dozen times, in search of a fourth book about the duo. But the current bizarre political climate makes doing a thriller in that genre, well, problematic.

The thing is, I decided a while back not to seek tie-in work beyond my ongoing role with the Spillane estate. It has to do with my heart surgery and other medical fun and games conspiring to remind me that life is finite. So writing somebody else’s characters (with the exception of Mike Hammer, where Mickey arranged for me to be a full collaborator) just doesn’t seem like a good use of my time. And tie-ins are the area where Matt helped me, doing research and writing story treatments that were essentially rough drafts for me to revise and flesh out. (Matt did not work with me on any of the movie novelizations.)

In the third act of my career (and you only get three), I want to focus on projects that are meaningful to me and aren’t just a matter of bread-and-butter. So while Matt remains one of my best friends and a valued collaborator, I think most of my novels – apart from “Barbara Allan” and Spillane – will be solo, from here on out.

Also, Brad Schwartz and I have signed to do a follow-up Ness/Capone book, and Jim Traylor and I have a non-fiction Spillane project in the works. So I obviously am not turning my back on collaboration.

* * *

I’ve had some pushback on my Halloween review. A lot of people like the movie. Those who read my take on the film should have noticed I didn’t say it was bad – just that it wasn’t good. But it does make me want to share a few more thoughts on it, and moviegoing in general.

The new Halloween finds its defenders focusing on the Jamie Lee Curtis aspect, which is fairly well served by the filmmakers – depicting her almost as a survivalist, viewed as a loon even by members of her own family, but – in a strong last act – asserting herself in a booby-trapped fortress of a home, where she has prepared for decades for Michael Myers to make another assault on her (and perhaps her family).

Unfortunately, the first two acts are weak. The kills are gory but unsuspenseful, unpleasant and poorly thought out. The podcast aspect is frankly stupid, and for a film co-written by Danny McBride, the whole affair is shockingly free of humor and irony, with writing that barely tries – Laurie’s teen granddaughter’s up-till-now nice guy boy friend turns drunk and throws her cell phone into a gloppy punchbowl, to free her of any ability to phone home? The shrink who has been treating Michael in the nuthouse is obsessed with knowing what it’s like to kill, and puts on Michael’s mask to do so? (Yeah, that was a spoiler, but at this point I don’t care.) When people start wholesale dying, law enforcement (including a guy who was on the original “babysitter murders” case) makes no effort to shut down trick-or-treating?

Even the stronger third act is riddled with stupidity. Laurie keeps the rooms in her house very spare, so that when Michael eventually invades, he will have few if any hiding places…except for a room full of manikins (life-size targets for her shooting range). Laurie’s daughter (played by Archer/Arrested Development’s Judy Greer) is depicted as weak and hysterical, and though she has a rifle (she was trained in childhood by her mother), she reacts in her daughter’s safe-room basement as if coming apart, proclaiming her inability to shoot that rifle and defend herself…but when Michael comes down after her, as she raves and rants in supposed fear, she snaps into kill mode, saying, “Gotcha.” But she doesn’t need to fool Michael, because he’s a killing machine bent on destruction anyway. She can be whimpering or she can be taunting, it doesn’t matter.

So the “gotcha” is only for the audience. That’s who is being “gotten.”

Okay, so I don’t like the movie. I don’t hate it, and it has its moments. But it’s disappointing.

However. There’s an aspect of moviegoing that is rarely discussed, and that’s how the moviegoing experience itself can impact your opinion. Two cases in point.

Halloween, which Barb and I saw at a 4 pm matinee, was attended by a boorish crowd. We had to move to different seats early on because some old people (really old – older than us!) wouldn’t shut up. Also, behind us was a family who gorged on candy and giant buckets of popcorn, between slurping drinks, and who had brought along a six- or seven-year-old kid to this kill fest. Neither Barb nor I could shake the uncomfortable knowledge that a kid that age was being abused.

By the way, this is at least a little hypocritical, because I showed all the Lone Wolf and cub movies to Nate when he was around eight or nine. But Nate is not an idiot, nor (despite some of what you’ve read in this update) am I.

When Barb and moved to new seats, at the end of a row, a teenage girl moved past us, not excusing herself, then stood beside us talking on her cell phone. We requested that she do that in the lobby. She told us to “chill” and kept talking, before signing off, re-entering the row and giving us the kind of dirty look teenagers are famous for.

This is the climate in which we saw Halloween, and the overall negative impact could only have been improved if the teenage girl with the cell phone had become Michael Myers’ next victim.

Second case in point.

Barb and I took an overnight trip to Des Moines in part to plot the next Antiques novel and also just for a getaway, which we often do at the end of a writing project (in the case, the recently completed Mike hammer novel, Murder, My Love). At one point, while Barb shopped at Jordan Creek Mall, I went to a movie by myself. Yes, that is sad.

The movie was Johnny English Strikes Back. I like Rowan Atkinson very much – huge Blackadder fan, and Mr. Bean is wonderful, too, and Maigret is fine – but the previous two Johnny English films were just…okay. They do big business in England, but for this James Bond fan, I found the first two films, as spoofs, were just…I would say, “Meh,” if I didn’t despise it when people say (or even type) that. So my expectations were low.

And I loved it. Strikes Back was always amusing and, as it built, frequently laugh out-loud funny. The small but appreciative (and well-behaved) audience added to the pleasure. The Bond spoof aspect was stronger here, as the movie emphasized how a Bond-style agent (even an incompetent one) is an analogue player in a digital world, the film quietly having fun with how out-of-date and wrong the Bond concept is almost twenty years into the twenty-first century.

So. Was Strikes Back really as good as I came away feeling it to be? I’m honestly not sure. Low expectations may have benefitted it in the way high expectations made Halloween a disappointment.

To me. Your mileage, as my friend Terry Beatty says, may vary.

* * *

Here is the nice PW review of Pop the Clutch, singling out “Mystery Train,” a short story by Matt Clemens and me.

Finally, here’s where you can get the new, expanded version of Primal Spillane.

M.A.C.