Posts Tagged ‘Lawrence Block’

Target Spillane

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

The current issue of MYSTERY SCENE has a splashy Lawrence Block piece on Mickey Spillane. At the magazine’s editor’s request, I offered a few corrections to a reading list to accompany what I assumed would be a career overview of Mickey. Unfortunately it’s a patronizing, smugly casual dismissal of one fine writer’s work by another. This despite Block admitting he’s never much cared for (or read much of) Mickey’s work, ultimately dismissing it as unreadable “crap,” which makes me wonder why exactly a reading list was provided at all. There’s a particularly unfair discussion of Mickey’s famous line, “I’m a writer, not an author,” with Block pretending to be confused about what Mickey meant – that line (one of Mickey’s most frequently quoted) was almost always followed up by an explanation wherein Mickey cited the likes of one-book wonders like Margaret Mitchell or memoir-writing political figures like Churchill as “authors.” Writers, Mickey said, made a career of it. Block interprets the quote as meaning Mickey didn’t reach for the high literary standards of an “author” (Block might easily – and unfairly – be similarly dismissed due to his softcore porn roots and a career far more prolific than Spillane’s). He accepts the conventional wisdom that only the seven early novels are even worth mention, showing no signs he has read any of the later books (including THE TWISTED THING, which was actually the second Hammer novel written, though not published till 1966). He demeans Mickey’s selection as a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America by giving his version of backroom discussions between two groups: one that thought Mickey was lousy and a disgrace to the genre, and another that thought Mickey was lousy but had been too commercially important to ignore (Block places himself in the latter camp). Members of both groups were anxious enough to pose for smiling photographs with celebrity Mickey at the Edgars banquet, like the one Block uses to illustrate his piece (though Mickey’s lovely wife Jane goes unidentified in the photo). Block closes out with a postscript saying that Mickey was “a nice guy,” sort of the “you don’t sweat much for a big old fat girl” moment.

I can’t imagine MYSTERY SCENE publishing a piece about any other major writer in the field that takes the approach of this one. “Agatha Christie wrote tripe, but she was a fun old gal at parties.” Who was it that said, “Pfui?”

Sixty-four years later, and the attacks on Mickey just never end, this one published in a magazine I admire and respect, from a writer I have long admired and respected. In the same issue, an article by Tom Nolan discusses current continuations of famous series characters, and my recent fairly high-profile Mike Hammer efforts are not mentioned though the Sam Spade book by Joe Gores (from several years back by a writer who has since passed away) is discussed alongside Jeff Deaver’s new 007 book. A mention in that piece – or perhaps a review of KISS HER GOODBYE, which has elsewhere received a lot of praise and attention – might have balanced things out a bit. Block mentions me at the top of his article, suggesting with false modesty that I would be more qualified to write the piece he’s about to undertake. Of course, I wasn’t asked by MYSTERY SCENE to write such a piece – Block was – and my role (minor) was merely to clairfy some publication data. Ironically, ads by publishers (and authors, including myself) involved in the current Spillane revival, are scattered throughout what is not my favorite issue of MYSTERY SCENE. (It should be noted that advertisers not having an impact on editorial content in a magazine is a positive, not a negative. An odd footnote is that Lawrence Block shares a publisher — Hard Case Crime — with Mickey and me.)

A much better new piece on Mickey – which also discusses the “I’m a writer, not an author” quote – can be found here.

I’m delighted to guide you to an excellent review of my son Nathan’s book SUMMER, FIREWORKS AND MY CORPSE from that very tough-minded critic, David Rachels. This is Nate’s translation for Viz of Otsuichi’s horror/noir tales.

And I’m also delighted to report that the long-postponed QUARRY’S EX got a very nice review from PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY:

Set in 1980, Collins’s lean, sardonic 10th noir featuring the killer-for-hire who uses the pseudonym Quarry (after Quarry in the Middle) finds Quarry in Boot Hill, Nev., earning his keep in an unusual way. Drawing on his knowledge of the hit-man world derived from his years of working for a murder middleman known as the Broker, Quarry identifies intended targets of hits, then charges a hefty fee to eliminate the hired guns out to kill them. When he learns of a plot against B-movie director Arthur Stockwell, Quarry discovers that Stockwell’s wife is all too familiar–his ex-wife, Joni, whose betrayal led the Vietnam vet to use his murderous talents in civilian life. Leary of coincidence, Quarry works to understand how he can fulfill his professional obligation to Stockwell without Joni getting caught in the middle, even as he wonders whether she’s behind the contract. Collins amply leavens the violence with wit. (Sept.)

Quarry's Ex

Ron Fortier, a writer of comics and prose his own talented self, wrote a lovely review of the upcoming Nate Heller, BYE BYE, BABY. It’s always a thrill when a reader (and in this case a reviewer) really “gets it.” Ron, I’ve been saying that this is the first Heller in a decade, but it’s really only nine years.

An interview I gave a few years ago about ROAD TO PERDITION 2: ON THE ROAD has popped up. This probably is getting space because in addition to the upcoming RETURN TO PERDITION, new editions of ROAD TO PERDITION and RTP: ON THE ROAD will be published soon.

Sean Leary, a talented writer from the Quad Cities, has written a nice piece on the thriller collaborations by Matt Clemens and me, specifically NO ONE WILL HEAR YOU.

And this overview of upcoming Hard Case Crime publications goes out of its way to give my stuff plenty of space.

The KISS ME DEADLY Criterion DVD/Blu-ray reviews just keep a’comin’…with nice things about my new cut of MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE. Check this one out, and this one, too.

Finally, here’s a strong review of KISS HER GOODBYE at the always fascinating Noir Journal.

Oh, in case you haven’t seen the news elsewhere online, Matt and I did not win the Thriller award for Best Paperback (YOU CAN’T STOP ME), nor did I win for my Spillane short story (“A Long Time Dead”). But I was the only writer to lose twice!