Posts Tagged ‘Mickey Spillane’

Dispatch From the Bunker

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

The audio book of Scarface and the Untouchable, I am pleased to report, is up for a Voice Arts Award, thanks in no small part to narrator Stefan Rudnicki…assisted by two other narrators, A. Brad Schwartz and Max Allan Collins, under Stefan’s direction.

For those of you attending Bouchercon, look to see Barb and me there, Friday through Sunday. The con begins on Thursday, but that’s Halloween, and my four year-old grandson will be in costume, seeking candy, which I do not intend to miss.

Next week I’ll give you the breakdown on our panels and signings (Barb and I each have a panel appearance).

I have been very much burrowed in on the next Mike Hammer novel, Masquerade for Murder. It will be out next March. This is the second Hammer I’ve written from a Spillane synopsis, with only two scraps of Mickey’s prose to work into the book (including the opening, however). That’s an intimidating prospect, but I think it came out well.

The novel takes place in the late ‘80s and is a follow-up (not a sequel) to Mickey’s The Killing Man. Like the preceding Spillane/Collins Hammer novel, Murder, My Love, the synopsis may have been written by Mickey as a proposed TV episode for the Stacy Keach series. This means I had fleshing out to do, and I hope I’ve done Mike and the Mick justice.

I am working with a new editor at Titan, Andrew Sumner, who knows Hammer well – he was the skilled interviewer for one-on-one interviews with me at the last two San Diego Comic Cons. Andrew knows American pop culture inside out, and this is good news for me and the series. I will, very soon, be preparing a proposal for three more Hammer novels – two of which have considerably more Spillane material to work from.

The 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer looms in 2022, and we are already planning for it. With luck, the long-promised Collins/James Traylor biography of Spillane will be part of that. There will be a role for Hard Case Crime in the mix, too, and possibly even another graphic novel, this one based on a classic Spillane yarn.

For Masquerade for Murder, I spent a lot of time with The Killing Man, assembling typical Spillane phrases, settings and passages for reference and inspiration. I try to incorporate a Spillane feel, particularly in descriptions of weather and NYC locations; but I stop short of writing pastiche – I am less concerned with imitating Mickey’s style and more concerned with getting Hammer’s character down.

It’s somewhat challenging positioning each novel in the canon in proper context. Hammer was a shifting character – shifting with Mickey’s own age and attitudes – and I want each book to reflect where the writer and his character were when Mickey wrote the material I am working from. The last two have been later Hammer – specifically, late 1980s. Next time, assuming I land another three-book contract, I will be writing a story set around 1954. I look forward to that, because it’s the younger, rougher and tougher and more psychotic Hammer that many of us know and love.

I also have gone over the galley proofs of the new Heller, Do No Harm, also out in March (as is Girl Can’t Help It!) (yikes)! It was written a while ago and I was pleased to view it from a distance – and pleased to find I liked it very much.

I hope you’ll agree.

You didn’t have anything else to do next March but read three books by me, did you? You can take April off and dive back in, in May for Antiques Fire Sale.

* * *

Here’s a nice, extensive look at Ms. Tree.

Wild Dog has his own Wikipedia entry now – a good one.

One of our best contemporary crime fiction critics and historians, J. Kingston Pierce, has included The Titanic Murders in a fun look at disaster mysteries.

The late, great Paul Newman is lauded in this write-up about the film of Road to Perdition.

And finally, that man Jeff Pierce is back with a fine piece about the subject of last week’s update, actor Robert Forster.

M.A.C.

Spoiler-ville!

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

Crusin’ played on Sunday, from six p.m till around a quarter till eight, at the Musser Public Library in Muscatine – part of the Second Sunday Concert series. We’ve been part of that concert series for about a decade, but previously we’d been on the patio, outside, at Pearl City Plaza. That space is now privately owned and being developed for a restaurant, so the series is now at the library.

We were supposed to appear outside, in the parking lot, with a Mississippi River view (as the patio had in the past provided), but the morning was rainy with the day bringing dark clouds, so we headed inside to a nice big air-conditioned room on the third floor.

Frankly, I thought this change in venue – two changes, actually, from Pearl City Plaza to the library and then from the parking lot to inside the building – would mean disaster. I’m happy to have been wrong – we had a capacity crowd, easily over one-hundred, with the overflow seated outside the room itself in the hallway.

It went well. In a way that’s frustrating, because I’ve been leaning toward making this my final summer playing regular gigs – even our schedule of six appearances has seemed too much. But we are planning to do an original material CD over the winter months, so maybe we’ll be back for a limited schedule to peddle our CD…three gigs, maybe.

We played five of our originals from that project and they were well-received. It’s tricky as hell for an oldies band to do original material, but we got away with it. That is encouraging.

For a long time I’ve wanted to do one last rock ‘n’ roll album, something that sounds like a really good record from 1967.

We’ll see.

* * *

Welcome to Spoiler-Ville, and continue on at your peril. Skip down quickly if you haven’t seen Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and the fourth season of Veronica Mars.

First, Veronica Mars.

The world of Marshmallows (the cringe-worthy name for hardcore Veronica Mars fans, who have been, shall we say, a-twitter over the death of Veronica’s longtime love, Logan Echolls, portrayed by slow-burn actor Jason Dohring. Marshmallows want the show (assuming it comes back for a fifth season) to find a way to bring Logan back. Creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell are speaking in terms of the finality of the character’s demise.

This is in concert with Thomas (and to some degree Bell) talking about freeing Veronica from her high-school-heavy past in Neptune, California, and (literally in the final episode) sending her off to solve mysteries in what appears to be a hip variation on Murder, She Wrote.

Look, Bell is great, and so is the character that the actress continues to love playing – she knows it’s her signature role. Thomas is a gifted writer and TV guy, and they presumably know what they’re doing. I believe part of the notion of leaving Neptune flows from the two painfully mediocre tie-in novels that Thomas co-bylined but almost certainly had little to do with. The Neptune setting and extended cast, in those novels, are burdens and baggage.

Veronica can lose all of those characters, except one – and that character is not Logan Echolls, who has ceased to be useful in her story. The essential secondary player is Veronica’s father, Keith Mars (as portrayed by Enrico Colantoni). Their chemistry – their verbal interplay – is the heart of the show. If Veronica leaves Neptune behind, including Keith, the character becomes just another detective, if the cutest on the planet.

So if Rob Thomas doesn’t find a way to keep Keith solidly in the mix, that could sink the show, whereas all Logan’s presence does is drag it down.

On the other hand, Logan is probably not dead.

Huh? What?

Logan is a Naval Intelligence Officer, who is established in season four as someone who suddenly leaves from time to time, to do dangerous spy stuff. Also, right before he marries Veronica (I told you not to look, Nate!), she receives a text from him that says, “Sorry.” But then he shows up to marry her anyway, and shrugs off the “Sorry” as meaning he was sorry he was going to be a little late for the wedding (not a big church one, after all).

Okay. So how hard would it be to write Logan back in? Not at all. He’s off on secret spy stuff, so secret and dangerous that it might come back on Veronica if he’s found out. Naval Intelligence could easily fake his (off-camera) death. Then why would he marry her and put her through this? Part of the cover for his disappearing into undercover spy stuff would be to seem really dead…and marrying Veronica would at once (a) show her how he feels, and (b) get her all the perks of having a dead husband in the military.

So here’s what could happen. When Rob Thomas knows Veronica Mars is finally at its end (and it’s a hard show to kill, let’s face it), Logan can return. All kinds of melodrama can ensue, because Veronica will be furious with him, and so on.

This reading of the Logan Echolls demise may not be new – I do not keep up in any with Veronica Mars fandom, not being a Marshmallow, although I do like Krispie Treats.

On to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

First of all, I have seen it a second time and like it even more. It’s a masterpiece. I was able to convince Barb to go, even though the Manson aspect put her off; but she loves violent revenge (always a bit unsettling in a wife) and loved it as much as I do.

Tarantino fills the screen and the soundtrack with references that will fly over many heads. I thought I’d caught plenty of ‘em, but new ones hit me this time.

For example, when a bus glides by with a banner promoting the Combat TV series, the star pictured is Rick Jason (not the better-known Vic Morrow). Jason, whose name is obviously similar to DeCaprio’s character, Rick Dalton, died a suicide. And Rick Dalton is a fading TV series lead who has suicidal tendencies (he’s somewhat patterned on Pete Duel of the TV western, Alias Smith and Jones, as well, another real-life suicide).

And when Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth stops to possibly give a ride to Manson girlie Pussycat (Margaret Qualley), his POV shot of her is ironically accompanied by a “Heaven Sent” commercial on the car radio; her POV shot of him includes a billboard with a big slab of meat advertising a supermarket.

Tons of that kind of stuff. I look forward to spotting more next time around.

The looming question about Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is whether Cliff Booth killed his wife or not. But that question is not answered, although significantly the moment that seems to say he did has him pointing his speargun at his wife while seated before her on his boat deck – she looms above him, carping at him, and when we cut away from them, the thought that he might pull the trigger in the next instant is inescapable.

But…(and my son Nathan had already ascertained this) on second viewing, I could clearly see that the speargun is not loaded.

I continue to feel the purpose of the rumor about Cliff killing his wife is a commentary on Hollywood judging people by rumor and not fact, and is a sly critique of #Metoo gotten out of hand.

When I revealed here last week that I had not liked Tarantino’s early films, I was hit by a few folks who wondered how my taste could be so terrible. Surely everybody loves Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and the Kill Bills! Well, I didn’t, although I may revisit them. My problem at the time, mostly, was that I knew the references – and not the resonant kind in Once Upon a Time, but more I knew where he was stealing from.

I also found him to be an obnoxious interviewee, still the nightmare video store clerk who tells you what’s good and bad and ugly, and assumes you don’t know as much as he does. I still have that problem with Tarantino when I have to look at him and listen to him. It’s just, now I understand that behind that geek-made-good persona is a truly gifted storyteller and filmmaker.

I think he turned the corner, in a good way, with Inglorious Basterds. Barb pointed out something that shows how smart she is and how slow I am – she said, after viewing the slaughter of the Mansonites by Pitt, his well-trained dog, and DeCaprio, “Tarantino really likes to right wrongs, doesn’t he?”

That was it. The cult movie regurgitation of his early films was replaced by a real theme that generated compelling narratives, not just clever, dialogue-driven playlets not adding up to much (Jackie Brown, excepted…Elmore Leonard, after all). Now he’s giving Nazis what they deserve (Inglorious Basterds), and slave owners (Django Unchained).

And the Mansion family.

Also, Once Upon a Time is his best film because it addresses Hollywood in a different way than the fan boy/video clerk manner of his earliest, over-praised work.

You are now exiting Spoiler-ville.

* * *

This is a wonderful write-up in Booklist about the Mike Hammer novels that I’ve been completing.

Here’s another of those write-ups where somebody notices that Road to Perdition the film began as Road to Perdition the graphic novel.

And another.

Finally, here’s a short but sweet RTP write-up, acknowledging the great Richard Piers Rayner.

M.A.C.

Once Upon a Time in Muscatine

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

If you’d like to pick up any of the Nathan Heller novels that Thomas & Mercer has reprinted (that’s everything but the more recent Forge-published novels including the upcoming Do No Harm), you can do so this month for a mere 99 cents per. Right here. Step right up!

If you’ve read and liked Girl Most Likely, please post an Amazon review, however brief. We’ve drifted just below a solid four stars and could use input from readers who dug it to push us back up. If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?

I have been having difficulty with responding to your comments here. Readers seem to be able to post, but recent responses I’ve made to questions have not made it through the process. I responded three times to this thoughtful post from Mike Pasqua:

Sorry that we didn’t have a chance to connect. Two things: I am pretty sure that, without Miguel, Bill probably would be reluctant to do a one-off SOTI show (I know that Miggie missed shows in the past because he was working but this is different). Second, while no one person is indispensable, the loss of Bat Lash was a terrible blow to Jackie and losing John Rogers was a major body-blow to the Con. Yes, they did their usual great job because they are consummate professionals but John’s loss cast a pall on the event. Rest assured Robin Donlan is more than capable of taking over the reins but people were operating on fumes this year. I know that this was nowhere near the celebration that I expected it to be but it’s hard to be upbeat when there was such a void (I spent time with John’s wife and I know that this was beyond painful for her). Just my two cents.

I’ll respond to Mike right now, and hope what I have to say will be generally interesting to readers of these updates.

Seduction of the Innocent’s surviving four members have discussed the notion of performing again, one last time, obviously without Miguel but in his honor. Bill Mumy was part of that discussion. Now, he might change his mind, but the reality is we were not asked to appear for the 50th San Diego Con, which would have been an ideal place to do a final show, possibly post-Eisner Awards. Our thinking was that we’d probably do a single, if rather long, set. We appeared at DragonCon without Miguel, when his movie work precluded his attendance, so there is (as Mike indicates) a precedence for SOTI playing as a four-piece.

Saturday morning quarterbacking is the easiest thing in the world to do, and I have nothing but respect and appreciation for those who put this juggernaut of a con on. Mike is an old friend and he is a veteran of helping mount this difficult, challenging show. My criticisms of the con are mostly confined to the increasingly dangerous exhibition hall floor, where the problems of crowds were exacerbated by exhibitors who created a frenzy with artificially contrived limited editions that fed lines in main aisles, which in turn sparked belligerent behavior on the exhibitor’s staffs and on convention security. SDCC stands on the precipice of a major, even tragic disaster if these practices are not curtailed.

My other complaints are more personal – that my collecting interests are not as well-served by the show now, and that my age (and the aftermath of health problems) make it difficult for me to navigate a room with 150,000 people in it, all seeking their own pop culture nirvana.

Here’s another comment I wasn’t able to respond to (Nate is working on it), this from Brendan:

It’s wonderful to hear more about your Ms. Tree collections. I managed to track down a large number of original issues several years ago, but some of them were in a pretty sorry state, so it will be great to own fresh copies of the stories.

And a Johnny Dynamite collection is coming out, too?! I can’t wait! Are you and Terry connected to that reprint? I’ve heard you two share the copyright on the character, but was never sure if that was true.

Yes, a Johnny Dynamite collection is coming out from Craig Yoe, gathering all of the Pete Morisi-drawn stories with a bonus Ms. Tree story (one of the few things not collected in the forthcoming five-volume Titan series). I am doing an intro but haven’t written it yet. We do control the copyright.

* * *

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is probably director/writer Quentin Tarantino’s best film – certainly it’s my favorite movie of his.

I came slow to Tarantino. I did not care for – and am still not a fan of – Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, True Romance and both Kill Bills. With the exception of the Elmore Leonard-based Jackie Brown, his films seemed to me undisciplined show-offy affairs, and painfully reflective of the motormouth, know-it-all video clerk from the ashes of which director Tarantino emerged.

But starting with Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino began to better organize his narratives, making them less self-indulgent without losing his fannish enthusiasm and love of the outrageous. His characters no longer all sounded the same, spewing glib Tarantino speak; rather, they had specificity and even depth. Django and The Hateful Eight were among my favorite films of their respective years, and I am now – however improbably – a fan.

Like Yesterday, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will work best on a certain kind of Baby Boomer audience member (some will be put off by its bold storytelling and climactic violence). Tarantino lovingly, almost fetishistically, recreates the late ‘60s in Los Angeles, both the era and its artifacts. For those of us who lived through those years, it’s a time machine ride that will plaster a smile on faces despite the lingering presence of the Manson family on this oddly innocent world’s periphery.

I won’t talk much about the plot – frankly, there isn’t much of one, although for something so slight, the payoff is major. And this is a film that needs to be seen cold – avoid spoilers at all costs.

But the incidental joys are endless – replications of ‘50s and ‘60s westerns (and their differences); clips from films and TV shows into which the stars of this film are believably inserted (and, in one case, movingly not inserted); marquees and movie posters of exactly the right releases; products and places and things that now exist only in memory, brought back to life.

The film is not without controversy. Tarantino has not made friends with the far left by hiring some actors who have been tarnished by #Metoo, and his protagonists are obviously white males, one of whom (Brad Pitt) is overtly if quietly macho. An interesting and thought-provoking aspect of the narrative is the possibility that the Pitt character killed his wife – something neither confirmed nor denied – which has generated career-crippling rumors for the stunt man character. Somewhere in there is a commentary about the post-Weinstein criticism Tarantino has been getting, and knew he would inflame, but we are left to sort it out for ourselves.

On the other hand, Sharon Tate as portrayed by Margot Robbie, is a sweet, sympathetic portrait that shows the director as anything but misogynistic. This is in keeping with Tarantino’s improved ability to create characters for his little playlet-like scenes that aren’t just fragments of himself. Particularly winning is a surprisingly touching yet unsentimental scene between DeCaprio’s fading TV star and a female child star.

DeCaprio and Pitt give unflinching performances as “heroes” who are hugely flawed. What you ultimately have in Once Upon a Time is a loving critique of Hollywood and that specific late ‘60s era, at once a valentine and a reality check. Oh, and if you are avoiding this because of the Manson aspect, don’t. Their presence is unsettling but not a deal-breaker.

For me, the film had some interesting resonances. I was working on the script for in 1993 and ‘94 in Hollywood – not living there, but making numerous trips – and the world of this film was close to what I witnessed. Growing up in Muscatine, Iowa – and staying here for my whole life (so far) – it often strikes me as odd, how many brushes and near brushes with Hollywood I’ve had.

For example, Bruce Lee is depicted in the Tarantino film, and his son Brandon was my friend – and a huge Quarry fan. I once got a telephone call from him (while Barb and I were living in our downtown Muscatine apartment over a beauty shop, our rent $100 a month) to tell me how much he loved the Quarry novels. By the way, Damon Herriman plays Charles Mansion in Once Upon a Time – he played the Boyd character (renamed “Buddy”) in the Quarry TV series. I spent time with him on set – he’s a delightful guy…Australian, by the way.

Also, right now I’m reading Funny Man, a warts-and-all bio of Mel Brooks, and discover Jose Ferrer was a pal who Brooks often ran his stuff by, because he found Ferrer a good judge of what’s funny. Of course, Jose was Miguel’s father. I once spoke to Jose Ferrer on the phone about his love for mystery fiction, and he was so impressed that I was close to Mickey Spillane.

Yet here I am in Muscatine.

Right now I’m glad to be, because Nate and Abby and Sam and Lucy (son/daughter-in-law/grandson/granddaughter) have moved here and are just up the street from us now. Guess who went to a 3 pm matinee of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood with me?

Nathan Collins.

* * *

Ron Fortier has done a wonderful review of Murder, My Love. Check it out!

A detailed entry on my band, The Daybreakers, is on Wikipedia. I had nothing to do with it, which makes it special to me. Pretty good. Check it out, too.

Finally, here’s a short but sweet review of The Wrong Quarry, my favorite of the list books (Brandon would have loved it), on Sons of Spade.

M.A.C.

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.