Posts Tagged ‘Mike Hammer’

Thanksgiving 2016

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

In a year like the one I’ve experienced, it might seem tough to be thankful.

Those of you follow these updates know that I’ve had some health issues. The year began with carotid surgery preceding open-heart surgery, during which I had a stroke. While not major, the stroke left me with a fairly useless right hand – couldn’t type, didn’t even have a signature. And a writer losing his or her signature has lost a key piece of identity.

What followed was a lot of work getting my hand functional again and recovering from the surgery with physical and occupational therapy. Also, in the run-up to the heart surgery, something growing in my lower right lung lobe made itself known, requiring keeping an eye on. Eventually I was scheduled to go in for surgery that would probably be just a closer look, but might result in more serious surgery.

While all of this was going on, my son Nate’s bride Abby gave birth to Sam Collins, a preemie who fought a brave battle for life. Nate and Abby practically lived in the hospital for a month while this little tadpole of a kid fought to be a baby. We visited as often as we could, though this was going on concurrent with my heart condition stuff, and that limited us some.

Then both Barb and I managed to get pertussis, which is to say whooping cough. I got mine in August and she got hers a few weeks later, and we are still coughing (the hundred-day cough, they call it). My adventures, recounted in detail in previous updates, included rushing back from New Orleans the moment I landed because Barb’s pertussis had sent her to the emergency room; and having my lung surgery postponed for a month to allow me to get over my bout with the stuff.

The surgery wound up being more serious. A baseball-size thingie was taken out of my lower right lobe. It’s now been diagnosed as MALT-lymphoma, which has nothing to do with old Pop Jenkins down at the soda shop.

Then, while I was recovering from the lung surgery, glued to the TV, I witnessed Donald Trump being elected president of the United States.

So what the hell do I have to be thankful for?

Almost everything (except for the Trump part).

We can start with this career that has allowed me to concoct stories and get paid for it for four decades. We can move from there to my wife Barb, whose love and support got me through all of the bullshit above – she always knows when I need a tender shoulder and also when I need a kick in the pants. She is not a self-pity fan.

From there we can move to my great son and his equally great wife, who gave me this wonderful grandson who has overcome all of the obstacles and is now smart and healthy and very funny. You may have a baby or a baby grandkid who seems pretty cool, but can yours do an evil maniacal laugh at sixteen months?

As for my travails, I was typing almost immediately when I got home from the hospital. Initially all I could move was the mouse, and for some weeks the sensitivity of the computer keyboard was how my weak right hand was able to register anything. But two weeks home after my three-week hospital stay (two of it in O.T. and P.T.), I was working on my draft of Antiques Frame. Before long I was writing The Will to Kill, the new Mike Hammer, and Executive Order with my pal Matt Clemens. Throughout every stage of various recoveries, I have found that my writing has been unimpeded, that it is a place I can go and think of nothing but the story at hand.

Every day I filled at least a full notebook page with my signature, and within a month I had it back. If you ever need an M.A.C signature, my wife can tear one of out the notebook I filled with them. (Ask for one from a later page.)

The pertussis Barb and I shared brought us even closer together, because we were dealing with it at the same time. I won’t pretend it didn’t suck, but something odd happens when you are sick and have a reasonable expectation to get well – you start to really, really appreciate normal, everyday life. To look forward to the most trivial damn things – a meal out, a movie, a walk on an autumn day.

As for the lung thing, I am in a wait-and-see mode, and have a few more tests to take, but I am assured this is a treatable, very survivable condition…and I may have no recurrence. At this point there’s been no talk of chemo or radiation.

If that comes, rest assured I will do everything I can to keep writing, and taking advantage of the support and friendship my readers, editors and my great agent Dominick Abel have always provided. Do not worry about me. I am fine, and I am blessed.

Thanks.

* * *

Here’s the Brash Books blog with stuff about Road to Perdition the novel and Quarry as well.

Here’s a nice latterday review of Kill Your Darlings, though oddly the Bouchercon aspect of the story (usually the favorite aspect of readers) is not so favored here.

Finally, here’s a cool review of Dan John Miller reading Better Dead.

M.A.C.

3 Movies We Made it Through

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

Now that Barb and I are feeling a little better after our bout with pertussis – and are not contagious – we’ve started going out to movies again. As regular readers of these updates should recall, she and I have walked out of an inordinate number of movies this year – on one occasion, two in one day.

So I am pleased – make that relieved – that the last three movies we’ve seen found us making it through the entire presentation, even when the pop, popcorn, and Milk Duds had run out. Here’s a brief rundown:

MASTERMINDS is an odd one that has left some reviewers cold, but both of us liked this one quite a bit. It’s a true-crime film that is also an over-the-top comedy. Here’s the cast: Zach Galifianakis; Kristen Wiig; Kate McKinnon; Jason Sudeikis; Owen Wilson; Leslie Jones; and Ken Marino. With four of the principals veterans of Saturday Night Live (Wiig, McKinnon, Sudeikis, Jones), and another from The State (Marino), and with SNL’s Lorne Michaels one of the producers, you should have some sense of how this differs from, say, IN COLD BLOOD.

The odd thing of it for us is that as we watched, we began to slowly realize the true incident being loosely depicted was one Barb and I had considered turning into a novel ourselves, a few years ago (the clipped newspaper articles remain in our story files); we just couldn’t figure out how to handle this unlikely, goofy story of a crew of trailer-park “masterminds” who pulled off a $17 million Loomis Fargo robbery. The slapstick nature of the real crime makes great fodder for the improv style of the cast, though (as I say) some found this marriage of true-crime and comedy off-putting. We howled.

HELL OR HIGH WATER – I almost passed on this one, since the screenplay was by Taylor Sheridan, whose SICARIO I despised. But the high Rotten Tomatoes rating got us there, and both Barb and I loved this throwback to the character-driven crime films of the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, with its strong nod toward BONNIE AND CLYDE. Sheridan and director David Mackenzie follow two sympathetic pairs – Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham, Texas Rangers, and Chris Pine and Ben Foster, bank robbers – on a course of inevitable, tragic confrontation. Criminal Pine comes across as an antihero of sorts, and Foster pulls off the very tricky role of Pine’s somewhat unhinged, borderline sociopathic brother, bringing to it unlikely charm. Bridges is the almost crotchety Texas Ranger just days from retirement who needles his Native American partner unmercifully in politically incorrect ways that create nervous laughter. The points of view of both sides of these teams are understandable, and it’s increasingly uncomfortable knowing collision is coming. When it does, no punches are pulled. The cinematography is striking in its depiction of a barren, even ravaged modernday Texas, and echoes of the Wild West past of outlaws and lawmen lurk on the fringes of this melancholy but always entertaining film. Best of the year so far.

GIRL ON THE TRAIN – We didn’t walk out of it, but this one barely eked out our attention. For a more compelling melodrama, try watching a snail crawl across a patio. All of the characters are unsympathetic, and – possibly explaining the sleep-inducing pace – there’s about a short story’s worth of plot here, stretched out and arranged in two hours of pointless flashbacks that don’t announce when they’re over (including some flashbacks within flashbacks, depictions of false memories, and flashbacks remembered by people who weren’t there). The screenwriter is female and so is the author of the novel, and if a man wrote a novel hating women as much as this film hates men, he would be dismissed as a sexist boor. Worst movie we didn’t walk out of in recent memory. Slight compensation: the performances of Emily Blunt (though she’s mostly playing drunk) and Allison Janney as a cop (who ought to be more on top of things).

* * *

Stacy Keach is a nominee for best narrator of a crime & thriller audiobook for MURDER NEVER KNOCKS by Spillane & Collins. Stacy does a fantastic job on his readings of the novels, and if you’re a Mike Hammer fan, you shouldn’t miss any of them.

Another top narrator, Stefan Rudnicki, has done QUARRY IN THE BLACK on audio. I’ve not heard this yet, but Stefan always does a good job. He has a deep voice that suggests the older Quarry (of, say, THE LAST QUARRY) ruminating about the adventures of his younger days.

Speaking of QUARRY IN THE BLACK, the positive reviews keep coming, like this one from Criminal Element.

And this one from the San Francisco Book Review.

From Australia comes this great review of the QUARRY TV show, with lots of references to the original books.

Here’s a review of the early novel in the series, QUARRY’S DEAL.

And finally, in German (but you may have a Google translator or something), is a career piece on me the likes of which nobody in the USA has ever done. It comes from the very knowledgeable Martin Compart, who was my editor at several publishing houses in Germany. Martin, the epitome of cool, was an early advocate of both Quarry and Nate Heller. Scroll down the article and you’ll see a great picture of him, next to some young punk.

M.A.C.

Fifty Years and Counting

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Cinemax has posted the third episode of QUARRY on You Tube. Enjoy!

QUARRY Episode 3: “A Mouthful of Splinters”

This weekend was Muscatine High’s 50th Class Reunion. Barb and I both were dealing with the pertussis that had dragged us both down of late, but I am out in front of her a week and a half and was in shape to participate in all of the activities on Friday and Saturday night. This included a boat ride on the Mississippi and then a big get-together at the same Legion Hall where I once ate pancakes prepared by Presidential candidate Howard Dean.

In part because I had attended three grade schools locally, I made lots of friendships that extended beyond the tight little group of us who played poker and palled around and got in Leave-it-to-Beaver type “trouble.” So I had the chance to touch bases with many, many friends, and it was pretty great. Several of my best friends were there – Ron Parker and Mike Bloom in particular, names that mean nothing to you but the world to me – and so many others. For instance, Joyce Courtois was the alto in my high school quartet, fantastic singer and wonderful, warm person – together we set a record: three “number one” ratings that put us in the All-State Chorus three years running…only quartet in the state that ever accomplished that. Impressed? I didn’t think so. It certainly didn’t get me laid.


Crusin’ at Geneva Country Club, Muscatine, MHS 50th Reunion; left to right, M.A.C., Jim Van Winkle, Steve Kundel, Joe McClean, Brian Van Winkle (in back)

Unfortunately, Barb was still having a rough ride with the pertussis, and almost didn’t go at all…but finally she pulled herself together to go to the Saturday night event, which was the big blow-out, including Crusin’ playing for the dance. She looked beautiful despite being sicker than a dog (neither of us is contagious, if you’re wondering) and people were very pleased to see her.

I was supposed to be presenting a reunion of the original Daybreakers for the dance, but health issues worse than mine among the band members made that fall apart. So Crusin’ played, with our good friend Joe McClean of the XL’S as special guest on a dozen songs. The XL’S and the Daybreakers are the only area bands to make it into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Joe is an unparalleled showman and he was warmly received – the XL’S had played our senior prom two years running. (In 1966, the Daybreakers made their debut at an after-prom party.)

I had a rough evening because my cough-ravaged throat was in bad shape, but I got by. We played two one-hour sets that were supposed to be separated by a fifteen-minute break. But I was afraid people of my advanced age would head for home and their jammies if we didn’t keep the party going. So we played a solid two hours – for those of you who are wondering if I’m recovering well from my heart surgery last February.

In honor of the Daybreakers, we played “Psychedelic Siren,” with Joe on bass and our regular bassist, Brian Van Winkle, on siren – an instrument Brian mastered immediately, idiot savant that he is. Discussions about how much is idiot and how much savant are ongoing.

It was a lovely night, all in all. Never skip your high school reunion (and we’re available to play there, by the way).

* * *

I am thrilled and somewhat astonished that PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY has reviewed my expanded ROAD TO PERDITION prose novel and given it a rave – and a rare starred review!

The Mike Hammer collection, A LONG TIME DEAD, continues to get terrific reviews, like this one.

Here’s a lovely LEGEND OF CALEB YORK write-up.

And CALEB is inspiring this discussion group.

Here’s a welcome if not exactly timely SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT review.

Check out this excellent interview with QUARRY TV writer, Graham Gordy, although oddly somebody seems to think the Memphis setting came from the books.

This will link you to a local interview I did on Vintage Sound 93.1, Muscatine’s first-rate classic rock station – with the great Tony Tone.

Finally, if you haven’t read BLOOD AND THUNDER, the Nate Heller “Huey Long” novel (and if so, what’s wrong with you?), you can get it on Kindle for 99 cents, as this nice write-up (scroll down) indicates.

M.A.C.

My Trip to New Orleans

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

I know a lot of you want to see the QUARRY TV show but don’t have Cinemax. Well, Cinemax has (for how long I don’t know) provided You Tube with the first two episodes. Enjoy!

Here they are:

QUARRY Episode 1: “You Don’t Miss Your Water”

QUARRY Episode 2: “Figure Four”

Most fans of the books seemed to like the series, but I’ve had just a few complaints about how the show differs from the novels. Here’s what James M. Cain had to say on the subject:

“People tell me, don’t you care what they’ve done to your book? I tell them, they haven’t done anything to my book. It’s right there on the shelf.”

The Cinemax series is a long-form narrative in the manner of BREAKING BAD or MAD MEN. It’s not an episodic, procedural type of approach. Nonetheless, it clearly flows from my work, and I think honors it. I’d rather have a really good show that takes liberties than a flat-footed one that is rigidly faithful. In any event, it certainly attracts people to my stuff. That, and the checks they send me, is good enough for me.

* * *

What I should be writing about this week is my great trip to New Orleans for Bouchercon. And I did get to New Orleans, as you will see.

First, I have to warn you that this is one of those health updates that nobody really wants to read, including me, and yet I’m going to write it anyway. And this is not a veiled request for sympathy and get-well-wish postings. Really.

Here’s what is going on. For better than a month and a half, Barb and I have been battling what we thought was a bad chest cold with cough. I got it first, and Barb got it about a week later. Initially I thought I might have congestive heart failure again, which is what started all the fun and games last year; but my cardiologist said I was okay on that front.

So we settled in to ride it out.

Then I started having these fits or seizures or some damn thing where I would start gasping for breath and couldn’t breathe. It was like drowning without water. The first time I thought I was dying. When I survived, I realized it was just part of the dance.

One night a week and a half ago or so, I woke up with a gasping fit and stumbled downstairs, where Barb was sleeping on the couch, fending off her own “chest cold.” She helped me through it and then had the same kind of fit herself, even worse than mine. I called 911, but then Barb got her breathing going again, so instead of requesting an ambulance, I drove us to the emergency room, where we were given some medication and sent home. But I was swabbed for a test that, the next day, turned out to indicate a bacterial thing and not a virus. Both Barb and I were put on a very strong antibiotic.

I started feeling better. I still had the cough, but not as frequent. I should say during this period that I managed to do two band jobs that were the worst I ever experienced. I do most of the singing and it was brutal. I probably sounded like Tom Waits gargling razor blades. But I got through ‘em.

Meanwhile, Bouchercon was looming. Barb, still having the gasping fits two or three times a day, decided early on to stay home. We packed a bag for me and decided we’d wait to the last minute to decide whether I’d go. I was feeling pretty good, and then Barb went a full day without a fit. So last Thursday morning, she drove me up to the Moline airport, we had a nice breakfast, and she saw me off with a kiss, a smile and a wave.

So I flew first to Chicago, then to New Orleans. I arrived around four p.m. Something odd – kind of booga-booga odd – happened when I got there. At baggage claim, the bell sounded and the light flashed, and one lone bag came gliding down its long path. All by its little self. My bag. In all my life, I’ve never had my suitcase be the first off a plane. And everybody was staring at me, wondering why the hell I rated.

Must be a good omen, I thought, and hauled the bag off.

Right then my cell phone rang – or rather, played “Harlem Nocturne,” my ring tone. I answered and my nextdoor neighbor told me that Barb had stumbled over in the midst of what I later learned was five of those fits in a row. 911 had been called, and she had been taken by ambulance to the emergency room. The neighbor was there with her now.

I got all the info I could from the neighbor, which wasn’t much, and immediately found my way to the American Airlines ticket counter, where a very nice woman waded through my hysteria and got me on another flight back home. It was touch and go, because I had less than an hour to make the flight.

But I made it.

The flight from New Orleans to Dallas was awful. I was so frightened for Barb that I could barely keep from freaking out. When I landed, I called the neighbor’s cell and Barb was still at the hospital, getting X-rays and being well tended to. On the flight back to Moline, I was a little less tense.

Barb was home when I got there (the neighbors picked me up at the airport) and she was glad and relieved I’d come back, but beat herself up for putting me through such a long awful day of flying. I’d hear none of that, and over the weekend I nursed her through a number more of those terrible gasping episodes. She did better, having some really strong codeine cough syrup to help her out, but it was obvious I needed to be at her side.

Coming up this week we have our 50th class reunion and we are hoping she will be in good enough shape to attend. I am playing with Crusin’ for the event and hope my coughing will not still be a problem. Coughing remains a major issue for Barb and talking aggravates it. So that’s a factor. She has really been through a shit storm, but is tough and brave, and though my New Orleans trip lasted only an hour, I’m glad I made it back home that same night.

So that’s why you didn’t get your book signed at Bouchercon.

Getting back to my class reunion…I was supposed to mount a reunion of the original Daybreakers, with Joe McClean of the XL’s subbing for the late Chuck Bunn. It would have been the band’s 50th anniversary in tandem with my class of ‘66 reunion. But then the Daybreakers Curse decided to make the scene (its first appearance was my inability to participate in a Daybreakers reunion last year because of my heart trouble). Our drummer’s wife was diagnosed with lung cancer, sending the two of them into a medical whirlwind. Our lead guitarist then promptly broke his foot. Our other guitarist bailed, in part because he’s recovering from prostate cancer. And of course I had the comparatively minor problem mentioned above.

So my current band, Crusin’, will fill in, with Joe as a special guest on about ten numbers. We’re rehearsing this week, to pick up more mid-‘60s tunes and to work Joe in on his stuff. We will, assuming a plane doesn’t drop on my house, appear Saturday evening at Geneva Country Club in Muscatine.

I hope Barb will be there, too.

* * *

Here’s a mini-interview I did in support of the Mike Hammer collection, A LONG TIME DEAD.

QUARRY seen as one of the most interesting fall shows.

Jeff Pierce at Kirkus likes the complete version of the ROAD TO PERDITION prose novel.

The top ten most anticipated fall shows include QUARRY.

Director Greg Yaitanes talks QUARRY.

Finally, an interesting write-up on QUARRY here, though I disagree with the critic’s take on Logan Marshall-Green.

M.A.C.