Posts Tagged ‘Mike Hammer’

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Risking straining your patience, I thought perhaps I should report in on my health status. I’ll pause here for you to say “Goodie goodie” and clap your little hands.

Anyway, after three and a half months since the open-heart surgery, I seem to be doing well. I have completed both my physical therapy and occupational therapy. I’m told my hand, post-stroke, is at about 90%. I fatigue somewhat easily and usually am pretty wasted by mid-evening, though I stay up till midnight. We’re walking twice a day in our neighborhood (I would jump off a bridge before mall walking).

Work goes well. I reported here that Barb and I completed ANTIQUES FRAME, which I started working on about two weeks after getting out of the hospital. After that, I started working on the new Reeder and Rogers political thriller, EXECUTIVE ORDER, and got a third of the way through when I realized the plot needed work. My cohort Matt Clemens has been rewriting his story treatment and I’ll be back at the novel myself in probably a week or two. While Matt did that, I tackled the new Mike Hammer, THE WILL TO KILL. I should finish that this week.

In addition this coming weekend George Hagenauer and Brad Schwartz are coming to Muscatine for an overdue meeting about our joint Ness/Capone biography-in-progress.

A milestone for Barb and me, in several senses, was our trip June 1st and 2nd to scenic Galena, Illinois, a favorite haunt of ours. It involves a lot of walking but also eating (there are 67 restaurants in this town of 3500). We scheduled this trip months ago, figuring I should be in shape to handle it when it rolled around – a fairly long drive and an overnight – and I did fine. We were celebrating our 48th wedding anniversary. What a lucky bastard I am.

Another milestone is coming up – my first Crusin’ band job since the surgery. It’s June 9 outside the First National Bank at Muscatine, open to the public and free. We play 5 to 7 pm. We’ve been rehearsing quite a bit and had a three-hour session Saturday afternoon, which I managed to survive.

Speaking of rock ‘n’ roll, I want to deal with two comments that last week’s update elicited, due to my mini-rant on the Zombies, Monkees and Vanilla Fudge not being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Here’s what mystery writer (and audio artist) Mike Dennis had to say:

Max – don’t worry over the Monkees and Vanilla Fudge not making the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. It’s a bullshit outfit, created solely to produce the annual induction TV show, and as a side benefit, snag a few tourists into their building to see Jimi Hendrix’s leather pants or whatever. Other than the expected greats — Elvis, Beatles, Stones, etc — the Hall is straining more and more each year to find someone worthy of induction. In recent years, they’ve stooped to one-hit wonders: Buffalo Springfield, Laura Nyro, and others. Who’s next? Norman Greenbaum? Ronny & the Daytonas?

It’s all bullshit and not worth getting upset about.

There’s much wisdom in what Mike says here, although I think arguments could be made for both Buffalo Springfield (surely one of the most influential ‘60s bands) and Laura Nyro (a great songwriter). But the Hall is indeed bullshit. Trouble is, it’s all rock fans have – it’s our Cooperstown. So we have to make noise about the injustices.

Here’s what my good friend (and former Crusin’ sound man) Charlie Koenigsaecker had to say:

To me the most egregious omission in the Rock HOF would be Love, followed close behind by the Monkees and Zombies.

The MC5 should be in also and I would not look askance at the Fudge. For those who regard the Monkees as a mere vocal group whose musical accomplishments were buoyed by the talents of others, would they have the same reservations regarding the Coasters or the Supremes or the Four Tops or any other group who neither wrote their own material or played on their own records? Plus the Monkees eventually did both write and play on a lot of fine recordings.

I agree with everything Charlie says here, including that the MC5 and Love should be in the Hall.

My point of view here is, I think, one that has a certain amount of credibility. I grew up with rock ‘n’ roll. Saw Elvis on Sullivan. Owned a 78 of “Hound Dog.” Went nuts over Bobby Darin. Saw the Beatles on Sullivan (the Fudge too). Played in rock bands at the peak of the ‘60s/early ‘70s and opened for scads of famous acts.

Here is some of what’s wrong with the Hall of Fame, mostly flowing from a snobbish, narrow view of the history of rock merged with a politically correct bent that allows rap and country in when many key rock artists are omitted.

Where the hell is Pat Boone? I remember very clearly that he and Elvis were, for a long time, the only games in town. Boone gets shit for covering r & b records, but those original records were banned from mainstream radio and it was Boone who popularized them and opened the doors (and made Little Richard and other black artists a ton of money). The guy sold millions of records, and made rock palatable for White America. It’s called history. Deal with it.

The period between Elvis going into the Army and getting out again (or possibly up to the emergence of the Beatles) is mostly ignored by the Hall. It’s a tough call with the popular likes of Paul Anka, Frankie Avalon and Fabian, who are artistically pretty shaky. But what about Bobby Rydell? Has Jan Wenner ever heard “Wild One”? What about Bobby Vee? So many great records, and a top-notch live performer. He’s in the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, by the way (like my band, The Daybreakers).

Charlie’s point about the Monkees being pilloried for not playing on their records is well-taken. During the ‘60s many great bands were not allowed by their bigtime labels to play on their own records (usually after playing on the first album or so) because it was better for those bands to be out touring and more efficient to use studio musicians for the instrumentals on the records…mostly the Wrecking Crew.

Who, incidentally, played on the records of such Hall of Famers as the Mamas and Papas, the Byrds and the Beach Boys.

One of those Wrecking Crew-ghosted bands – who played on their own first two albums, and their later ones as well – is the Association. They are often dismissed as a vocal group with a folky California sound (Mamas and Papas anyone?) but “Along Comes Mary” is one of the best, most driving singles of its era, and “Never My Love” is one of the two or three most played-on-radio records of the ‘60s…including the Beatles’ output. Slow songs need love, too.

I could easily build a case for Paul Revere and the Raiders, who inspired so many local garage bands. And laugh if you like, but Gary Lewis and the Playboys made a ton of great records. And, I mean, if you’re going to induct Laura Nyro for writing “Eli’s Comin’,” how about a slot for Three Dog Night? And where the hell are the Turtles/Flo and Eddie?

And that’s just the ‘50s and ‘60s. Don’t get me started about Warren Zevon’s absence.

Snobbishness and no sense of history earns the Rock Hall the “bullshit” label that Mike Dennis gives it. But, again – it’s what we’ve got. It is wonderful to see the Dave Clark Five being honored. It’s a thrill to hear Cat Stevens sing and play again.

But rock deserves better. And so do we. And so do a lot great bands and artists.

M.A.C.

Links and Music

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

I have done several guest blogs/posts of late, and rather than do an elaborate update today, I’m going to shoo you over to those…although for those of you who sit through the credits, there’s a discussion of a few new albums by old artists.

First up is a discussion of the differences between Nate Heller and Mike Hammer, and how Spillane/Hammer had an impact on BETTER DEAD.

Next up is a look at how the Heller books combine the hardboiled detective story and the historical novel, briefly looking at my influences. The main thing, however, is Nate Heller’s love life, particularly as it pertains to the real-life women like Amelia Earhart and Bettie Page. There’s also a book giveaway (three BETTER DEAD copies are up for grabs). You’ll need to scroll down a ways, to get to my piece.

On the reviewing front, my pal Bill Crider – a fine western writer who also writes mysteries – provides a very nice review of THE BIG SHOWDOWN. Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine is my favorite web site, with all kinds of reviews, nostalgic articles and images, funny news clips, and much more, showing off Bill’s wry sense of humor. He’s always adding stuff, and I check back several times every day.

In closing, let me offer a few musical recommendations from somebody clearly stuck in the ‘60s.

The Monkees have their 50th anniversary album out, GOOD TIMES, with a song written by Rivers Cuomo of Weezer among many contemporary contributions. There’s even a newly finished song with a vocal by the late Davy Jones. And Mike Nesmith is back.

The great Ronnie Spector has released an album of covers of British Invasion tunes – ENGLISH HEART – and her singing is hypnotic. All the songs have a new, fresh twist to their arrangements. Perhaps the most distinctive voice in rock.

Last year one of my all-time favorite bands, Vanilla Fudge, released SPIRIT OF ‘67. I may have discussed the album here before, but it’s worth another mention: it’s probably the second-best Fudge album after their 1967 debut, and they specifically stuck to tunes from ‘67, as if this were their follow-up album (not the misguided misfire, THE BEAT GOES ON). Mark Stein’s passionate vocals are phenomenal, as is his keyboard playing. The arrangements are that wonderfully over-the-top, psuedo-symphonic approach that admittedly doesn’t work for everybody. These guys belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as the architects of heavy metal.

But then the Monkees aren’t in, either – and only the Beatles and the Stones have more dedicated followers.

Also not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: the Zombies. A travesty. Original members Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent did a strong, crowd-funded CD (you’re welcome), STILL GOT THAT HUNGER, released last October.

If anyone can explain to me why Rap and Country artists are ushered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but not the Monkees, the Fudge and the Zombies, I will listen politely and roll my eyes later.

At least the Ronettes are in.

M.A.C.

Better Ed

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

Normally I would just provide a link, but this BETTER DEAD review from Ed Gorman’s blog is so smart and trenchant (not a word you hear much these days), I just had to share it with you here. By way of full disclosure, Ed and I are friends, but we are also genuine fans of each other’s work.

BETTER DEAD

In 1983, Max Allan Collins created a brand new sub-genre, something very few writers have ever done. In TRUE DETECTIVE, his first Nathan Heller novel, he wedded the street-wise private detective novel with the historical novel.

The advantages to this approach were enormous. The big blockbuster historical novels were all too often stagey and wooden. Heller not only brought a sense of humor to the dance, he treated the historical figures he dealt with as human beings who farted, told dirty jokes and had the kind of mundane personal problems the big blockbusters never dealt with. In other words, he brought reality to the table.

In BETTER DEAD Heller is hired by Senator Joseph McCarthy to prove that all the victims Tail Gunner Joe is pursuing are actually “Commies.” His particular interest is Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who sit in prison awaiting their execution. This is just how I imagined McCarthy, a drunken, ignorant Mick rummy bent on achieving massive power. He is assisted in this by none other than Roy Cohn, a vile and treacherous figure who just happened to be (half a decade later) one of Donald Trump’s mentors.

But Heller also signs on to help an ailing Dashiell Hammett find evidence that the Rosenbergs have been set up and are innocent.

Collins recreates the Zeitgeist of the era very well. Yes, there were a lot of Communist sympathizers back then, mostly older men and women, intellectuals often, who saw the suffering during the Depression and thought—mistakenly—that Communism was the solution. (I started college in 1962 and took a history class from an elderly professor who was still a Stalinist, despite the fact that we now knew that Uncle Joe Stalin had slaughtered millions and millions of his own people.)

But these weren’t “Communist agents,” just disillusioned intellectuals (the Coen Bros. wittily address this in their latest film “Hail Caesar”).

Collins’ sociological eye never fails. Here’s a description I’ve now read three or four times just because I enjoy it so much. Heller is in the Bohemian heart of Greenwich Village.

“The clientele this time of time of night was mostly drinking coffee, and a good number were drunk, some extravagantly so as artists and poets and musicians sang their own praises and bemoaned the shortcomings of their lessers. These were self-defined outcasts, their attire at once striking and shabby, drab and outlandish.”
Bravado writing on every single page.

Max Allan Collins not only created a new sub-genre—he is its undisputed master.

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Speaking of BETTER DEAD, we are sitting at five reviews on Amazon. We sure could use some more (same for THE BIG SHOWDOWN and MURDER NEVER KNOCKS). ANTIQUES FATE is doing better at twelve reviews.

For those who have not written reviews at Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble before, you don’t have to be Anthony Boucher – just a couple of lines expressing your opinion is all that’s necessary. But more is welcome.

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Here’s a movie you need to go to: THE NICE GUYS.

If you, like me, consider Shane Black’s KISS KISS BANG BANG (2005) the best private eye movie of recent years, you will be a porker in excrement at this one. Set in 1977, the script co-written by Black nails the era to perfection, paving the way for outstanding art direction.

But you won’t go home whistling the sets. The plot, which has to do with the murder of a porn star, is a twisty thing where the detectives mostly stumble onto the clues, but you’ll only be amused. The dialogue has a witty, naturalistic bounce that stands apart from the story, reminiscent of my favorite TV show, ARCHER. And it’s rare that a crime film can be this funny and yet be so tough. There’s a lot of Spillane in this one, particularly by way of Russell Crowe, heavy-set and menacing and rather sweet.

Crowe and his co-star Ryan Gosling are the surprises here. I thought Gosling was an empty pretty boy until I saw him on SNL a while back and he was funnier than the cast. Here he is hilarious without shortchanging the character. I knew I liked this movie, but I loved it when Gosling found a corpse and did a tribute to Lou Costello by way of his “Hey Abbott!”-type reaction.

Warning: it contains lots of nudity and blood splattery violence, and by “warning” I mean “recommendation.”

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Here’s a really nice and very smart review of MURDER NEVER KNOCKS.

Check out this terrific review of the Ms. Tree novel, DEADLY BELOVED.

Finally, you may get a kick out of this look at the Bradbury Building, home of Nate Heller’s LA office. I participate in the comments section.

M.A.C.

Hey Kids! Free Books (2016 Edition)

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Before we get to the free book section, I want to invite anyone and everyone in the Iowa City area to come to a special screening of MOMMY at the wonderful indie theater, Film Scene, this coming Wednesday (May 4) at 10:00 p.m. I will be introducing the film and maybe taking a few questions after. We’re part of Film Scene’s Grindhouse series. This is from their Facebook write-up:

Late Shift at the Grindhouse – Wednesdays get weird when Late Shift hosts Ross Meyer, Joe Derderian and Aaron Holmgren dig up low-budget b-movies, horror and gore-fests, and camp classics for your viewing pleasure. Buy your ticket and take a ride in our Time Machine! Punch in and earn a bonus! $3 Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys and $2 small popcorn! PLUS– special custom trashy trailer reel curated by Ross with cheap swag and prize giveaways!

MOMMY
She’s pretty, she’s perfect, she’s June Cleaver with a cleaver.
“The Bad Seed grown up… chillingly good!” – Leonard Maltin

“Writer/director Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition) has crafted a fun little tribute to The Bad Seed that succeeds despite its ultra-low budget.” – Stacie Ponder, Final Girl

“What must be noted about Mommy is the amazing cast that Max Allan Collins has managed to assemble.” – Richard Scheib, Moria: The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review
Dialogue with writer/director Max AllanCollins in person.
In 1995 mystery writer Max Allan Collins created an indie thriller that scored surprising media attention and killer reviews – an “unofficial” sequel to The Bad Seed (1956) starring that classic film’s Academy Award nominated child star, Patty McCormack, grown into the menacing Mommy.
The scary black comedy also features Jason Miller (The Exorcist), Majel Barrett (Star Trek), scream queen Brinke Stevens and legendary “Mike Hammer” creator, Mickey Spillane, with an award-winning performance by 11-year-old Rachel Lemieux.
Happy Mother’s Day!
co-presented by Bijou Film Board
Free tickets for University of Iowa students. (Free U.I. student tickets will be distributed at 9:00 p.m.)

* * *

Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Nook Kobo

The day this update appears (May 3) is the pub date of the new Nathan Heller. As you may recall, a flurry of new M.A.C. books has just hit, so we’ve decided to do what we’ve done occasionally in the past and offer free books in return for a review at Amazon (Barnes & Noble and personal blogs are also good). We will be giving out at least five copies of BETTER DEAD, THE BIG SHOWDOWN (Caleb York) and ANTIQUES FATE. We may go up to as many as ten copies each if demand is strong.

ALL COPIES GONE, THANK YOU!!
We ask the following: e-mail us at REDACTED and make your request for a free book, listing the order of preference. IMPORTANT: include your snail-mail address. Only USA please – foreign postage (even Canada) is a killer. Act now, because within about three days, they’ll be gone.

Also, if you’ve read and liked MURDER NEVER KNOCKS, we are still very under-reviewed at Amazon. If you’ve written a review at your blog, please post it at Amazon; and if you’ve read and liked it, please take time to write a short review there.

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In honor of the publication of BETTER DEAD, I thought it made sense to share with you this lovely review from the Historical Novel Society:

“Told in two novellas tied together by the unscrupulous Senator Joe McCarthy, Better Dead’s Book One finds Collins’s Nathan Heller hired by writer Dashiell Hammett to try to find anything to clear Ethel and Julius Rosenberg on the eve of their executions. Heller uncovers some discrepancies in the Rosenberg trial, including discovering the missing drop-leaf table. But even in Collins’s world, he can’t change history, and the Rosenbergs still die. In the second book, Heller is retained by McCarthy to try to pry loose any information the CIA might have on him. As Heller digs more deeply, he becomes entrenched in a labyrinthine maze of CIA spooks, LSD-25 experiments on civilians and agents alike, and an unlikely partner in a young Bettie Page.

“Collins’s writing is as electric as the Cold War atmosphere he’s set Heller into. All the characters, both real (McCarthy, Page, the Rosenbergs) and created, are authentic and believably written. There is a coarse, edgy feel to the writing that helps drive a frenetic pace to an ending that has Heller looking back at both cases with a sense of loss and wonder. In his wonderful take on the insanity of the McCarthy Red Scare and the CIA LSD-25 experiments of the 1950s, Collins weaves a fanciful story that honors history yet allows for his usual deft creative styling.”

We have a less enthusiastic but not bad review from Publisher’s Weekly:

“In trying to cover too much ground, Collins dilutes the impact of the main investigation in his 18th historical whodunit featuring PI Nate Heller (after 2013’s Ask Not). In 1953, Sam Spade–creator Dashiell Hammett hires Heller to find whatever evidence he can to secure Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who are on death row for treason, a new trial. The investigator adroitly persuades U.S. senator Joe McCarthy, whose Communist witch hunt is at its height, and columnist Drew Pearson, a former McCarthy ally, to help fund his work by promising to reveal anything he finds to them as well. After learning how flimsy the government’s case was against the couple, Heller pursues some leads he gets from a visit to Julius and Ethel in Sing Sing. The truth proves to be more nuanced than any of his employers believes, and Collins again does an effective job of bringing the past to life and making a complex cause célèbre accessible. Recent disclosures about the so-called atomic spies, however, lessen the suspense.”

What both of these refer to is that BETTER DEAD is two stories, Book One and Book Two, that are linked by Senator McCarthy and general Red Scare era themes. I have known from the start that some reviewers, and perhaps readers, will complain that they are getting two short novels instead of one; but that was the best way, in my opinion, to deal with two very interesting McCarthy era cases, neither one of which could quite fill out a full 100,000 word Heller novel. I believe it works as a single novel. But if you view it as two Gold Medal paperbacks about Nate Heller, I am cool with it.

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Reader Kevin Helmsberg wrote a nice e-mail that included a number of questions. I figure it makes sense to answer them here.

1) I was very glad to learn that you’ll finally be publishing Road to Perdition (the novel) as it was meant to be. In one of the early interviews (2002) you said you’d turned in 90,000 words, however in your February 2016 post you mention 70,000 words as the complete version. You pointed out it was essentially the same book as intended in 2002, apart from “some tweaking” and “very little rewriting or additional writing.” So how come there’s a 20,000 words difference?

Also, in one of your interviews, you mentioned a Road to Perdition prequel – any news?

The PERDITION novel is about 70,000 words. I was just estimating when I used 90,000 words in that and other interviews – or maybe it was just hyperbole. Still, when you cut 30,000 words from a book, and replace all the dialogue with lines from the movie, it’s not only shorter, but bad things happen. I am thrilled that Brash Books is bringing out the novel and publishing it as it was intended to be.

2) The graphic novels in the series – Road to Perdition: On the Road (i.e. Oasis, Sanctuary, Detour) and Return to Perdition – is there a slightest chance of producing the prose versions? I’m one of those people who prefer prose fiction to comic books, so would be thrilled if I could enjoy it that way. I read some of your thoughts on the subject, including your love for comic books and some of the advantages in presenting the story, but still it would be great if you considered making real books. You’re a hell of a writer and I have no doubt the final product would be a hit. To quote yourself, “It’s great that I’ve become the poster child for graphic novels… but the fact is for my career, I need to hit a mainstream audience and I won’t by going out and only selling 3000 copies.”

I think it’s doubtful – but not impossible – that I would do a novel based on ON THE ROAD and RETURN. They probably suffice in their present form. The prequel I’m considering would work in either prose or graphic novel; it might be called RETURN FROM PERDITION, as it deals with Michael O’Sullivan Sr. returning from WW 1 to work for John Looney. Whether it’s a graphic novel or prose one might depend on what publisher is interested.

I also at one time considered a story about the Two Jacks and a Queen characters from ON THE ROAD, and I would love to do another project (PERDITION-related or otherwise) with Richard Piers Rayner.

3) In one of your posts, you mentioned that “several goofs in the hardcover of Complex 90 were corrected in the paperback version.” Do you have a list of errata?

Not a long list (references are to the hardcover edition):

On page 130, third line from the bottom:
“Irene Worth” should be “Irene Carroll.”

On page 222, third line from the bottom:
“Marley” should be “Romanos.”

4) Do you have plans to publish the following as ebooks:
– the Road to Perdition series, plus Black Hats and Red Sky in Morning;
– the Quarry stories: “A Matter of Principal,” “Quarry’s Luck,” and “Guest Services”;
– the Sherlock Holmes stories in jigsaw puzzles: “The Adventure of Professor Moriarty’s Notebook,” and the other one you mention in your blog (don’t know the title)?

ROAD TO PURGATORY and ROAD TO PARADISE – along with the full-length, aforementioned movie novel, ROAD TO PERDITION – will be published by Brash Books. BLACK HATS and RED SKY IN MORNING will be published by Brash as well, under my real byline (R.I.P., Patrick Culhane). At some point the three Quarry short stories will be published in a format that includes e-book, but no plans are afoot as yet. I doubt the Holmes stories by Matt Clemens and me will be collected anywhere, but it’s possible.

Thanks, Kevin!

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If you need convincing, here’s an except from BETTER DEAD at Criminal Element.

More on MOMMY at Film Scene.

Finally, here’s a lovely review of MURDER NEVER KNOCKS from J. Kingston Pierce at the Kirkus blog. I never thought I’d live to see the day I got a positive Kirkus review.

M.A.C.