Posts Tagged ‘Movie Reviews’

Book Giveaway: The Sequel!

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

The new Trash ‘n’ Treasures novel, Antiques Wanted, is in stores now in hardcover and e-book editions. Don’t miss it!

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Spring lassos small-town Serenity, as Brandy Borne’s crime-bustin’ mama Vivian hatches a harebrained scheme to run for county sheriff—ropin’ in her daughter to join the rodeo as campaign manager. As the two-woman posse tracks down voters at a local assisted-living home, Brandy’s attempts at corralling Mother’s impractical whims make her feel like a tinhorn on a bucking bronco. But sure as shootin’, unhappy trails lie ahead….

Shortly after the Borne gals receive a valuable signed photo of an old-timey cowboy actor from the elderly aunt of Vivian’s political opponent, a massive explosion sends Brandy to the ER and auntie to the grave.

With a string of unexplained deaths turning Sunny Meadow into Boot Hill, the ditzy duo—aided by their clever shih tzu Sushi—must lay down the law on a deadly outlaw . . . before someone’s elected the next victim, with the Bornes headin’ toward their last round-up!

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[Note from Nate: All copies given away. Thank you for your support!]

We have finished copies of the hardcover edition of Antiques Wanted in hand now, and have five to share with readers willing to do a review for Amazon and/or other venues (Barnes & Noble, blogs, etc.).

As usual, you must write me at [REDACTED], and include your snail mail address. United States residents only. These will go quickly, so act now. How will know if you win? A book will show up in the mail. We’ll get them out quickly.

As it happens, right now we are wrapping up the next Barbara Allan-bylined novel (she’s Barbara, I’m Allan) (if “I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster” jumped into your mind, you are both old and strange) (talking to you, Mike Doran).

Barb works on her draft for six months or more, and I spend around a month on mine, a very intense process on my part, with Barb staying handy to answer plot questions and such. I polish throughout and wind up adding about a fourth more pages. This novel – Antiques Ravin’ – has an Edgar Allan Poe theme and is the darkest of the books, but with plenty of off-the-wall humor. It’s also the most action-packed (and victim-strewn) of the novels thus far.

Because I am deep in the throes of my draft, I will make today’s update short. But I do want to comment on the nice response for my last two columns, discussing my insistence on clothing my characters (in the first essay), and in stripping them off the attractive female characters (subject of the second essay).

I admit in writing the previous update that I was not thinking in terms of political correctness, in relation to the complaints about sex scenes coming in from some readers. Rather, I was looking at such scenes in terms of characterization and narrative strategy. But I have noticed that a good share of such comments seem to come from younger readers – at my age, “younger” is under forty – which does indicate a cultural shift.

But political correctness has been a problem almost from the beginning for the Nathan Heller saga, going all the way back to the mid-‘80s. That is because I have insisted on Heller’s point of view and speech reflecting the period he’s writing about, as well as his own point in time – in other words, these are the memoirs of a man who was born early in the twentieth century.

So Heller may say “colored” or “Negro” where an African American is concerned. A young woman may be a “girl” to him. An Italian may be a “wop.” Complaints along those lines have been with Heller and me from the start. Neither of us care. Sometimes we have to fight copy editors over such things.

More recently Heller (and Mike Hammer’s and Quarry’s) tendency to give us a somewhat leering appraisal of a young woman’s physicality bothers some readers and reviewers. Again, I don’t care. It’s who these protagonists are. It’s who I am, to some degree, having been a male on the planet for seventy years. I am willing to retrain myself in a lot of ways. Me not noticing, and even cataloguing, a female’s attributes (that word itself seems politically incorrect now) is just is not going to happen.

If a young politically correct heterosexual male wants to pretend he doesn’t notice that a woman is attractive, that’s up to him. But he’s lying not just to us but to himself. I would venture to say the same about heterosexual women and good-looking men (the definition of “good-looking,” of course, being a matter of personal taste and inclination). I’m going to take a wild guess and say this applies to gay men and women, too.

I have been married for fifty years to one of the most enduringly beautiful women on earth. But you can bet I notice the pretty girls (yes, I said girls) who wander across my line of vision.

I should also say that my sex scenes are often, to some degree, meant to make a reader uncomfortable. Again, back at the very start of Heller (in True Detective), I dealt with such things as the use of prophylactics and the aftermath of a virgin’s first sexual experience resulting in blood on the sheets. A good pal of mine, also a private eye writer, objected to my including such things, which spoiled the myth and the romance for him.

This, to me, isn’t any different than when a very famous private eye writer complained about Nate Heller dropping a case when Frank Nitti paid the detective off to drop a case (which Heller did, and bought himself a new suit). I was scolded that a Chandler-esque private eye (and Heller comes out of Phillip Marlowe as much as he does Sam Spade and Mike Hammer) shouldn’t take a bribe from a gangster! Horrors! But Heller knew if he didn’t do what Frank Nitti told him to, my private eye’s bullet-riddled body would wind up in a ditch.

As I touched upon last week, my approach has always been to provide a realistic surface to the larger-than-life doings of the story at hand, thereby making the melodrama play like drama. The notion that Hammett, Chandler, Spillane and for that matter Ross MacDonald brought “realism” to the mystery story is idiotic. The novels of those four are romances (in the non-lovey-dovey sense).

It’s no accident that Mickey Spillane’s favorite writer was Alexander Dumas – The Three Musketeers ends much as I, the Jury does, and The Count of Monte Cristo is a revenge tale.

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Barb and I both liked The Avengers: Infinity War very much. Despite death looming over every frame, the humor of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and the most recent Thor, and well-tooled quips for Robert Downey’s Iron Man, influence Infinity Wars, making the ride as fun as it is harrowing. The narrative strategy of following little groups within the larger group, and giving the story to each mini-team for a while, works beautifully.

The only weak part is the Black Panther stuff, despite the popularity of the recent movie, which we walked out of, as some of you may recall. Speaking of political correctness, it’s a pandering thing, this Black Panther concept (the actor playing the B.P. is dignified and fine, however).

* * *

This site reports that I am not dead. What a relief!

Finally, here’s another Spillane birthday tribute.

M.A.C.

Let’s Talk About Sex!

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

Last time I discussed why I use clothing and setting descriptions for characterization, as well as to let the reader know how I see things. This was in response to complaints from readers who are bored by such material, and apparently have not developed an ability to skim.

The other complaint I’ve been getting lately – and not until lately, which is interesting – are the sex scenes in my books. Here are some typical Amazon complaints (turds in the punch bowl of many positive reviews) of Quarry’s Climax.

“As one might expect from the title, this is 33% story and 67% 14-year-old’s wet dream. If you’re 15, and still reading this stuff, better get checked out for some syndrome or another…”

“I’m a fan of the Nathan Heller series but this book was not written with an adult audience as it (sic) target. High school boys will love it; the rest of you, not so much.”

Several others took a similar tone.

Before we discuss, I request that you look at the cover of Quarry’s Climax and then read the back cover. Presumably this material was available to prospective buyers. Amazon includes the back cover copy, for example, on their listing.

Back already? Okay. Can anyone tell me why this cover, part of line famous for politically incorrect retro covers, would be on a book that lacked sexual content? How about the back cover, which tells prospective readers that the book is “raunchy,” and is about the publisher of a pornographic magazine who also runs a strip club? Any possibility, do you think, that the story within will have sexual content?

But there are actual reasons for the sexual content that have nothing to do with fairness-in-packaging. Like clothing and setting descriptions, sex scenes in my novels have to do with characterization, both of Quarry himself and the individual women.

For example, in The Wrong Quarry (perhaps my favorite Quarry novel), Quarry has affairs with an older woman and a young, wild one. Actually, the older woman is initially wild too, but as she and Quarry start having a, shall we say, loving relationship, their sex becomes rather conventional…married people sex, you might say. Meanwhile he is seduced by the young wild woman in a sex scene of flashing black lights and a waterbed and, well, you see the difference.

The other big factor is the story itself. When I conceive a story, it’s not out of whole cloth. I find a premise I like, think about it at length, then gradually put together an outline of sorts, which changes and grows as the novel is written. I know who did it and why, where the murder mystery is concerned, but the rest has a certain freewheeling quality. For example, in Quarry’s Climax, our “hero” has an oral sex encounter fairly early on with a stripper, which was not planned. Call it organic.

So the subject matter creates a landscape where different sorts of scenes occur. In the Nathan Heller novel, Better Dead – which has two novella-like sections – Nate encounters a beautiful female Commie in part one, and Bette Page in part two. Do you suppose that Nate gets laid at all in that novel?

But in the recently completed Do No Harm, there’s only one mild sex scene, with a recurring love interest of Nate’s, because the investigation of a brutal murder that is in part a sex crime does not lend itself to sexual shenanigans in Heller’s doings. It didn’t feel right for the tone of the book, or where Heller’s head was at. But back in Better Dead, when Bette Page gets frisky, you can bet Nate is interested.

I understand that in the Me Too era, things have gotten weird. I find it telling, and a little sad, that many of the complaints about sex in my novels clearly come from millennials and whatever the “gen” after that is called. Once upon a time, old people frowned on my smut. Now it’s smug kids who have lived very little. (I’ll pause while my son decides whether or not to edit that out.) That we’re also in the era of Fifty Shades of Grey does confuse the issue some. Are sexy books for women okay, but for men are objectionable?

Those who assume I include sex for gratuitous reasons may be partly right. As a youth, I learned from Spillane and Fleming, and they always had sex scenes sprinkled in as spice. Connery’s Bond always bedded three beauties. But what interests me most is how nobody complains about the violence. I have had not a single one of these sex complainers object to Quarry’s wholesale homicide. Heller’s, either.

Or as the Frankenstein Monster might say, “Sex baaaad, violence goooood.”

Recently working on polishing and completing the ‘50s novella “A Bullet For Satisfaction” (featured in The Last Stand, and developed from unpublished material in Mickey’s files), I edited out a sex scene. Imagine! Why? The characterization was off.

“A Bullet for Satisfaction” appears to be a collaboration between Mickey and one of his writer pals, unidentified. I doubt Mickey would have made the mistake that I had to rectify – a mistake of characterization. A beautiful woman and hero Rod Dexter go to bed (like Connery’s Bond, Rod beds several beauties in the novella), but it’s out of character for both of them.

So out it went.

I will admit to one thing. Often I have told Barb, “I’m not sure Quarry (or Heller or Hammer) and the love interest will wind up having sex in this one.” But almost always, they do. Barb’s patient smile when I raise the issue indicates she already knew the answer.

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Here are more, better pics from the recent Crusin’ gig in Wilton, Iowa, at their annual all-classes reunion.

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I am sorry to report that Super Troopers 2 is terrible. I love the Broken Lizard guys, and have liked every other movie of theirs, including of course the first Super Troopers. Barb and I were looking forward to this perhaps too much, and I will give it another try on home video release.

But the timing seemed strangely off, the jokes and situations not terribly funny (unless you’re into the comedy stylings of Rob Lowe), particularly the endlessly mined central gag of Canada being stupid or something. We spend a bunch of time with a trio of Mounties who are doggedly unfunny, even Mad TV’s Will Sasso.

Didn’t walk out, though.

I hope this doesn’t spell the end for Broken Lizard, whose members are very talented and likable. We saw them in person at Iowa City a few years ago and they were terrific, and met them after, finding them friendly and down to earth.

As for Super Troopers 2, maybe you can’t go home again. Or maybe middle-aged men acting like the young bucks of the first film just doesn’t work the same way.

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Here’s a nice interview with me on the upcoming Mike Hammer mini-series (the four issues will be collected as a graphic novel).

And Publisher’s Weekly is interested in the Hammer mini-series, too.

M.A.C.

Chicago Comic Expo Starring Me

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

Well, maybe not starring…

But I will be appearing at C2E2 on this coming Saturday and Sunday. I’ll be doing one panel each day (details below) and a signing will follow each. I am told copies of the hardcover Killing Town will be available, almost two weeks ahead of the official on sale date.

The Comic & Entertainment Expo is a 3-day exhibition and conference of comic and pop culture with exhibits, talks and cosplay competitions.
Dates: Apr 6, 2018 – Apr 8, 2018
Location: McCormick Place – South Building, Chicago, IL

Here are the panels:

Horror in Fiction and Non-Fiction
April 07, 2018, 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
Room S403
Whether it’s a haunting, a monster, or a mobster, horror is just one of those genres that crosses borders, from fiction to non-fiction. What does it take to make a story “horrific,” and why do we love it so much? Join authors Max Allan Collins (Scarface and the Untouchable), and James S. Murray (Awakened) as they discuss their love of things that go bump in the night and real-life scary stories.

Windy City Crime: Stories About The Chicago Gangland
April 08, 2018, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Room S405a
The Chicago gangland of the 1920’s and 30’s remains legendary to this day, romanticized in films, tv shows, and popular songs. The true original gangsters are larger than life figures, icons of both history and popular culture. Join Max Allan Collins (Scarface and the Untouchable), David Carlson and Landis Blair (The Hunting Accident: A True Story of Crime and Poetry) for a discussion of one of some of Chicago’s most notorious gangsters.

There will be a later Chicago signing, for Scarface and the Untouchable, with both (A.) Brad Schwartz and (The) Max Allan Collins Sunday August 19 2 PM at Centuries and Sleuths. Okay, Mike Doran?

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This will be a somewhat short update because I am up to my eyeballs (see photo) with the galley proofs of Scarface and the Untouchable. All 700-some pages of it. I have never had to spend this much time on a read-through, tweak-session before.

But because you are loyal enough (or bored enough or foolish enough) to read these updates every week, I will speak about some TV shows and a movie that Barb and I liked – no negative, walk-out stuff today.

The Death of Stalin is a very funny, very dark sort of satire with an amazing cast including Steve Buscemi (as Nikita Khrushchev!) and Jeffrey Tambor (thankfully not recast and digitally replaced or something). Everybody else is a top-flight British actor, and one of the delights is that nobody does a Russian accent – it’s all very unabashed bloody British, which makes it both funnier and, oddly, more real.

Though its history is compressed, the film is fairly faithful to the events, which had they been portrayed without an overtly Monty Python-esque quality (Michael Palin has a key role, wonderful) and even a Mel Brooks-ian feel, might have been too harrowing and grim to be tolerated.

The Death of Stalin is proof that worthwhile movies are still out there; but TV seems a more reliable place to find something, well, good.

Barb and I recently binged on the first two seasons of Stranger Things – what an excellent series. Millie Bobbie Brown’s amazing performance as Eleven, a psychic child who breaks free from the lab of her CIA-type captors, is one of those immediately iconic performances/characters that rank with Mr. Spock and the Mulder/Scully combo. This is in a cast that includes many standouts, notably Winona Ryder and David Harbour, as well as the quartet of friends into Dungeon and Dragons and video games, circa 1983-1984: Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, and Noah Schnapp. The Duffer Brothers are the creators and main writers as well as occasional directors. Shawn Levy also directs episodes, and very well.

There’s a lot of talk about the ‘80s references in Stranger Things, almost too much. I have an affection for those years, despite (not because of) Ronald Reagan, and mostly for New Wave music. But I don’t have a nostalgia for the ‘80s because I hadn’t been growing up then, as I had been in the ‘50s, ‘60s and early ‘70s. To me John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg and Stephen King are just contemporary talents, not touchstones of my youth.

The good news is that Stranger Things is not just a wallow in references. The most overt reference is an interesting one – Stephen King’s It. Why? Because the Duffer Brothers (think the Coens if they had been Monster Kids) went after the job of scripting the 2017 It film and got turned down. Stranger Things (which co-stars one of It’s young players, Finn Wolfhard) is essentially their variation on the job they were denied.

It’s also decidedly better than It.

If you haven’t checked the series out, you should. Stranger Things is on our list with Fargo as top-tier current (or anytime) TV.

Also on the list is season five of Endeavour, the Morse prequel which has been good from the start but really shines in this latest go-round. It hasn’t aired on American PBS yet, but presumably it will. (We watched it on PAL DVD from the UK.) Each ninety-minute episode of this fine mystery series is better than most theatrical movies.

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Finally an objective view of me – turns out I’m a legend! Check this out.

And here’s a short but sweet piece on Mickey.

M.A.C.

A Movie We Didn’t Walk Out On

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

The truth of it is, Barb and I rarely walk out of movies. But when we do, I usually post a rant about it here at the weekly update.

This week we saw Tomb Raider somewhat accidentally – I was trying to drag Barb along to see Pacific Rim: Uprising, having really liked the first movie, but we were there to see it in 3-D, as the Internet had assured us this screening would be.

It wasn’t.

So Barb and I went to Tomb Raider in 3-D instead.

We entered about a minute late, because of the Pacific Rim screw-up. This is rare, as I hate not seeing a movie from the very beginning. But we had made a trip to Quad Cities to see a movie in 3-D and I will not be denied, at least not with such important matters.

Anyway, we had seen the preview of Tomb Raider, thought it looked like a passable Saturday or Sunday afternoon matinee. We were wrong. Surprise: it’s more than that. It is a very good, rip-roaring, occasionally amusing, sometimes exciting and even scary Indiana Jones-type adventure, a sort of haunted house of a movie wherein the ghosts are 1940s serials.

Is it a great movie? No. But it delivers on what it promises – imagine that! Yes, it’s a movie based on a video game, and those underpinnings are there, and typically silly. But if you take the ride, assuming such a ride sounds like fun to you, you will be pleased. This reboot is superior to the earlier Tomb Raider movies starring Angelina Jolie (the second of those being particularly dire). Alicia Vikander is intelligent and charismatic as Lara Croft, and the villain is played by the great Walton Goggins of Justified and Vice Principals. A number of fine British actors pop up here and there, too. Oh, and a tomb is raided.

By the way, among the many things that make going to movies in theaters less and less appealing is the general stupidity of the audiences. I refer not to what they seem to put up with (we were surrounded by people in Red Sparrow who seemed to like it, apparently sadomasochists) but actual sheep-like, lemming-like stupidity.

When Barb and I entered Tomb Raider a minute or two late, it was clear we were not in a 3-D screening. Since we were only here because the film we came for was not in 3-D, as advertised, that this one wasn’t in 3-D was…an irritant. Everyone had their 3-D glasses on. No 3-D was happening. No one seemed to notice or care, though everyone had paid extra for the 3-D experience.

We went out to the lobby, reported the lack of 3-D and the mistake was rectified. The movie was in 3-D now. But if Barb and I hadn’t gone out to the lobby, Tomb Raider would have played flat, much like the graph line of mental activity in the brains of the rest of the attendees.

This is not the first weird thing that has happened to me at the movies lately, not hardly.

On my birthday (my 70th, goddamnit and get off my lawn), Barb and I were visiting our son Nathan, his bride Abby and our hilarious genius grandson, Sam. Nate and I left the rest of the brood home and went to a movie, driving some distance to see Annihilation, a s-f film about which more later. I bought my popcorn and Coke Zero and we were soon seated in the theater. About two minutes into the film, someone came in.

This someone was stomping on the floor and laughing manically. Not an exaggeration – if the Joker had been there, he’d have said, “Who’s the lunatic?” The somewhat late arrival stomped slowly up the steps and took a seat in back, making this weird, loud sort of laugh as he went.

I immediately turned to Nate and said, “Let’s go.”

He understood and nodded. We exited quickly and quietly.

Here’s the thing. We were in St. Louis, a big city. For the first time in my life, during which I have seen hundreds, maybe thousands of movies in theaters, I have never thought I might be in danger. But my response now was instant: this person may be here to kill us.

I’m not going to go into a rant about gun control and mental health and school shootings and movie house mayhem. I am going to let you conjure all that yourself. But it says a lot that I did not hesitate to leave at once in the circumstances described above. Nate and I both wondered if we were overreacting. But neither of us wanted to sit through a movie with someone loudly making noise in the back row (which I figured was a good spot for a shooter, but never mind) even if our lives weren’t in potential danger.

We scouted for another movie on another screen and were spotted by someone with the theater, wondering what we were up to. We reported the incident (if that’s what it was) and, eventually, were given a refund. We drove quite a while to another theater where we indeed saw Annihilation, which is interesting but pretentious, and needlessly unpleasant…or was I not for some reason in the mood for a violent movie?

* * *

I have completed Girl Most Likely. I am setting it aside for much of the rest of the week, to dig into the Scarface and the Untouchable galley proofs…all 700 pages. When I’m done, I will return to Girl with some distance and will do the final read-through, tweaking, chasing down typos and fixing errors and inconsistencies. Should be shipping it in about a week.

Right now I feel very pleased. I think I’ve done something different enough to attract some new readers and not so different as to alienate the rest of you.

Meanwhile, Barb is doing very well on her draft of the new Antiques novel. Her steady development as a writer is impressive and a little scary.

* * *

Here is an absolutely splendid Cinema Retro review of The Last Stand, dealing both with the title story and “A Bullet for Satisfaction,” which I co-wrote.

The Mystery Site has posted a smart review of The First Quarry.

The Criminal Element has chosen The Last Stand as one of the five new books you should read.

And, finally, the indefatigable Jeff Pierce provides several links pertaining to Mickey Spillane and me.

M.A.C.