Posts Tagged ‘Ms. Tree’

Killing Quarry Book Giveaway and…Rambo!!!

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

I have a whopping 15 advance copies of Killing Quarry (the book will be on the stands in November).

A number of you were nice enough to volunteer to review pretty much anything of mine, when I went on a recent self-pity binge. I am going to ask you a favor, because it will help me get these books out to you. Go ahead and enter this giveaway, even though not long ago you sent me info; it will make things move quicker. Here are the rules.

Write me at macphilms@hotmail.com. You agree to write a review for Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your own blog or review site (if you hate the book, you are released from this commitment, but can review it anyway if you wish). USA addresses only. It’s important that you send your snail-mail address. Also, if you’re one of the kind people who volunteered to review my stuff recently, remind me of that.

These are ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) but they are identical to the coming trade edition – I had made my corrections and revisions beforehand. I would be glad to sign and personalize your copy if you request it.

Thank you for your interest and support. A Girl Can’t Help It giveaway will follow in January or February.

* * *

Rambo: Last Blood has a 27% critical score on Rotten Tomatoes. That was almost enough to scare me off, until I noticed the audience score was 82%. Somewhere there’s a disconnect.

I decided to check out the negative reviews, and here’s a typical excerpt: “…less an escapist action movie and more a dramatized manifestation of the most notorious sentences from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign announcement speech (Matthew Rozsa).” This political, politically correct tone infected most of the negative reviews on view at Rotten Tomatoes.

Also, I read that the author of First Blood, David Morrell, had given his thumbs down to the film. More about that later.

I hardly ever talk politics here. Most people familiar with me and my work know that I am a left-of-center individual. But I have friends and business associates who have different views, and having damaged some friendships over this nonsense, I now try to keep my opinions to myself. I mention this only because I liked Rambo: Last Blood very much, as did my equally (maybe more) liberal wife.

Before I get into that film itself, let’s revisit the first four Rambo films, briefly (my wife and I watched them, one a night, after seeing the new one).

First Blood (1982) is the best film, a fairly faithful rendering of Morrell’s fine first novel (again, more about this later). It is set stateside and deals with both PTSD and smalltown prejudice against long-haired apparent hippies (a brilliant mix) and is a rousing action film that builds and builds to an emotional outburst from the taciturn Rambo about the rage in him and what fueled it.

Rambo: Second Blood (1985) is a fun action film, fast-paced and impressive in what it pulls off without CGI. This is where Rambo becomes iconic in the way Mike Hammer and Tarzan are iconic. A structure that would follow all of the coming films to at least some degree has (act one) Rambo reluctantly getting involved in a mission, (act two) Rambo playing cat-and-mouse games with his pursuers in a jungle setting, and (act three) Rambo kicking ass in a large-scale battle sequence. This really is the Morrell structure moved from America to Vietnam, with Afghanistan, Burma and Mexico substituting in subsequent entries.

Rambo III (1988) is pretty much the same movie as the second one, but bigger and with a few variables – Rambo is captured and tortured in the previous film, but this time his commander – played by the always dependable Richard Crenna – gets the torture routine. The difference is the stoic Rambo, when he does speak, utters quips right out of the Schwarzenegger playbook – this, for instance, is the one where Rambo tells the bad guy, “I’m your worst nightmare.”

All of these movies benefit from rousing Jerry Goldsmith scores that invoke John Barry’s Bond themes.

Rambo (2008), which is also known as John Rambo and was at one point actually called First Blood, comes about twenty years later and manages to be anti-war even as it bathes the screen in blood. It’s fast, entertaining and gritty, and the CGI ups the ante (although I am not a fan of computer-generated blood).

Now let’s talk the current movie, the fifth Rambo, called simply that. I am going to do a plot summary, so skip the next three paragraphs if you’re spoiler sensitive.

John Rambo is on his Arizona ranch where he rides horses when he isn’t obsessively digging tunnels and almost subconsciously preparing for a battle that may never come. His Hispanic housekeeper, with whom he has a warm mother/son relationship, has a teenaged daughter to whom Rambo has been something of a surrogate father. The girl is obsessed with facing her actual father, who deserted her and her mother, years ago; he’s in Mexico and it’s made clear that Rambo cleaned this abusive a-hole’s clock but good, once upon a time.

The girl winds up in Mexico, rejected by Daddy, then roofied and dragged into forced prostitution. Rambo goes looking for her and gets his expected torture scene – this is roughly act one of the usual structure, as earlier Rambo tried hard to talk the girl into not going looking for her despicable old man. After being rescued by an undercover female reporter, who gives him first aid and information, Rambo then goes back to rescue the girl.

This leads to mayhem (act two, minus the cat-and-mouse stuff) as he makes the rescue. But the brutalized and now dope-addicted girl dies on the way home. Rambo, having killed the number two bad guy, goes home and sends his housekeeper away and preps for war with bad guy number one and his minions. Act three is the big battle scene as the bad guys attack, like Apaches on a fort manned by a single brave soldier; and here an underground cat-and-mouse game finds its home within the larger battle.

Throughout this fifth film, Rambo is shown to still be suffering from PTSD, for which he takes (and eventually abandons) medication. A smaller film than the preceding Burma chapter, number five is a solid entry and employs some of the most startling deaths this side of an Evil Dead movie.

And that similarity made me reflect on why the Rambo films entertain – it’s, in part, because they invoke several genres all at once. Rambo is Tarzan, master of the jungle and jungle tactics. Rambo is Mike Hammer, taking vengeance (the main bad guy always gets it good). Rambo is John Wayne – in the current film, he’s specifically the surrogate father of The Searchers– with horseback action heavy in numbers three and five.

But this new film makes it clear, too, that every Rambo is an inverted horror film of the slasher variety – he is Jason or Michael Myers as the hero, stalking and killing and sometimes in a shockingly amusing fashion. Stallone is a master at talking to all our worst but also best instincts – family is important in these films, loyalty and friendship (another Hammer quality), even compassion.

If Rambo (2019) is a smaller film than the preceding entry, and perhaps not quite as epic as what would appear to be the final chapter might be, it’s a terrific action movie, well-executed with a legendary, charismatic star at its center.

What has made many of my fellow liberals, particularly those farther left than yours truly, go apoplectic, is that the bad guys are Mexicans. They ignore an obvious fact: so are most of the good guys – the Hispanic daughter, her grandmother, a doctor who tends to Rambo, the female journalist who helps him and whose own sister went down the same horrifying path as Rambo’s surrogate daughter. Idiots who see the shot of the Trump border fence (actually erected under Obama) see proof that this film is one big red MAGA hat. They don’t notice that the next shot shows Mexican bad guys coming out of a tunnel under that “big beautiful wall,” delivering them in the good ol’ USA.

The reviewers, whose gentle sensibilities have been ruffled by a straight-forward revenge melodrama, seem convinced this film was designed to pander to Trump lovers. I just watched the special features on the previous Rambo movie – the one that came out in 2007 – where in the “making of” documentary, Stallone tells the story of the film to come – Rambo back in Arizona, with the surrogate daughter who goes to Mexico and gets kidnapped into prostitution. This would have been conceived around 2005 – uh, Trump wasn’t president then, was he? I forget. Yet I do recall the review I quoted that insisted the film was inspired by Trump’s campaign announcement speech.

Why does Dave Morrell hate the new film? He has said it left him feeling “degraded and dehumanized.” I understand the complicated feelings writers have about their work being adapted to the screen. I also understand how frustrating it is to be left out of the creative process (Rambo’s creator had some early talks with Stallone about the story, but they stopped in 2016). When my Quarry was adapted for Cinemax, the most distinctive aspect of the character – his dark sense of humor – was largely gone. But I got over it. Well, I cashed the check.

I’m not a close friend of Dave’s, but we’re friendly acquaintances who shared a mentor in Don Westlake. Dave taught at Iowa City and I used to run into him now and then; we would talk, mostly about Westlake.

One memorable encounter between us in Iowa City, at a bookstore – Prairie Lights, I believe – we have both written about. He had been offered the novelization job for Rambo II and was uneasy about accepting it. Here’s his version from his website:

I killed Rambo (in the novel First Blood), and now in the novelizations he would be alive. The logic really bothered me. One day, I crossed paths with my writer friend, Max Allan Collins (among other things, he wrote the wonderful graphic novel, Road to Perdition), who said that the problem was easily solved. “Just add an author’s note,” he told me, “in which you say something like, ‘In my novel First Blood, Rambo died. In the films, he lives.’” So that’s what I did.

Two other ironies or at least odd resonances occur to me. First, I had not written any novelizations yet when I suggested Dave ought to take that gig. Second, the next time I ran into him, he was doing a book signing at B. Dalton in an Iowa City mall, and Barb and I were on our way to see Rambo II in that mall’s theater. I believe he was signing the novelization, and I think he signed one to me, but I’ll be damned if I know what became of it.

Dave and I have a bond. We created (as best we can tell) the first two Vietnam vet PTSD anti-heroes in Rambo and Quarry. And we both based those heroes, at least in part, on Audie Murphy.

Here’s what I know about David Morrell: he is a great guy and a great writer. I respect his opinion on the latest Rambo film, and hope he will tolerate mine.

* * *

Check out this amazing podcast largely about Quarry, and specifically about Quarry’s Choice. The reviewer (there are two, both of whom like the Quarry character, one a huge fan) puts Quarry and me in a pantheon of three, the others being Richard Stark and Parker, and Donald Hamilton and Matt Helm. I admit to be blown away by being compared to these greats.

Here’s a fun You Tube review of Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother.

The excellent True West magazine gives me a nice boost for Last Stage to Hell Junction in their current issues and on their website.

Finally, here’s a terrific review of Scarface and the Untouchable…from a gun enthusiast!

M.A.C.

Must Be Raining, ‘Cause We’re Talking Arc

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

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

This going to be very brief, as I am starting work on the new Mike Hammer (Masquerade for Murder), again working from a Spillane synopsis with a few snippets of his prose to work in. The early chapters are always the hardest, getting the tone, getting into the swing of it, and just generally building momentum.

I had a nice response last week from readers interested in getting advance copies of Do No Harm. Interestingly – and disappointingly – not a one asked to see Girl Can’t Help It. I hope readers of Quarry, Heller, Hammer and so on will give this series a fair try. This book has particular meaning for me because I’ve finally – after all these years – really engaged with my rock ‘n’ roll background in the telling of a crime story.

As it happens, I already have on hand Advance Reading Copies (ARC’s) of Girl Can’t Help It, but am hesitant to start sending any out, since the book won’t be available till March 10.

As for Do No Harm, I have yet to ascertain whether there will be Advance Reading Copies at all – if we have to wait till the actual book exists, that will complicate getting reviews out there early enough to do any good. Publishers are starting to send out mostly e-book versions of ARC’s, which sucks. Stay tuned.

I also have not received a supply of Killing Quarry ARC’s, but some are finding their way into reviewer’s hands. A nice write-up is included below.

The readers who wrote interested in doing reviews (thank you, all of you) are mostly veterans of the Book Giveaway Wars here (and there will be more of those). I am building a list (finally) of you loyal reviewers. But I’m frustrated that so few bloggers and other on-line reviewers were a definite minority among those who responded.

Apologies for the brevity this time, but here are some interesting links to make up for it.

This one is a review of Quarry, the first novel I wrote about the character (not the chronological first – that’s The First Quarry), and the third novel I wrote if we start with Bait Money as the opening gun. (Mourn the Living proceeded it, but didn’t get published till years later. Also, there were four full-length novels written by me in my junior high and high school years, never published…thank God…but the reason why I got fairly proficient early on.

This is another nice write-up, mostly about the Quarry books, from a reader who admits having trouble keeping up with me. Here’s the thing, for those who are dealing with my prolific nature: first, I am trying to make a living; and second, I can only write books while I’m alive, so I’m using the time as best I can.

Here’s a write-up about comic book tough girls, and Ms. Tree gets some nice ink along the way.

And here’s that early Killing Quarry review I promised you.

M.A.C.

What Can You Do Today?

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

I know what you’re thinking.

What can I do today for Max Allan Collins?

Thanks for asking. Here are several suggestions.

Girl Can’t Help It – the sequel to Girl Most Likely – comes out on March 10, 2020. So does the new Nate Heller novel, Do No Harm, the first in several years – the Sam Sheppard Murder Case novel. I am prolific enough that this kind of thing (dual publication) happens from time to time, because I work with more than one publisher (and they do not coordinate releases with each other). This causes certain problems, as you might imagine, because promoting two books at once is less than ideal.

The future of other books featuring the respective series characters in these two very different novels is riding on the success of these new titles. That’s hardly unusual in the publishing world today, where publishers who for many decades gave writers like me multiple-book contracts now offer one-book contracts. The freelance writing trade has always had its insecurities, but this is a new low.

What can you do to help? Advance order one or both novels at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM! or whoever your favorite on-line bookseller is. That will help me out while not putting you in the position of having to buy two M.A.C. novels at the same time next March, straining your wallet and the credulity of the B & N clerk.


Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon
MP3 CD: Amazon
Audio CD: Amazon

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

What else can you do?

If you have a reviewing blog or such-like (these updates of mine fall into the “such-like” category) you can e-mail me your snail-mail address and I will get you an advance copy of the book you wish to review, as soon as it’s available. Advance reading copies (ARCs) will be available fairly soon. If you want to review them both, just say so.

You will not be expected to write a rave, just to write an honest review. Mixed reviews are fine and negative reviews are legal (but be gentle). Write me at macphilms@hotmail.com.

This is only for on-line reviewers. Help me build a mailing list for readers of mine with review columns (or who review at times within a more eclectic column, like, oh I don’t know, this one).

For the rest of you, I will be doing giveaways when we get closer to the pub date of both books (which, as I say, is the same date). A new Quarry (Killing Quarry) is coming in November of this year. The Untouchable and the Butcher by A. Brad Schwartz and me is set for next May – another massive tome, and in conjunction with Scarface and the Untouchable will be the definitive work on Eliot Ness. There will be a new Caleb York novel, Hot Lead, Cold Justice, also in May.

So there will be plenty of M.A.C. to read. But if you are a Nate Heller fan, I do need your support, because there’s nothing harder to keep going than a long-running series that doesn’t star a household name like Bosch or Reacher. Even my Mike Hammer novels (and Hammer is a household name, or used to be), co-written with Mickey, are almost never reviewed by the trades (Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, Library Journal). There are exceptions, of course – Killing Quarry has been reviewed by all those except Library Journal (so far), and very favorably.

What’s on the docket for Heller are two novels completing the Kennedy cycle – both RFK-oriented one dealing with the Hoffa feud, the other with Bobby’s assassination. But I have no contract for those books yet. I am considering Martin Luther King, Watergate and the Zodiac to round out Heller’s career, but I have to have a publisher to do that. And it takes readers to encourage a publisher.

So. As I recall, you asked what you could do for me. Let publishers know you’re interested. Pre-order both Girl Can’t Help It and Do No Harm, and do so with my thanks. And Krista and Keith Larson’s. And especially Nate Heller’s.

* * *

Speaking of Do No Harm, here’s a nice advance write-up from Craig Zablo.

Nice Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother write-up from Mystery Tribune.

Here’s another nice review of Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother.

M.A.C.

Crusin’: One More Time, and Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

My band’s “season” is winding down – we have only one gig left, in a couple of weeks. Crusin’ has been playing outdoor gigs at scenic Ardon Creek Winery in recent years – I believe this was our fourth (maybe fifth) appearance. We had 365 people for the fresh-air event, which made us the second biggest draw in the venue’s history (“That’s the second biggest draw I’ve ever seen!” – Maxwell Smart.)

The weather was beautiful, the audience responsive, and the only drawback was I forgot how dark it could get by the time the third set rolled around (we began at sunny six p.m. and closed out at stygian nine). You will note the improvised lighting on the picture of us playing.

We already have lined up two of the three jobs we’ve decided to do next summer. The other one will likely be at the Brew for the Fourth of July. That doesn’t mean we won’t respond to phone calls seeking to book us, but we won’t be actively seeking any.

For me, seriously considering rock ‘n’ roll retirement comes down to the setting up and tearing down – I’m dealing with two keyboards, an amp, and fairly elaborate pedals and so on to hook up. It can require a lot of bending, kneeling, standing, repetitiously. While I am in generally good physical condition, I have side effects – dizziness, balance issues – from the handful of meds I take each morning. Barb has been helping me set up, which has been a real boon, but she was down with a cold and couldn’t make Ardon Creek. After three hours of playing, the tear-down and loading (and returning home to load back out) is a drag, as Paul McCartney said asked for his response to the news of John Lennon’s murder.

What is keeping me going is the desire to do one more original material CD. The plan, as I’ve mentioned here, is to do the CD over the winter and sell it at the three bookings and offer it here (and on CD Baby). It will (if it happens) include 9 new songs and three songs from “Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market” that have never been on a CD; these mark the last recordings with my longtime musical collaborator, Paul Thomas, who also produced the tunes.

Photos of the Ardon Creek gig are by our guitarist Bill Anson’s son, Scott Anson, who also ran sound for us at Ardon Creek. He plays bass with his dad and his dad’s brother Dave (a gifted guitarist) in the Anson Brothers Band.

* * *

There seems to be some nice buzz about the first of the five Titan Ms. Tree collections, Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother. I will provide some links to some of the coverage, and it feels good to see fans saying how pleased they are that these books are happening.

Let me address the one complaint, though I believe I’ve already talked about it here, so forgive my redundancy. I made the determination to lead with the DC material, the ten graphic novellas we did for Ms. Tree Quarterly – the last published Ms. Tree comics to date. This was in part because we had already collected the earliest stuff in trade paperbacks back in the day. But also I felt this was strong material, perhaps our strongest, and wanted to lead out of strength.

Additionally, five of the ten DC novellas form (somewhat loosely I admit) a single graphic novel, while the other five are stand-alone stories, not tied to ongoing continuity (at the time). So the DC novellas have been rearranged into the graphic novel and a “casebook.” Anal retentive fans who want to have the material in published order will only have to put up with my desire for shuffling those ten stories in that fashion. Volumes three through five will print everything in order, with one continuity leading into another and bringing the ramifications along for the ride. (A few oddball standalone stories, like the one in the 3-D comic book, will be dropped in here and there, and the Johnny Dynamite crossover will appear in the Johnny Dynamite collection that Terry Beatty and I are editing for Craig Yoe. I wrote the intro for that last week.)

My understanding is that the early volumes of collected comics are invariably the bigger sellers, which is another reason to (a) put our best foot forward, and (b) collect material previously ungathered.

So my advice to any of you lovely, wonderful if anal retentive fans – when you put the books on the shelf, start with volumes 3, 4 and 5, and then add on 1 and 2. (But buy them as they come out!) Since they aren’t numbered on the spines (or anywhere else), you will only have to suffer minor distress.

* * *

Here’s a nice example of the coverage the Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother trade pb from Titan is getting.

The delightfully titled site Comics for Sinners covered us this way.

Here’s another.

But wait, there’s more!

M.A.C.