Posts Tagged ‘Ms. Tree’

X-Files Is Out There

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
The X-Files: Trust No One
Paperback:
Audio MP3 CD:

The surprising news of a new, six-episode season of THE X-FILES featuring the original cast caused me to reflect on just how much Barb, Nate and I enjoyed the series, back in (as they say) the day. How we never missed an episode, even when we were so frustrated we wanted to throw a brick through the screen (“All will be revealed!”), and binge watching our laser discs that allowed some of the fan favorite episodes to be viewed again and again at home (amazing).

The series ran nine seasons and a major, big-budget motion picture was part of the mix, as well. Toward the end of the run, I was well-established as a writer of tie-in novels, and was approached by Harper Collins (the publisher, not some obscure cousin of mine) to develop a proposal for an original X-FILES novel.

In the business of writing tie-ins, Fox TV was notorious for being hard to work with, especially on the X-FILES franchise. But I was such a fan, I wanted to do it anyway. So for a period of about a year, off and on, I worked under the guiding hand of a Harper Collins editor to produce a fifty-page story treatment for a novel. This was entirely on spec, something I rarely do – but remember, I was a fan.

I came up with something I thought was very, very good, and so did the editor – a kind of X-FILES MEETS AMITYVILLE. We sent it in. We never heard a word. No rejection, much less an acceptance. That’s the writing biz – you drop something down a well and don’t even hear a splash.

By this time the series was in its final season, and not only did my tie-in never happen, no other X-FILES novels by anybody happened, either.

Then in 2008, a second film was produced: THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE. Out of the blue, I was approached to write the novelization. I was thrilled, although I was apprehensive, because the movie was being produced in great secrecy, and the reputation of the X-FILES people being impossible to work with was a less than distant memory.

As it happened, I WANT TO BELIEVE was the single best experience I ever had, writing movie novelizations. I was one of a small handful of people (something like five) who had a copy of the script. The actors, I understand, had only their own script pages. The cinematographer had to read the script in a bank vault. But it was on my desk in Muscatine, Iowa.

Both Chris Carter and especially co-writer/producer Frank Spotnitz were terrific; I was frequently on the phone with the latter. If I had questions about wardrobe, I was sent daily costume sheets. I had photos from the set when the Internet had next to nothing. In one case, the editor of the film (Richard A. Harris, Academy Award winning editor of TITANIC and TERMINATOR 2) sat at his computer in Canada and described an action scene to me, frame by frame, that was not in my script. We were on the phone for two wonderful hours. Incredible.

I think I WANT TO BELIEVE is one of my best movie novels, but the film itself disappointed a lot of people. I liked it. It was an intelligent monster-of-the-week episode with some daring themes. The mood was right and the two leads were typically stellar. I remain thrilled that, sort of at the last minute, I became a part of THE X-FILES.

Now with the six-episode special-event series coming, a real push on X-FILES material is under way, particularly from IDW, with whom I have a long history. I was approached by the fine writer (also fine guy) Jonathan Maberry to contribute a story to an X-FILES anthology, TRUST NO ONE. I asked if I could do a novella and was given permission.

Now all will be revealed: I used my long-ago story treatment for the novel that never happened to write “The House on Hickory Hill.” Finally I got some money for writing it! Finally that story gets to be seen. And I think it’s a good one.

Also, a series of X-FILES audio books has been produced including the various vintage original tie-in novels and the two movie novelizations (also TRUST NO ONE). That means that suddenly a 2008 movie novel of mine has an audio book. I haven’t heard it yet, but admit I am pleased it exists and will delight at revisiting that underrated tale again, on some road trip to come.

The X Files: I Want To Believe

It’s hard to know if THE X-FILES will be a “thing” again or just be a nostalgic blip on the pop-culture radar. The early ‘90s is suddenly a very long time ago. But THE X-FILES is a series that had an incredible impact on everything that came after. CSI, for example, played off a similar flashlights-in-the-dark vibe. As frustrating as the serialized nature of X-FILES could be, it set the stage for so many novelistic series to follow. Of current series, ORPHAN BLACK is steeped in the X-FILES approach.

I, for one, can’t wait to once again be thrilled and frustrated by this seminal series.

* * *

I am pleased to find this review of BATMAN: SECOND CHANCES that likes and understands my run on the comic book. This is definitely worth checking out (scroll down some).

This somewhat ancient but lovely review of my novel SAVING PRIVATE RYAN has popped up on the Net.

Here’s an interesting article on the QUARRY TV series moving to Memphis for its last weeks of production on season one. Lots of mentions of the novels.

Finally, here’s a write-up on the Eclipse comic book company that includes a brief but very nice mention of MS. TREE.

M.A.C.

21 Years Later—A Third Shamus!

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

I’m afraid my long streak of losing the Shamus has been broken – “So Long, Chief,” the Spillane/Collins story that appeared in the Strand magazine and was nominated for an Edgar – won the Shamus Best Short Story award Friday night at the PWA banquet in Long Beach. Very gratifying to have the Spillane/Collins collaboration receive this kind of validation.

Bouchercon 2014
MAC Receiving 2014 Shamus Best Short Story for “So Long, Chief”

All the winners are at this link.

Bouchercon 2014
Left to right: Grant Bywaters, Sue Grafton, Brad Parks, Lachlan Smith, M. Ruth Myers, M.A.C.

The event was well-attended – over one hundred in a packed room at Gladstone’s restaurant – and the reviews were generally very good. Barb and I filled in for usual hosts Bob Randisi and Christine Matthews, as Bob is recovering from eye surgery and not able to travel. The food was quite good, and the service too, and the waterfront setting nicely noir; but the venue wasn’t ideal – poor sound system and rather crowded, with a cramped presentation area. But a certain sense of intimacy was created.

Bouchercon 2014
Barb and S.J. Rozan, who is about to present the Best Paperback Award

Speeches were short and to the point, and warm memories of Jerry Healy and Marty Meyers, both of whom we lost this year, made for a somewhat bittersweet mood (as did the absence of Bob and Christine). The two big names in female P.I. fiction made a rare joint appearance, as Sara Paretsky presented the Best Novel Award, and Sue Grafton picked up the “Hammer” award for her character Kinsey Millhone – that award, named for Mike Hammer, goes to a character that has had a big impact on the genre as well as longevity.

Bouchercon 2014
Barb presenting the Hammer Award to Sue Grafton

For me – beyond the highlight of winning a Shamus after a 21-year dry spell, what the Private Eye Writers of America banquet meant was the end of a rewarding if punishing first full day at Bouchercon.

Bouchercon 2014
Kensington editor Michaela Hamilton, agent Dominick Abel, and Barbara Collins

It began with a breakfast with my TOR/Forge editor, the funny and very smart Claire Eddy, as we discussed Nate Heller’s future (which is of course in the past). At eleven I did a two-hour interview (with a full camera crew) for Thomas & Mercer, creating material for a new Kindle mystery site. Then back to the convention hotel (the modernistic and rather unfinished-looking Hyatt) for an hour-and-a-half signing of ASK NOT at a TOR-sponsored hospitality suite event. From there came a 3:00 panel on obscure but worthwhile mystery writers (I did Ennis Willie, Horace McCoy and Roy Huggins, as well as made a case for Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series as a hardboiled private eye series of comparable stature to Hammett, Chandler, and Spillane). Always fun to be on a panel with the great Gary Phillips, and audience members were taking notes like a bunch of court reporters.

Bouchercon 2014
Left to right: Sarah Weinman, M.A.C., Gary Phillips, Charles Kelly, Sara J. Henry, Peter Rozovsky

Immediately thereafter, I appeared on a panel on screenwriting and adapting books to film – well-attended and pretty good, but a little “inside” – after which Barb and I ran over to the restaurant to put the PWA banquet in motion.

First thing Saturday, Barb was on a terrific panel – one I frankly had figured would be pretty thin (pets in mysteries) – where she really knocked it out of the park. The other panelists were also very strong and (almost) as funny as Barb. After that, we did our only Con-sponsored signing, as there had been no time the day before to sign after my two panels. Immodestly I will say that we had a huge line and I signed non-stop for an hour and a half, during much of which Barb was signing, too. Such great people, such enthusiastic readers. What a joy.

More meetings followed, with editors from Thomas & Mercer and Kensington, all positive and fun. T & M presented me with a plaque for selling 175,000 copies of SUPREME JUSTICE in June 2014 alone. Our friend and editor Michaela Hamilton (whose guy Eugene George generously provided some of the pics here) talked to Barb and me about the ANTIQUES series, and some Caleb York brainstorming went on as well.

The con flew by, obviously, and since we’re having nasty Iowa weather (it’s 12 degrees as I write this), that California sun (and Ocean breeze) (and palm trees) were tough to leave behind. It was gratifying to meet and talk to so many fans, but unfortunately a lot of them were surprised to find us there. Both Barb and I were left out of the program book, though we had submitted mini-bios and pics as requested; and my name was spelled inconsistently in the schedule of panels and on my name tag (lots of “Allen”). It’s a byproduct of Bouchercon being a fan-run con – though that is part of its charm – because the tastes of local fans can lead to some sloppy handling of authors attending.

Bouchercon 2014
Phoef Sutton, M.A.C., Lee Child, and Lee Goldberg

SPOILER ALERT: Bitch session follows.

I will present my personal award for general crappiness to American Airlines. Sunday was a nightmare getting home. American Airline neglected to inform us that the last leg of our flight home (Moline) had been cancelled – we only found out semi-accidentally, getting ready to board a flight to Dallas/Fort Worth when we volunteered to check our carry on items. At that point the counter guy stumbled onto the info that we couldn’t get home from Dallas today. So we didn’t board and sought out the customer service area, where a long line of displaced customers stood like Titanic passengers hoping to find room in a life boat. There one chatty employee was blithely handling everybody in an I-have-all-the-time-in-the-world manner.

I had better luck with an AA 800 line rep, although much of the news was bad – even if we went to Dallas/Ft. Worth and got a hotel room, there were no Moline flights out the next day. Our Long Beach Bouchercon trip seemed about to include two days (minimum) in Dallas. Finally I re-routed to Chicago, where there were also no Moline flights available, but with some difficulty I was able to line up a rental car for us to drive home. Again, no help from AA – they seized just about everybody-on-the-flight’s carry-on bags (ours had already been sized and deemed well within bounds by AA staff on entry of the terminal), and sent them to baggage claim, dooming us all to lost time. Then, to top off their service from hell, they gave us the wrong baggage claim carousel number – I just happened to spot what looked like our carry-ons down at another carousel, where they were taking a ride to oblivion. So AA cost us yet more time, when it was already 11 p.m. The Enterprise rental car outfit was terrific, however, as was National, the sister company through whose 800 number I was able to find a car to get us home.

At 3:15 a.m.

So farewell, American Airlines! Allow me to middle-finger salute you as you fly into that so richly deserved oblivion where you dispatched the carry-ons that you had so feverishly wrested from our grasp.

* * *

Here’s a terrific review of ASK NOT at I Love a Mystery. Full disclosure: it’s by Larry Coven, who appeared in my films MOMMY’S DAY and REAL TIME: SEIGE AT LUCAS STREET MARKET.

And check out this nice DEADLY BELOVED review at the Just a Guy That Likes to Read blog.

M.A.C.

Bouchercon 2014 Schedule

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014
Bouchercon 2014

Here is the schedule of our appearances at Bouchercon on Friday November 14 and Saturday November 15.

FRIDAY

SIGNING: TOR/Forge
Hospitality Suite (Seaview Rotunda & Foyer), approx. 1:30 – 2:30 pm
M.A.C.

PANEL: Beyond Hammett, Chandler, and Spillane
Lesser known noir writers of the pulp and paperback era.
(Promenade 104 B), 3 to 4 pm
M.A.C.

PANEL: From Page to Screen
Stories in books, television, and movies
(Promenade 104 A), 4:30 – 5:30 pm

NOTE: NO M.A.C. AUTOGRAPH SIGNING AFTER THESE TWO PANELS

PWA “SHAMUS” Awards Banquet
M.A.C. co-hosting with Barb
6:30 drinks, 7 pm dinner

SATURDAY

PANEL: Must Love Dogs & Cats
Pets in cozy mysteries
(Regency D), 8:30 – 9:30 am
Barbara Collins

SIGNING: Book Room
Barbara and Max Allan Collins, 9:30 am

* * *

Some nice MS. TREE nostalgia here.

Here’s one of the best QUARRY overviews you’re likely to see. Very insightful.

I’ll report back on Bouchercon next week, most likely with pics.

M.A.C.

The November Man

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
The November Man

You should probably see THE NOVEMBER MAN, the new Pierce Brosnan espionage thriller. I attach the “probably” because for all its merits, Brosnan’s return to Bond territory is less than great. It’s a movie easy to damn with faint praise – “pretty good,” “not bad” – but for anyone who’s a fan of the Bond films, this is required viewing.

It’s a typically convoluted spy thriller, with Bourne-ish element and even Le Carre aspects, with strong if not mind-blowing action scenes. But what it mostly has to offer is Brosnan thumbing his nose at the Bond producers who let him go prematurely. Brosnan was excellent in his four Bond films, and not at all to blame for the unfortunate excesses of DIE ANOTHER DAY, which proved to be his final outing.

Here he demonstrates both charisma and toughness, and a streak of brutality not seen in Bond since the Fleming books themselves. Thematically, the film has him as a legendary secret agent who retired ten years ago and now is getting yanked back into the game. He’s up against Luke Bracey’s younger agent – read: Daniel Craig (there’s an even more direct reference early on, when Brosnan’s shown photos of agents who were recent victims of a Russian assassin, and the final dead agent is identified glumly by Brosnan as “Craig”). Fleming’s famous “blunt instrument” description of a good secret agent is invoked, and the female lead, quite good, is “Bond Girl” Olga Kurylenko (QUANTUM OF SOLACE). We’re not meant to think that Brosnan’s character might really be Bond – as was the case with Sean Connery in THE ROCK – but these references add up to a sort of kiss-his-ass valentine to the Bond films. My favorite moment might be Brosnan yanking a guy off a motorcycle but not climbing on and riding off – just stepping over the thing on his shark-like way.

The budget doesn’t allow Bourne or Bond level stunts and set pieces, and the script is uneven. The usually first-rate Bill Smitrovich (Lt. Cramer in TV’s NERO WOLFE and a co-star of THE LAST LULLABY) is given some bad dialogue and responds by chewing the scenery like a starving billygoat. But it’s worth seeing for anyone with an affection for Brosnan as Bond.

* * *

Here’s a nice article that gives Terry Beatty and me some credit for the re-birth of crime comics via MS. TREE.

Vanity Fair online, of all places, has this positive look at novelizations, with quotes from me and my pal Lee Goldberg.

Here’s a nice discussion of Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer, with an emphasis on the radio version and mentions of my completions of unfinished work from Mickey’s files.

Finally, this link to an early ‘60s ALLEY OPP comic book includes a nice boost for my documentary, CAVEMAN: V.T. HAMLIN & ALLEY OOP.

The San Diego Comic-Con International site posted a photo of author Jonathan Maberry and me at the 2014 IAMTW tie-in panel.

M.A.C.