Posts Tagged ‘Ms. Tree’

When I’m 64

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Davy Jones of the Monkees died at 66 the other day. One of the major Monkees fan clubs is based in Muscatine, and my band Crusin’ contributed a song (“Little Bit Me, Little Bit You”) to a Monkees tribute CD in the early ‘90s (Bobby Hart did the liner notes). In my first year of college, I loved the Monkees – their albums remain surprisingly strong – and my band (then called the Daybreakers) did tons of their stuff. So the passing of Davy Jones gives me more than twinge of melancholy, not to mention paranoia, since I turned 64 on March 3rd.

On my birthday, I played a band job with the current, very strong Crusin’ line-up at a particularly hip venue (a blues club in Bettendorf called the Muddy Waters) and we received a warm welcome to say the least. Rock ‘n’ roll definitely happened (Crusin’ is myself, guitarist Jim Van Winkle, bass player Brian Van Winkle, and drummer Steve Kundel). And we pulled “I’m a Believer” out of our nether regions by way of tribute to Davy. Word got around that it was my birthday, and somebody did the math and figured out I was 64. It’s nice that a lot of people seemed to find it tough to believe that I was that age, but nonetheless I am.

One thing I’ve noticed about other bands who play ‘60s material (and we play originals and early ‘70s and other things we feel like) is that they tend to be either sleepy (literally sitting down on the job) or kitschy (going all amateur-night Sha Na Na). On the other hand, our approach remains the same balls-to-the-wall garage band rock we always specialized in, although it gets ballsier when the audience is like the one at the Muddy Waters.

While I physically on occasion do feel like 64 (or older), my attitudes haven’t changed much. I’m not going to wear a baseball cap on stage and sit down while I play keyboards. I’m not going to soften my sex and violence (even when an editor requests it) or tone down the dumb jokes or change in any way my approach, other than to improve whenever possible. I’m not slowing down my productivity if for no other reason than time is in fact running out, and I still have stories to tell. I am not going gently into this good night. I am going fucking screaming.

Triple Play

I get a certain amount of shit about living in Iowa – about having stayed in Iowa. This often comes from people who haven’t accomplished a fraction of what I have in various facets of show business. I have always lived a fairly low-key life – minimal drinking, no smoking – and remain married to the same beautiful woman after forty-some years. And she is beautiful, and incredibly thoughtful. Who else but Barb would spend the day after my birthday going to a matinee with me called “Project X” (great movie, and if you don’t think so, you are 64) (at least) about a shy kid’s birthday bash that turns into a neighborhood apocalypse. Barb spent all weekend making sure this birthday (which sucks – you don’t even qualify for the senior discount at 64, or your Social Security check) was fun and not traumatic.

Barb, by the way, is the cover girl on the upcoming TRIPLE PLAY, the Nate Heller novella collection coming out in April. I’ve always thought she looks like Marilyn Monroe, and I submitted a picture of her to Amazon Encore from the early ‘90s that I thought might work. See for yourself.

* * *

There were several nice mentions of my birthday on the net this past week. Check this one out, if you’re a Ms. Tree fan.

A blogger did a piece on Sadie Hawkins Day that lambasted Al Capp, and I responded. That response was named comment of the day.

Nathan Heller and I got some nice local love from a Cedar Rapids writer.

The Raymond Chandler centennial short-story collection got written up, with special mention of my story. I commented, because an assumption had been made about the story, which has appeared with both Marlowe and Nate Heller as its protagonist, that needed correcting.

Here’s a nice “desert island” reading list of graphic novels where ROAD TO PERDITION ranks number three.

Another blogger has an interesting take on BYE BYE, BABY, using it as starting point for his own MM research.

This coming week I will be working on ANTIQUES CHOP, Barb having just wrapped up her draft.

M.A.C.

On The Road With Vanilla Fudge

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
Return to Perdition

The final (chronological) entry in the ROAD TO PERDITION saga, RETURN TO PERDITION, is available now. So are handsome new editions of ROAD TO PERDITION and ROAD TO PERDITION 2: ON THE ROAD.

I’m very pleased with how RETURN TO PERDITION has come out, and my longtime MS. TREE collaborator Terry Beatty has done a great job capturing a ‘70s feel for the final blood-and-sex-drenched chapter in the O’Sullivan saga.

Response so far has been great. Publisher’s Weekly gave us a fine review and so did Ain’t It Cool News.

Craig Clarke has nice, smart things to say, too.

And we’re turning up at various comics (and other pop culture) sites with write-ups like this one at Criminal Complex, this one at Bloody Disgusting, and IGN, too.

THE CONSUMMATA continues to get strong reviews, like this one.

And that talented writer Mike Dennis likes QUARRY’S EX.

The Simon and Kirby CRIME collection I wrote the intro to is getting some attention, as well.

CHICAGO LIGHTNING, the new Heller collection, got a great write-up here, though what I have to do with “faith fiction” is a mystery to me.

And BYE BYE, BABY rates a smug dismissal from a guy at Huffington Post, who spends a lot of time on a book he feels superior to. He starts out saying he can’t understand why anybody would still be interested in Marilyn Monroe, qualifying as an idiot right out of the gate. He claims I don’t give a solution to the mystery of Marilyn’s death, which of course I do, and says my writing – like the sex scenes in my book – are “gratuitous and mechanical.” Okay, well, unless you’re making babies, all sex is gratuitous, and let’s have more of it, sez I. It’s also by definition mechanical, as in INSERT A into B – STIR. He appears to have listened to the audio, not actually the book, and I include this here mostly because he’s smart enough to acknowledge what a great job Dan John Miller is doing reading the new Heller audios.

Vanilla Fudge
Vanilla Fudge on stage at Vipers Alley.

Last Thursday, Barb and I went to a place called Viper’s Alley in Lincolnshire, Illinois (Chicago area) to see my favorite American band from the Sixties, Vanilla Fudge. These guys were incredibly influential, really the fathers of Metal, but what I loved were the over-the-top, melodramatic symphonies they conjured out of songs like “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” “Shotgun,” “Some Velvet Morning,” and “She’s Not There.” B-3 organist and lead singer Mark Stein was my musical idol back in the day (really, still is), and had an enormous influence on both my singing and keyboard playing.

Vanilla Fudge
Chatting with legendary guitarist Vince Martell.

The Fudge was only together for a few years, and around ‘68-‘69, I missed several opportunities to see them at the Col Ballroom in Davenport because my own band had a conflicting gig. In recent years, the Fudge have begun to appear (and occasionally record) again, at first without Stein, but more recently with him. Great bassist Tim Bogert has stepped down from touring (health problems, I believe) but the other three – Stein, guitarist Vince Martell, and drummer Carmen Appice – are still appearing with a strong fill-in bassist, who does Bogert’s distinctive parts perfectly.

Vanilla Fudge
Chatting with one of rock’s great drummers, Carmen Appice.

Anyway, they were fantastic. The venue was intimate for this kind of thing, and the band was very unpretentious for as wonderfully bombastic as their playing is. They did their entire first album, which has recently gone platinum (“Took long enough,” Stein said) and then selectively material from later albums like “Season of the Witch” from the classic Renaissance and “Dazed and Confused” from their recent Led Zeppelin tribute album (Zeppelin first toured opening for the Fudge). Appice, as rock fans out there know, is one of the three or four greatest drummers in the history of rock, and did an amazing drum solo. And yes, they did all the high harmonies, awash in Stein’s B-3 organ with its Leslie speakers distorting just enough.

Vanilla Fudge
With Mark Stein, the lead singer and keyboard of Vanilla Fudge.

Afterward, I was able to meet the band members and get CD’s autographed. They were gracious and very down-to-earth.

I didn’t get to see Bobby Darin live, or the Beatles, but the other group on that very short list has been finally checked off (I’ve already seen Weezer…twice).

M.A.C.

San Diego Comic-Con 2011 Day Two

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

I promised two announcements today, both of considerable import:

First, I will be completing three more of Mickey Spillane’s unfinished Mike Hammer novel manuscripts, for a new publisher…Titan of the UK (distributed by Random House in the USA). Titan is one of my favorite publishers — they have a real feel for pop culture — and while I am sorry to leave Harcourt, I am very excited about our new home. I met with Titan honcho Nick Landau today at the con, and he showed me first passes on covers that are innovative and striking for three new Hammer novels. I will be sharing them with you soon.

The books are:

LADY GO, DIE!
COMPLEX 90
KING OF THE WEEDS

I am working on LADY, GO DIE! right now — a manuscript dating to 1948, making it the second Mike Hammer story (after I, THE JURY).

The other news — announced on the reboot of FIRST COMICS panel is that we will be doing Ms. Tree for publisher Ken Levin. The entire run will be collected in new volumes, and Terry Beatty and I be doing a new MS. TREE project, likely a comics mini-series that serializes a graphic novel.

There are number of book publishers here and I spoke to several editors about possible book projects, both tie-in and original.

Nate took a lot of pictures today and we’ll share them with you on Sunday morning. Tomorrow (Friday) are the Scribe Awards with a panel focusing on tie-in grand master, Peter David. Also, Barb and I will be appearing in a mystery/crime panel (details above).

M.A.C.

Pleas, Pleas Me

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Before we begin, I have a request – even a plea.

Those of you who recently asked for and received free advance copies of various M.A.C. books, the deal was you’d post a review – some of you have. Others have not. How can I put this gently? Get cracking.

Reviews at Amazon in particular, but also at other sites like rival Barnes & Noble, are very important. I am told that certain Amazon recommendations don’t kick in until a title is at over 20 reviews. So any of you out there enjoying the books, please post a review – it doesn’t have to be worthy of comparison to Jon L. Breen or Anthony Boucher. A simple line – “This is a terrific read!” – will do. Four- and particularly five-star reviews at Amazon are important, because of the average star rating that appears when you search for a title or author. Amazon reviewers have an unfortunate tendency to either post four- or five-star reviews…or one star reviews. And those one-star reviews really pull a title’s rating down. Some of these one-star reviews are frankly imbecilic – like rating a book one-star because it took two weeks for Amazon to ship it.

I am particularly annoyed by people who took advantage of the free Kindle copies we gave out, for several days, or YOU CAN’T STOP ME and ANTIQUES ROADKILL. What kind of a-hole posts a one-star review for a book he or she got free? Why do these people keep reading a book to the end that they don’t like from page one? When they are served a terrible meal, do they wolf it down after that first disgusting bite?

Anyway, your grass-roots support at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders’s and on your own blogs and Facebook pages in general is much, much needed…and appreciated.

ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF continues to get wonderful reviews. We hit the trifecta of the major industry publications, with Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus and now Library Journal reviewing (and liking us). This is from the Library Journal review:

This fifth cozy series entry displays the versatility of husband and wife Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins. Scenes of Midwestern small-town life, informative tidbits about the antiques business, and clever dialog make this essential for those who like unusual amateur sleuths.

But my favorite ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF review – one of my favorite reviews for the entire series – comes from that splendid human being and blogger extra ordinaire, Bill Crider. You gotta check this one out. Barb and I were working hard on ANTIQUES DISPOSAL last week, really worn down by the work, and this came in and boosted our spirits incredibly. It should be noted that Bill is a terrific mystery writer his own damn self, and you can find info at his site about his excellent books, when you’re checking out this review.

Speaking of great guys who happen to also be great writers, Ed Gorman has struck again with a wonderful retrospective of the first Quarry novel, in the context of the new Perfect Crime trade paperback reprints. By the way, Perfect Crime has also published an outstanding Gorman short-story collection called Noir 13.

Steve Lewis has a very interesting and insightful review of the forthcoming KISS HER GOODBYE at Mystery File, and the comments include some lengthy ones by me that describe the process of creating new Spillane novels from old unfinished manuscripts.

And here’s a neat review of A KILLING IN COMICS. How I wish I’d been able to do more than just one Jack and Maggie Starr mystery.

I should mention that THE BIG BANG has been nominated for a Scribe (Best Original Novel) by the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers. You can see the other nominees listed at Lee Goldberg’s terrific site (always worth checking out – fun, funny and informative). Lee and I co-founded the organization, but I assure you the fix is not in.

Even Wild Dog got some love this week! All because he wore a hockey mask.

And there’s some very insightful stuff about Ms. Tree, with a smart feminist perspective, at Ink-stained Amazon. This is Part Four, but you can find your way to the previous parts as you scroll down. I think the bulk of the Ms. Tree material is right here in Part Four, though.

Today, Barb and I will very likely complete ANTIQUES DISPOSAL. The book is essentially written but we are in Day Two of our final tweaks. After ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF has done so well, we’re a little intimidated. KNOCK-OFF essentially completes the first story arc (took five books to do it). DISPOSAL introduces another story arc, this time designed to span three books. This time we’re dealing with the auction of storage units whose owners are either in arrears or have disappeared. Murder and hilarity ensues…or anyway, they better….

M.A.C.