Posts Tagged ‘Ms. Tree’

Misteaks From The Blue-Eyed Boy

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA has been nominated for the International Association of Media & Tie-in Writers “Best Adapted” Novel award. The Scribes Awards are held at San Diego Comic Con.

Barb, Matt and I had a nice turn-out at the Borders in Davenport on Saturday. We’re not really doing a book tour for either ANTIQUES BIZARRE or YOU CAN’T STOP ME because the sequels to both are in process right now, and the time just isn’t there.

In fact, ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF was completed this weekend. By the time you read this, it will be in the hands of Kensington editor Michaela Hamilton. ANTIQUES BIZARRE in particular and the “Trash ‘n’ Treasures” mystery series in general are doing very well – BIZARRE landed on the Barnes & Noble hardcover mystery bestseller list. And there looks to be a strong possibility a new contract for more Brandy & Mother books is coming…stay tuned….

Meanwhile, YOU CAN’T STOP ME has been on the Kindle bestseller list, sparked by a several-day giveaway but lasting well beyond the freebie stage.

Over the years, David Burke at the Quad City Times has given me lots of coverage. This Sunday he did a very nice write-up about YOU CAN’T STOP ME, ANTIQUES BIZARRE and the collaborative process as it pertains to Barb, Matt and Mickey.

A fun blog from comics writer Valerie D’Orazio called Occasional Superheroine has a list of five female comics characters that deserve revival, and MS. TREE is one of ‘em.

And here’s a blog whose list of the best movies of the past decade includes ROAD TO PERDITION as one of the best five adapted from comics. Cool.

Sean Leary, an excellent writer and all-around talented human, used to be the entertainment writer at the Rock Island Argus and Dispatch. Now he has an entertainment-oriented Quad Cities web site, Get Your Good News. He did individual interviews about the new books and the collaborative process with Matt Clemens, Barb and me. These are good – check ‘em out.

I want to talk briefly about reviews, but I want to talk about a very specific aspect of them. After all, everybody has a right to their opinions. And I strive not to bask in the good reviews because that means I would have to take the bad reviews seriously, too. No, I want to talk about reviews (and this particularly happens on the non-pro reviews at Amazon and other internet sites) that revel in finding mistakes in the text.

A number of Amazon reviewers – not just talking about my stuff, but reviews I encounter all the time when shopping for books – will give a book a low-star rating and a terrible review if that book is (in their view) poorly copy-edited or if it has mistakes that the author or the copy editor should have caught (again, in their view).

A review of YOU CAN’T STOP ME (one of only two less than stellar ones out of a whole flock of positive ones at Amazon) dismisses the book largely because the lead character, J.C. Harrow, is initially described as having brown eyes and later as having blue eyes. The book is over 100,000 words long and I promise you it gets a lot of things right, including the descriptions of its large cast of characters.

Here’s what happened, or anyway how it happened. If you’re at this site, you know that YOU CAN’T STOP ME is a collaboration. My co-author Matt Clemens likes to “cast” a story – he puts actors and sometimes other celebrities in the roles, and even sends me photos of the cast. Which, frankly, I ignore, because I don’t work that way. Matt likes to start with the reality of a real human to describe and an actor’s voice to hear in his brain – it helps him, and it’s not a bad technique. But it’s not mine. As it happens, he “cast” Pierce Brosnan as Harrow. I said I thought Harrow was more like Dennis Farina in CRIME STORY, but only vaguely so – a craggy guy in his forties, not James frickin’ Bond. This started a cheerful disagreement between us, which actually became a running gag. I would say, “It’s possible our lead character is under-characterized, if one of us thinks he’s Pierce Brosnan and the other thinks he’s Dennis Farina.”

We were shocked and distressed when we went over the copy-edited manuscript and discovered that Harrow’s eyes were described as having two colors (we had settled on Farina brown, but the initial Brosnan blue crept in). As it happens, we had a copy editor who had taken a fairly heavy hand to the work – my pet peeve – and I put a lot of it back the way it had been, and in fairness to the production folks at Kensington, they got a fairly messy copy-edited manuscript back. Still, we had caught the blue/brown thing – yet it crept through into the galley proof stage, too. We caught it and corrected it again…

…and yet it still got through wrong. How? Who knows? Mistakes and typos happen, particularly with a book the size of YOU CAN’T STOP ME. With typos, sometimes a new typo happens when a change or correction is made that requires new, last-minute typesetting. It’s easy for tiny screw-ups in a book this size.

At the final read-through stage (like the one Barb and I just did with ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF), we discover all sorts of stuff – little things like a very minor character’s name shifting, or fairly big things, like plot points that somehow (over the many months of writing) got confused.

A review of one of the ANTIQUES books has an Amazon review that makes a very big deal out of a reference to Aunt Bea from the “Andy Griffin Show.” This ruined the book for the reviewer and earned us a very low star rating. Talk about mysteries – both Barb and I are longtime fans of Andy Griffith. I was a fan of his well before his famous TV show – I remember as a little kid seeing the live TV play of NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS before it went to Broadway! I saw NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS the film in the theater. I bought all of Griffith’s comedy records (“What It Was Was Football”). Barb also is a fan. I can’t believe either of us – and remember, we read the book after we turn it into the publisher in copy-edited form, and then at least once more in galley proof form (usually twice in the latter stage). The only thing we can think of is we spaced out, thinking of SCTV’s parody THE MERV GRIFFITH SHOW, on which Merv Griffin is transformed into Andy Taylor. We are stumped. Did a copy editor or someone in production catch “Griffith” and think it was a goof and change it to “Griffin”? It’s a mystery. Who the hell knows?

I do know it’s unfair to dismiss the rest of the hard work that went into the big writing project that is a novel by seizing upon such occasional goofs, whoever made them.

But I know from long experience, with Nathan Heller, that reviewers and readers love to find historical inaccuracies. Such mistakes would appear to be the prize in the Cracker Jacks for a lot of readers. I can’t tell you how many fan letters I’ve received that tell me how much they love a Heller book or maybe one of the disaster novels, and then without referring to one specific thing that they liked, tell me about the error they spotted. Sometimes these are real errors, and sometimes not (as when someone in Louisiana insisted a road in BLOOD AND THUNDER hadn’t been built yet when I had a vintage research book that said it had).

A very supportive reviewer (whose name I won’t mention) has consistently mentioned a mistake or two found in the Heller and other historical novels despite his very brief per-book review space. This is a reviewer who apparently really loves my work, but rather than comment on the voluminous research I’ve done and the thousands of things I get write (I mean, “right”) in one of the massive Heller novels, insists on grabbing that Cracker Jacks prize and displaying it in public.

Do I sound frustrated? I am. I hate knowing that every copy of YOU CAN’T STOP ME has Harrow with brown eyes and blue eyes. But it can’t be helped. It’s human error. Anyway, Matt and I will reveal in the second Harrow novel that those bastard executives in the first novel had made the TV host wear blue contact lenses on his reality show, CRIME SEEN! He will now have thrown them away….


Crusin’ Update

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Crusin' at Warehouse Four
Crusin’ at Warehouse Four, 1970’s
L to R: Ric Steed, M.A.C., Bruce Peters, Paul Thomas

This will be a brief update, because this week Nate and I have put our time into getting a long overdue revised update on my band Crusin’. Anyone interested in me and my work should find this of interest — lots of photos and a detailed history of the group’s 35 year history (41 year history, counting the Daybreakers, the band Crusin’ evolved into).

A very interesting write-up on Johnny Craig’s early EC crime work touches upon my introductions to the collected EC CRIME SUSPENSTORIES and even discusses ROAD TO PERDITION in that context. Any article that extols Ralph Meeker’s Mike Hammer is jake by me.

And my old pal Christopher Mills has posted a great LAST LULLABY review at his DVD Late Show site.

Chris has also re-posted a terrific ELIOT NESS: AN UNTOUCHABLE LIFE review from a while back.

Brian Drake, who is a lively writer with great taste (i.e., he likes my stuff), wonders if I’m one person or not. I get this all the time — “When do you sleep?” and so on.

I have said any number of times that I am very lazy by nature, but that no one sends money to my house if I don’t work. Being called prolific gets you credit for hard work but is the most left-handed of writing compliments. Some years (like 2009) I have very little out — the only original novel was QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE. This year is heavier, with ANTIQUES BIZARRE, YOU CAN’T STOP ME and THE BIG BANG just around the corner. But do note that in the case of those three projects that I am working with talented collaborators (Barbara Collins, Matthew Clemens, and, well, Mickey Spillane) and I am not carrying the entire workload.

Speaking of collaborators, never forget Terry Beatty — and also hitting the net this week is a very nice overview of our MS. TREE feature.

A blog called UNSQUARE DANCE gives a nice write-up to the Hard Case Crime joint reprint of BAIT MONEY and BLOOD MONEY (as TWO FOR THE MONEY).

See you next Tuesday.


Comic-Con 2009

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

This update is being written from San Diego, where the comic con is over, and Barb, Nate and I are about to head back to Iowa.

Before I get into a blog-ish report, let me repeat announcements regarding M.A.C. that made some news at the con: Vertigo Crime Line will be doing RETURN TO PERDITION, a graphic novel sequel to ROAD TO PARADISE and the last story, chronologically anyway, in the PERDITION saga. Terry Beatty was announced as artist, which means the MS. TREE team is back. The Vertigo Crime Line books are lovely little hardcovers of about 200 pages.

Although the ink hasn’t dried (actually, hasn’t been applied), informally it was announced that MS. TREE would be reprinted in uniform volumes with a new graphic novel. This will (if all goes well, and it will) be a Comics Mix/IDW affair. Lots of great comments from people about this, all around the con. Also wonderful comments about Quarry and especially the currently in hiatus Jack Starr “comics” mysteries illustrated by Terry.

The con, for once, has not grown. They capped it last year and it has been at capacity ever since. The aisles are packed by ten a.m., and even the preview night is like laundry day along the Ganges. Because I was a special guest this year — as part of the con’s in-house rock band, Seduction of the Innocent — I was able to score Exhibitor badges for both Nate and me. This was even somewhat legit because on Wednesday night we had to schlep in 200 copies of the new Seduction CD (a terrific recording of our most recent performance at the con…in 1999!).

Anyway, that meant Nate and I could get in every day for an hour ahead of the rabble, I mean, other attendees, and that was a joy. A dream-like sensation, walking down wide nearly empty aisles bathed in air-conditioning, surrounded by pop culture imagery absurd and sublime.

I did not abuse the guest privilege, but asked for three things: helping get Nate into a panel on which one of his heroes appeared, Hayao Miyazaki; getting Barb, Nate and me into the jam-packed, a thousand-turned-away Riff Trax performance (front row!), and — this was very tough — getting to privately meet with probably my favorite actor on the planet, Canadian star Paul Gross of SLINGS & ARROWS and DUE SOUTH fame. Paul was as gracious and friendly and warm as he was charistmatic — for example, I used my all-access pass to get into the green room (Nate, also a fan, could not get in). Paul had no problem leaving the safety of the green room to go out into the hallway and talk to Nate for fifteen minutes. Incredible guy, and the experience I will treasure from this con — he would make a great Nate Heller, by the way. (He has a new show, in America, coming up, and that’s what he was promoting: Eastwick.) What did I have him sign? The Blu-Ray of PASSCHENDAELE, the Sirk-like Canadian war epic he wrote, directed and starred in, which inexplicably has not received distribution in the USA.

Seduction of the Innocent: Live @ Comic-Con 1999

This was easily my most hectic con. I’ll start with the Seduction of the Innocent stuff. First, Miguel Ferrer had a filming conflict, but I was there with Bill Mumy, Chris Christensen and Steve Leialoha, debuting our LIVE AT THE SAN DIEGO ComicCon 1999 OFFICIAL BOOTLEG CD. Though we did not play (we weren’t asked), we sold around 100 of the limited 200 edition, meaning you’ll soon be able to snag a copy here (we will have around 10 signed copies available). We spent much of the con together at various events and signings, and I was reminded by how much fun it is to be with Bill, Chris and Steve. Bill also debuted the first new Barnes & Barnes album in 18 years — he is talented, funny guy, sweet and witty but be careful not to get sent to the cornfield…it CAN happen. Chris knows music better than anybody I know, and I get a warmth being around him that reminds me of my late buddy Paul Thomas. Steve Leialoha, whose FABLES racked up several Eisner awards, is as slyly funny as his smile is sunny.

Seduction presented a couple of Eisners at the awards and were well received. We do not really understand why they would invite us, a rock band, and not have us play, and frankly all of us spent much of the convention being asked, and not being able to answer, the question, “Why aren’t you guys playing?” There were in fact several opportunities — a reception, the after-event at the Eisners. There does seem to be a possibility we will do so next year, and we were informally approached by another con, as well.

I did panels on noir comics, on mystery fiction, as well as the Vertigo panel and — trumpets here — the Scribes awards. Link over, courtesy of Nate, and see the winners (I was not one of them, though had two nice nominations).

I also recorded an interview for a major Blu-Ray release (all I can say at the moment) and the family ate well, saw Demetri Martin in concert, and Barb and Nate got to go to Coronado island (and experience the SOME LIKE IT HOT/SOMEWHERE IN TIME hotel and beach) while I met at the con with Marvel on a top secret project (you didn’t hear it here). I also met with several editors — gave away and signed maybe 300 copies of G.I. JOE: ABOVE AND BEYOND at the Del Rey booth — including discussing the Heller-in-progress with TOR editor Jim Frenkel. Nate entered a Find Waldo (a guy dressed up like Waldo that is) at the Capcom booth, and was the big winner of a thousand bucks worth of stash, including a 360 and a Blackberry.

Next to meeting Paul Gross, the biggest thrill for me was having the three Riff Trax guys (Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy) seek me out at the autographing area, standing there with big smiles on their midwestern mugs like an absurd mirage. I love these guys (CINEMATIC TITANTIC, too) and we made each other laugh for maybe ten minutes…and then I suggested a project that we might do together that I guarantee would interest anybody who has read this far.

More later. Time to leave the land of make believe and go back to Iowa.


Message from M.A.C. – July 7, 2007

Saturday, July 7th, 2007

Antiques Maul

First off, the paperback of ANTIQUES ROADKILL has just hit the stands as I write this. The hardcover did very well — sales and reviews — and “Barbara Allan” (that’s Barb and me) hope the paperback will boost the series further. The second novel in the Trash ‘n’ Treasures series, ANTIQUES MAUL, will be out in September in hardcover. Barb is working on the rough draft of the third, ANTIQUES FLEE MARKET, right now, and I’ll be getting to my draft in the fall.

We have just signed with VCI home video for ELIOT NESS: AN UNTOUCHABLE LIFE to come out very soon on DVD — September 25, to be exact. Phil Dingeldein and I are putting together bonus features right now, including a new short noir film that emerged from another workshop (a la “Three Women” which became part of the SHADES OF NOIR DVD). When we have artwork, we’ll post it here. The film (recording for posterity Michael Cornelison’s definitive Ness) was entered into two regional festivals and won BEST FEATURE at both, as well as BEST DIRECTOR and BEST EDITING at one.

The mini-book tour for BLACK HATS and A KILLING IN COMICS was quite successful, with particularly good turnouts at the Muskego Public Library (where Ted Hertel and Gary Neibuhr expertly grilled research associate George Hagenauer and me) and at Centuries and Sleuths in Forest Park. Barb and I have been discussing cutting way back on such personal appearances, but these well-attended events were encouraging. We also did very well at the new Mystery Cat bookstore in Cedar Rapids, a used/collectible shop that is a real delight, and worth a trip for midwesterners.

The brevity of the tour had to do with my heavy schedule this year, even heavier than usual. Already this year I’ve written three novels, a nonfiction book and a screenplay.

The nonfiction book is a return to the pin-up world, a biography of my late friend Earl Mac Pherson; Collector’s Press (who did just a wonderful job on HISTORY OF MYSTERY) had a coffee-table book essentially ready to go and asked me to contribute a full 10,000 word bio on Earl. I contributed more art and photos from my own collection, as well — don’t know exactly when this will be out.

The screenplay is my own adaptation of ROAD TO PURGATORY, which we are in the early stages of attempting to mount right here in the midwest with me directing. I’m partnered with some very good people, including longtime crony Phil D., and it’s an exciting venture — if we can pull off the fund-raising, it will be the most ambitious project I’ve ever attempted in any medium. The script was submitted to the Iowa Motion Picture Awards and won the Award of Excellence for Unproduced Screenplay.

AMERICAN GANGSTER, my movie tie-in for the Ridley Scott film starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, will be out in November along with the film. It’s a fact-based early ’70s druglord tale and the screenplay was first-rate; this is my first novelization (dreaded word) since THE PINK PANTHER and I’m proud of it. TOR is publishing.

I have also completed a long-contemplated novel based on my late father Max A. Collins Sr.’s experiences in the Navy during World War II, when he was one of a handful of very young white officers in charge of a large body of black sailors loading ammo in the Pacific. The book is essentially my CAINE MUTINY (albeit with a murder mystery at its heart) and I believe it came off very well. My title is USS POWDERKEG, and I hope it will remain such, but you never know — my editor at Morrow may have another idea. Matthew Clemens got involved in this one, doing extensive research and helping develop the plot. This may be published as the second “Patrick Culhane” bylined novel, but that’s up in the air – the jury’s still out on whether the Culhane byline was a good idea or not. Should be out in the fall of 2008.

Criminal Minds: Jump Cut

As you may know, I am no longer doing CSI novels. Instead, my researcher Matt Clemens and I are doing at least three novels based on the hit show, CRIMINAL MINDS. We have completed the first book, JUMP CUT, and it came off very well — working with profilers rather than crime scene investigators was liberating, because a lot of Holmes/Wolfe-style speculation can come into play. The novel will be out in November.

Next up for me is the second Jack & Maggie Starr mystery for Berkley Prime Crime, probably called STRIP FOR MURDER. It’s based on the Al Capp LIL ABNER/Ham Fisher JOE PALOOKA feud. Terry Beatty will again be providing comics panels for chapter headings as well as a “challenge to the reader” comics chapter toward the end of the novel. The response to the first novel, A KILLING IN COMICS, has been very gratifying — after a limp review from Publisher’s Weekly (complaining that the book was not a Nate Heller), online reviews have been overwhelmingly favorable, even glowing. Readers seem to “get” the retro fun of a Rex Stout-ish mystery in the context of the world of post-war comics.

The biggest news I’m saving for last: I have signed with Otto Penzler’s Harcourt line to complete three Mike Hammer novels begun by Mickey Spillane. I am working from substantial partial manuscripts — at least half of each book already written by Mickey. That I will be collaborating with Mickey on at least three Hammer novels is thrilling to me beyond words. This is highly unusual, because I am working not only with his wife Jane’s blessing, but Mickey’s own: he asked me to complete these novels. First up: THE GOLIATH BONE, the final Hammer chronologically. (Other novels will be given time frames according to when they were begun by Mickey.)

Mickey’s file of unpublished material was extensive — another trio of Hammers can follow, if these three do well. This is a very big deal – there are only 13 Mike Hammer novels, and adding another three (or six) to the canon is unheard of for so famous a mystery series.

Dead Street

I have already completed Mickey’s last crime novel, DEAD STREET, for Charles Ardai at Hard Case Crime; it will be out in December – I edited the existing eight chapters and completed the last three from Mickey’s notes. I am not taking a byline on DEAD STREET, however, though will be sharing byline with Mickey on the Hammer novels. (My afterword explains the process.)

Also from Hard Case is DEADLY BELOVED — the first ever Ms. Tree prose novel. This came about as an offshoot of the current MS. TREE TV option (with Oxygen Network), though no film has yet been made. MS. TREE co-creator Terry Beatty has done a lovely cover – among the best Hard Case has done, and that’s saying something — and I spent a lot of time revising and polishing, trying to make DEADLY BELOVED a novel that would work equally well for longtime fans of the graphic novel series and readers unfamiliar with the character/series. Look for it in December.

Barb and I may go out on another mini-tour late in the year to promote ANTIQUES MAUL, the ELIOT NESS DVD, AMERICAN GANGSTER, CRIMINAL MINDS: JUMP CUT, and DEADLY BELOVED. But if we don’t have time, I bet you’ll understand….