Posts Tagged ‘Murder My Love’

Once Upon a Time in Muscatine

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

If you’d like to pick up any of the Nathan Heller novels that Thomas & Mercer has reprinted (that’s everything but the more recent Forge-published novels including the upcoming Do No Harm), you can do so this month for a mere 99 cents per. Right here. Step right up!

If you’ve read and liked Girl Most Likely, please post an Amazon review, however brief. We’ve drifted just below a solid four stars and could use input from readers who dug it to push us back up. If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?

I have been having difficulty with responding to your comments here. Readers seem to be able to post, but recent responses I’ve made to questions have not made it through the process. I responded three times to this thoughtful post from Mike Pasqua:

Sorry that we didn’t have a chance to connect. Two things: I am pretty sure that, without Miguel, Bill probably would be reluctant to do a one-off SOTI show (I know that Miggie missed shows in the past because he was working but this is different). Second, while no one person is indispensable, the loss of Bat Lash was a terrible blow to Jackie and losing John Rogers was a major body-blow to the Con. Yes, they did their usual great job because they are consummate professionals but John’s loss cast a pall on the event. Rest assured Robin Donlan is more than capable of taking over the reins but people were operating on fumes this year. I know that this was nowhere near the celebration that I expected it to be but it’s hard to be upbeat when there was such a void (I spent time with John’s wife and I know that this was beyond painful for her). Just my two cents.

I’ll respond to Mike right now, and hope what I have to say will be generally interesting to readers of these updates.

Seduction of the Innocent’s surviving four members have discussed the notion of performing again, one last time, obviously without Miguel but in his honor. Bill Mumy was part of that discussion. Now, he might change his mind, but the reality is we were not asked to appear for the 50th San Diego Con, which would have been an ideal place to do a final show, possibly post-Eisner Awards. Our thinking was that we’d probably do a single, if rather long, set. We appeared at DragonCon without Miguel, when his movie work precluded his attendance, so there is (as Mike indicates) a precedence for SOTI playing as a four-piece.

Saturday morning quarterbacking is the easiest thing in the world to do, and I have nothing but respect and appreciation for those who put this juggernaut of a con on. Mike is an old friend and he is a veteran of helping mount this difficult, challenging show. My criticisms of the con are mostly confined to the increasingly dangerous exhibition hall floor, where the problems of crowds were exacerbated by exhibitors who created a frenzy with artificially contrived limited editions that fed lines in main aisles, which in turn sparked belligerent behavior on the exhibitor’s staffs and on convention security. SDCC stands on the precipice of a major, even tragic disaster if these practices are not curtailed.

My other complaints are more personal – that my collecting interests are not as well-served by the show now, and that my age (and the aftermath of health problems) make it difficult for me to navigate a room with 150,000 people in it, all seeking their own pop culture nirvana.

Here’s another comment I wasn’t able to respond to (Nate is working on it), this from Brendan:

It’s wonderful to hear more about your Ms. Tree collections. I managed to track down a large number of original issues several years ago, but some of them were in a pretty sorry state, so it will be great to own fresh copies of the stories.

And a Johnny Dynamite collection is coming out, too?! I can’t wait! Are you and Terry connected to that reprint? I’ve heard you two share the copyright on the character, but was never sure if that was true.

Yes, a Johnny Dynamite collection is coming out from Craig Yoe, gathering all of the Pete Morisi-drawn stories with a bonus Ms. Tree story (one of the few things not collected in the forthcoming five-volume Titan series). I am doing an intro but haven’t written it yet. We do control the copyright.

* * *

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is probably director/writer Quentin Tarantino’s best film – certainly it’s my favorite movie of his.

I came slow to Tarantino. I did not care for – and am still not a fan of – Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, True Romance and both Kill Bills. With the exception of the Elmore Leonard-based Jackie Brown, his films seemed to me undisciplined show-offy affairs, and painfully reflective of the motormouth, know-it-all video clerk from the ashes of which director Tarantino emerged.

But starting with Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino began to better organize his narratives, making them less self-indulgent without losing his fannish enthusiasm and love of the outrageous. His characters no longer all sounded the same, spewing glib Tarantino speak; rather, they had specificity and even depth. Django and The Hateful Eight were among my favorite films of their respective years, and I am now – however improbably – a fan.

Like Yesterday, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will work best on a certain kind of Baby Boomer audience member (some will be put off by its bold storytelling and climactic violence). Tarantino lovingly, almost fetishistically, recreates the late ‘60s in Los Angeles, both the era and its artifacts. For those of us who lived through those years, it’s a time machine ride that will plaster a smile on faces despite the lingering presence of the Manson family on this oddly innocent world’s periphery.

I won’t talk much about the plot – frankly, there isn’t much of one, although for something so slight, the payoff is major. And this is a film that needs to be seen cold – avoid spoilers at all costs.

But the incidental joys are endless – replications of ‘50s and ‘60s westerns (and their differences); clips from films and TV shows into which the stars of this film are believably inserted (and, in one case, movingly not inserted); marquees and movie posters of exactly the right releases; products and places and things that now exist only in memory, brought back to life.

The film is not without controversy. Tarantino has not made friends with the far left by hiring some actors who have been tarnished by #Metoo, and his protagonists are obviously white males, one of whom (Brad Pitt) is overtly if quietly macho. An interesting and thought-provoking aspect of the narrative is the possibility that the Pitt character killed his wife – something neither confirmed nor denied – which has generated career-crippling rumors for the stunt man character. Somewhere in there is a commentary about the post-Weinstein criticism Tarantino has been getting, and knew he would inflame, but we are left to sort it out for ourselves.

On the other hand, Sharon Tate as portrayed by Margot Robbie, is a sweet, sympathetic portrait that shows the director as anything but misogynistic. This is in keeping with Tarantino’s improved ability to create characters for his little playlet-like scenes that aren’t just fragments of himself. Particularly winning is a surprisingly touching yet unsentimental scene between DeCaprio’s fading TV star and a female child star.

DeCaprio and Pitt give unflinching performances as “heroes” who are hugely flawed. What you ultimately have in Once Upon a Time is a loving critique of Hollywood and that specific late ‘60s era, at once a valentine and a reality check. Oh, and if you are avoiding this because of the Manson aspect, don’t. Their presence is unsettling but not a deal-breaker.

For me, the film had some interesting resonances. I was working on the script for in 1993 and ‘94 in Hollywood – not living there, but making numerous trips – and the world of this film was close to what I witnessed. Growing up in Muscatine, Iowa – and staying here for my whole life (so far) – it often strikes me as odd, how many brushes and near brushes with Hollywood I’ve had.

For example, Bruce Lee is depicted in the Tarantino film, and his son Brandon was my friend – and a huge Quarry fan. I once got a telephone call from him (while Barb and I were living in our downtown Muscatine apartment over a beauty shop, our rent $100 a month) to tell me how much he loved the Quarry novels. By the way, Damon Herriman plays Charles Mansion in Once Upon a Time – he played the Boyd character (renamed “Buddy”) in the Quarry TV series. I spent time with him on set – he’s a delightful guy…Australian, by the way.

Also, right now I’m reading Funny Man, a warts-and-all bio of Mel Brooks, and discover Jose Ferrer was a pal who Brooks often ran his stuff by, because he found Ferrer a good judge of what’s funny. Of course, Jose was Miguel’s father. I once spoke to Jose Ferrer on the phone about his love for mystery fiction, and he was so impressed that I was close to Mickey Spillane.

Yet here I am in Muscatine.

Right now I’m glad to be, because Nate and Abby and Sam and Lucy (son/daughter-in-law/grandson/granddaughter) have moved here and are just up the street from us now. Guess who went to a 3 pm matinee of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood with me?

Nathan Collins.

* * *

Ron Fortier has done a wonderful review of Murder, My Love. Check it out!

A detailed entry on my band, The Daybreakers, is on Wikipedia. I had nothing to do with it, which makes it special to me. Pretty good. Check it out, too.

Finally, here’s a short but sweet review of The Wrong Quarry, my favorite of the list books (Brandon would have loved it), on Sons of Spade.

M.A.C.

Confessions of a Laserdisc Fiend Pt. 3

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

I know what you’ve been waiting for.

An update on my laserdisc adventure!

Here it is, anyway. The laserdisc player I ordered was a dud. I did receive a refund for it, but that meant trying again, which I did with trepidation. But the new (I should say “new”) player arrived and works great. I am amazed by how good the discs look and think their analogue nature may explain that. They sound wonderful.

Laserdisc collecting was an obsession I truly enjoyed pursuing throughout the 1990s. While I’ve continued on with DVDs and Blu-rays, the thrill of those 12″ silver discs has never been equaled. It’s very similar to the difference between collecting CDs and 12″ vinyl albums. Now, I have not gotten back on board with collecting vinyl – I prefer CDs, having grown up frustrated by pops and clicks and scratches.

But those big album covers, often folding out, and with extensive liner notes and pictures…what a trip that was! How I loved record albums as a kid, and even into adulthood. I still have all my Bobby Darin LPs (in both stereo and mono) (and a second set of sealed copies) (what a shock) and Kim Wilde and Blondie and…quite a few others, still. Bobby Rydell. Selected soundtracks and Broadway musical albums.

Laserdisc collecting, a hobby I have now renewed (after selling hundreds of them cheap over the last ten years), provides a similar buzz with their LP-like covers. But Blu-rays, and most DVDs, blow the lasers out of the water. Only two reasons (three, counting insanity) justify this nostalgic trip.

First, a good number of discs are of material that has not reached DVD (and may never). Oddball movies – B material and below, TV movies and so on – are what a collector like me is after, with ‘80s schlock often in video limbo. That kind of thing and – in particular – music. The discs I had held on to, when dumping anything I’d upgraded to DVD or Blu-ray, are about one third music – concerts and early video collections (“Eat to the Beat!”), everything from Sinatra to the Beatles, with lots of ‘60s and New Wave in the mix. Japan, where laserdisc was big (and even still is, to a degree) issued a lot of American musical material. Scads of British Invasion acts are represented, including the Animals, Them and the Yardbirds; and with New Wave there’s Kate Bush and Bangles and Kim Wilde and Blondie and Elvis Costello and the Cardigans and a bunch more.

(Porn and R-rated Playboy smut might be of interest to some. I, of course, am more refined, as readers of Quarry’s Climax are aware.)

Some of the stuff I’ve been picking up on e-bay, but I already owned a good deal of it, languishing for wont of a hooked-up laserdisc player and a vintage tube TV. (For those who came in late, laserdiscs look awful on flat-screen TVs.)

My son Nathan, home for the July 4th holiday with his bride Abby and kids Sam and Lucy, has enough hipster in him to be mildly impressed by my retro shenanigans. He has helped me select a better stand for my 21″ inch TV with laserdisc player beneath (hasn’t arrived yet – and I will have to talk Barb into assembling it for me) (I am not a man’s man, even if I do write Mike Hammer).

And so, for now, my laserdisc adventure concludes, and yet it continues. Seems so right somehow.

* * *

Even as I spend my late evenings watching laserdiscs featuring acts like the Dave Clark Five, Ike and Tina Turner (what a happy couple!), Dusty Springfield, the Hollies and the Kinks, my own rock ‘n’ roll adventure continues to wind down.

On the 4th of July, Crusin’ played at the Missippi Brew in their beer garden to a nice, and appreciative, crowd. (My buddy Stu Rosebrook, editor of True West magazine, dropped by with his family for the fireworks.) The weather was much better than our recent gig at the Muscatine Art Center, but it was indeed hot and we played around three-and-a-half hours…a long, long time at my age.

The following day I was so wiped out I feared I was back in a-fib. I hadn’t felt so lousy since I was recovering from my hospital stay, and I was worried, as was Barb. But in a day or so, I was back to normal (so to speak), so it becomes ever more clear that my rocking days are winding down. We have three gigs left, I believe, this season. I still intend to make one more original material CD and then do a farewell appearance next summer.

* * *

No politics, but as a true patriot I cannot help but recall the words of Paul Revere via Longfellow: “One if by land, two if by sea, three if by air!”

* * *

Here’s the first (great) Killing Quarry review from longtime Quarry booster, Ron Fortier.

This review of Murder, My Love is pretty good, too.

Finally, out of the blue, came this review of the Ms. Tree prose novel, Deadly Beloved.

M.A.C.

Confessions of a Laserdisc Fiend

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

I collected laserdiscs for years.

I loved them. The LP-sized video discs represented a real step up in quality over VHS and almost always presented movies in their intended widescreen format, long before 16″ by 9″ flatscreen TVs became the norm.


Photo by Shenanigan87

They were expensive, though. Thirty to fifty bucks a movie! Sales popped up now and then, however, in particular at the Camelot chain, which had a store at Mall of America where Barb and I and our young son Nate would go several times a year. Camelot stores turned up on other trips, and they would often have laserdiscs on sale for an astonishing twenty bucks per – sometimes even ten!

As my fixation worsened, I would tip a Camelot sales clerk to let me go through the backroom stock, and several times came out sweating and grinning with a box of the beauties to the amusement and dismay of my wife, waiting patiently in the car. Many of these discs remain sealed to this day, wrapped in plastic, like Laura Palmer on Twin Peaks.

The late lamented QED Laser in the Chicago area became a monthly trip for Barb and me (well, Barb went to the nearby Oak Brook mall). My writing partner Matt Clemens and I made several mammoth day trips to that store for blow-out sales. I got to know the staff. I was allowed into the backroom, to see the new shipment before the discs were put out. I was a shivering laserdisc junkie.

When I was writing draft after draft of the film The Expert, much of the effort taking place in Hollywood at director William Lustig’s apartment, Bill – a fellow laserdisc collector – would keep me going by interrupting these work sessions with trips to Tower Records and other exotic sellers of lasers, including one that was frequented by actual Hollywood directors. I bought discs where Brian DePalma bought his! It kept me going through countless drafts of what became a Jeff Speakman movie. (As James M. Cain said of Mignon, his years-in-the-works historical novel, “So much effort and a kind of mouse is born.”)

When I made the two Mommy movies, I was determined to get them onto laserdisc, which I did – widescreen versions. Thank you, Cary Roan.

Gradually, laserdiscs were phased out as DVDs came in, initially not as good as lasers but soon surpassing them. Then came HD DVD and Blu-ray and high resolution TVs. Laserdiscs looked lousy on the new flatscreens. Just horrible.

And I owned hundreds of lasers – also, four laser disc players, including several late models that also played DVDs. Gradually I moved into DVDs and finally into high definition discs.

Allow to interrupt this fascinating memoir with a sort of sidebar confession. I have a notorious history of choosing the wrong format for my video collecting. I say “wrong,” but actually I would pick the wrong format in the sense that a lesser format won out. I chose Beta over VHS. I chose laserdisc over all competing formats. I chose HD DVD over Blu-ray. My friends would see whatever format I chose and then choose the other one, since I was a sort of video-collecting kiss of death.

Of course, I did move into DVD, and I did shift into Blu-ray, which is holding on for dear life despite my having chosen to collect that format.

Whither my hundreds of lasers? As I gradually upgraded titles to DVD and Blu-ray, I would haul them to a Half Price Books, where I would be diddled without even an offer of a cigarette after. (I don’t smoke, but still!) Then I hooked up with a collector in St. Louis who would buy several boxes of the discs and give me about fifty cents per disc. It was like finding out that old Playboys were worthless.

Still, certain discs I held onto. Some titles just didn’t appear anywhere else. The long versions of John Wayne’s The Alamo, the uncut Ken Costner Wyatt Earp, the full-length Slingblade, the chronologically assembled Godfather box set. The Expert in widescreen remains available only on laserdisc, if you can find one. Tons of music, mostly New Wave acts in concert. I would religiously hook up my laserdisc players to the various flatscreens in the house and then rarely play any of the discs, and – when I did – shake my head at the awful quality.

Now I am embarking on a new journey. Learning from Nate that CRT (tube) TVs are popular among gamers who want to play their early video games (which suck on flatscreen TVs), I have decided to buy a CRT for my office. I am not replacing my flatscreen – rather, I am expanding my set-up by hooking up a 20″ tube TV to a late-model laserdisc player. I have perhaps 150 laserdiscs that have been moved to my office and a cabinet designed for LPs s they – and I – await the delivery of an early twenty-first century model tube TV later this week. (Another 150 discs are elsewhere in the house.)

I will report back to you, since I know you will be dying to hear for what is probably my next video defeat.

* * *

Here is a lovely review of Murder, My Love.

And, finally, another good Girl Most Likely review.

M.A.C.

The New Mike Hammer Audio Rocks (Said the Author)

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Note from Nate: The entire Barbara Allan Trash ‘n’ Treasures series of eBooks are on sale now through April 1. Most are $1.99, but a couple are $.99 or $2.99. The newest novel, Antiques Ravin’ comes out April 30, making this the perfect time to catch up and fill in any you’ve missed! I’ve provided links to all major online eBook storefronts, but if I’ve missed your preferred store, please leave a comment and I’ll add it.

Scroll down for this week’s regularly scheduled update. Thanks!


Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Kobo

Google Play


Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

* * *


Audiobook (digital): Kobo Audible
Audiobook (MP3 CD): Amazon Nook
Audiobook (Audio CD): Amazon Nook

Barb and I are listening to the audio of Murder, My Love in the car. We had a trip to Cedar Rapids recently (more about that later), which took us through half of it. Another trip, this time to the Quad Cities and back, got us about 3/4’s of the way.

It’s quite wonderful.

I have been very blessed to have perhaps the actor most identified with Mike Hammer – Stacy Keach himself – reading all of the Hammers for audio starting with The Goliath Bone and ending with Murder Never Knocks. I have no way to express how cool it was to hear that voice, so identified with Mike Hammer, reading the books I’ve written in posthumous collaboration with Mickey Spillane himself.

Stacy also was Hammer in the two audio book radio-style presentations of mine in the New Adventures of Mike Hammer series (I wrote volumes two and three of the three produced) – The Little Death (Audie award winner for best script) and Encore for Murder (Audie award nominee for best script). I actually acted with him in a couple of scenes on both. Bliss.

When for various reasons, the very busy Mr. Keach stepped down, another of my favorite readers took over – Dan John Miller, the voice of Nate Heller, who read The Will to Kill and Killing Town. He did a fine job and made a particularly good younger-sounding Hammer, appropriate to Killing Town in particular. (He has just done Girl Most Likely, which I haven’t listened to yet, but definitely will.)

Now Stefan Rudnicki has picked up the mantle. Stefan claims to love my work, and I certainly love his. He’s been the reader of the Quarry novels for a while now, and also did an award-winning job on the massive Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago by A. Brad Schwartz and me. An amazing job by a reader/actor who really knows how to bring a book alive.

Now he’s taken on Mike Hammer, and he is doing a fantastic job. He gets every nuance of the tough-guy and smart-ass stuff, as well as the noir poetry. If you have stepped away from these audios, because Stacy isn’t doing them anymore (and I get that), you need to get back on board. Stefan in particular brings an older Hammer to life, which is perfect in Murder, My Love, a chronologically later book in the canon.

Don’t miss these. Also, we’ll get to keep doing them if you buy ‘em. The problem with a long-running series, particularly on audio, is that at a certain point the audio publisher feels there are enough books in a series – say, Mike Hammer – to suffice.

Speaking of Scarface and the Untouchable, if you’re going to Bouchercon, and haven’t sent in your Anthony ballot yet, shake a leg. That book is eligible, as are Killing Town and Antiques Wanted, and the Spillane/Collins stories “The Big Run” (EQMM) and “The Punk” (Mystery Tribune).

* * *

Last week Barb and I appeared at the Ed Gorman Celebration of Popular Fiction at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. (We were the only guests at the inaugural event. As Miles Davis once said, told he was going to be late for the show, “I can’t be late for the show, man – I am the show”).

Barb and I taught a full classroom of interested and obviously bright students, who took lots of notes and asked plenty of smart questions. That evening I spoke for an hour, a good portion of my talk devoted to my late friend Ed Gorman and what a wonderful writer he was, and what an incredible friend he was to me (and to Barb, whose writing career he encouraged and supported with anthology invites).

Ed’s lovely, gracious wife Carol drove us around and kept us company. We stayed overnight at the DoubleTree in downtown CR, because it was a long day. I mention this because some of you may be wondering why I so seldom do this kind of thing anymore, especially since I tend to be really good at it (no brag, just fact, some asshole said) and so obviously enjoy myself doing such dates. The signing afterward was similarly fun and I loved talking to longtime readers and new ones alike.

But I have to say such events are going to be few and far between now. I doubt I’ll do more than one convention a year, and it will probably be Bouchercon. I am available to be a guest of honor at just about any other mystery or comics con, as I am easily flattered and like to have my hotel room and transportation paid for. Who doesn’t?

Coe made for a long day. We took that hotel room so I could rest between the teaching session and a cocktail party meet-and-greet followed by the speaking engagement. The long day required me to go up a lot of stairs and walk all over the campus, or at least it seemed that way to me. Listen, I’m not really complaining – I enjoyed the hell out of it, and I got a lot of laughs during my speech, which is almost as good as a fat royalty check. Almost.

This is not about my health issues, or at least is only partly about them. The medication I’m on can give me dizziness, and my gait gets unsteady when I get tired, ever since the minor stroke I had on the operating table. People think because I am energetic and charming and witty as hell that I am a Superman. Maybe, if he had pockets full of Kryptonite.

This is something Barb and I are dealing with. I noticed it for the first time in Vegas at the Mob Museum, where at my first of two appearances I felt I stunk up the joint (I was very good at the second event, a day…and a bunch of rest…later.) At the same time, I am preparing for my band Crusin’ and our “season,” which begins early summer and lasts through early fall. Last year we played around nine gigs, mostly out of doors, which makes me wonder if I should make this my last gigging season.

Nonetheless, I am hoping we will make a new CD this summer, all original material.

The one thing that doesn’t seem to be terribly impacted by age and occasionally sketchy health is my writing. I am more prolific than ever, which makes it hard for some readers to keep up with me. But that’s when I feel the most myself and the most alive – at the machine. Making up stories.

I am not looking for sympathy, which I do not deserve, and don’t mean to imply I am unwell, which I am not. I feel very good almost all of the time. It’s a matter of energy, and I think when this dreadful Midwestern winter gets tired of torturing us, and I get out walking again – and gigging again – I will start to feel in shape.

Just know that the reason my book signings and con appearances are more and more infrequent doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It means that I have to watch my energy level and make sure any appearances are infrequent and, when I do take one on, designed to give me time for rest…and to drop me at the door by car of wherever I’m appearing, with Barb at my side.

What I want to spend most of my time doing now is writing books, and short stories and non-fiction pieces and movie and TV scripts. And I think that’s probably how you’d prefer I spend my time, too.

* * *

Here is what I consider a first-rate interview with yours truly, in support of The Girl Most Likely.

Supreme Justice is chosen one of the best 21 legal thrillers of the 21st Century. Hey, Matt Clemens – we are in some heady company, my friend!

The Rock Island Dispatch-Argus lists some men who made their mark who come from the Quad Cities area. I sort of make the list by hanging onto John Looney’s coattails.

Finally, here’s some stuff about Batman: Child of Dreams by Kia Asamiya and me. Looks like some collectibles were generated from that, unbeknownst to me.

M.A.C.