Posts Tagged ‘Nate Heller’

Okay, So Maybe Movies Aren’t Better than Ever

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Before I briefly chat about what I’ve been up to on the storytelling front, here are reviews of two movies I endured this weekend.

Live by Night – Where shall I start? This is a terrible movie. It looks great, and I wanted to like it – it’s full of old cars and lots of cool wardrobe and art direction, just the kind of production values I’d like to see lavished on a Nate Heller movie. Unfortunately, this is the kind of lavish dud that will make it hard to get a Nate Heller movie made, because the Hollywood boys and girls will remind me how poorly Live by Night did at the box-office.

I’m not a Ben Affleck basher. He’s done some very good things, like Argo and The Town, and…well, like Argo and The Town. He’s a pretty fair Batman, too. Here he is a multiple threat, and I do mean threat, as actor, director and writer. I have no idea whether the source novel by Dennis Lahane is any good – I don’t read him. Some pretty fair movies have been made from his stuff, like The Drop and Gone Baby Gone, though I disliked both Shutter Island and the hammy Mystic River. My hunch is that the novel here is likely better, which would not make it good.

Clearly the novel was longer, because this has so much expository voiceover, the telling outweighs the showing. No characters take hold, no scenes develop sufficiently, and the stupidity of the plotting is at times mind-boggling.

For example. Affleck is secretly having an affair with the top gangster in Boston’s moll; when the gangster goes out of town, however, Affleck openly cavorts with the moll in public, and then is surprised when the gangster finds out. For example. When the film lurches into a Florida setting, a dumb-ass KKK leader is bombing Affleck’s nightclubs and wantonly killing people in the process; Affleck asks the dumb-ass to meet with him at Affleck’s own casino construction site, and then the dumb-ass is shocked when Affleck’s men pour out and kill him and his own goons. There are half a dozen scenes with set-ups that moronic.

The best moments are throwaways, as after the dumb-ass-gets-killed sequence when Affleck argues with a crony about who accidentally shot him. Only then does Affleck himself (and the movie) come to life. Elsewhere he goes beyond underplaying into a sort of mobile coma. He wears lots of hats, and I don’t mean director/writer/star, I mean hats – tan fedoras, gray fedoras, white fedoras, yellow fedoras, purple fedoras. I see a drinking game coming!

Two women are at the center of the story – the Bonnie Parker-type moll whose betrayal sends Affleck scurrying to Florida to avoid the wrath of the Boston mob boss – and a Cuban girl whose brother is in the rackets with Affleck. Though the latter is portrayed by Uhura herself, Zoe Saldana, and the former by usually reliable Sienna Miller, neither character makes a dent in the proceedings…and they are the two motivators in sleepy Affleck’s life. Elle Fanning as a nice-girl-turned-drug-addict-turned-evangelist, does better, but her role is so fragmented that it too never quite adds up, though its importance is also key to what little story we perceive.

The moral seems to be: when you’re making a movie, don’t wear too many hats, literally and figuratively. Also, when you’re doing a period piece about the twenties, don’t sing a snippet of “Sugartime,” a song from the late fifties. But it’s almost worth seeing for a howler about Hitler that comes very late in the proceedings: “Some little guy in Germany,” he says in voiceover, “was gettin’ people all excited. But they weren’t gonna go to war over him. No percentage in it.”

The Edge of Seventeen – This is a tricky one. It’s very well-made and nicely acted. The dialogue is frequently witty. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 93% Fresh. But there’s nothing very fresh about the story, which is that a nerdy girl (Hailee Steinfeld) has a crush on a bad boy and doesn’t realize the nice smart guy who sits next to her in class is a better prospect. As if that wasn’t enough, the nerdy girl is portrayed by a lovely young actress, more likely to be prom queen than an outcast. On the other hand, she does behave like an asshole throughout, which doesn’t help us like her as a protagonist. Nor does the fact that she lives a privileged, cushy upper-middle-class life. Also, after she accidentally sends the bad boy an explicit text about wanting sex with him, she is surprised that, when they go out parking, he expects to have sex with her.

Additionally, she still doesn’t see the nice boy as a prospect even after he turns out to be very, very rich (he even has a bigger swimming pool than she does) (see how hard she has it?).

The secondary central conflict is rooted in her asshole-ishness: her nerdy outcast best-and-only friend (also portrayed by a lovely young woman) starts dating our heroine’s hunky brother, and this our heroine cannot abide! She is a flaming bitch to both throughout most of the film. Don’t you feel sorry for her? This is interspersed with occasional Breakfast Club self-exploratory soliloquies (as when her hunky brother reveals his life is also very hard, because he has to keep an eye on their emotionally troubled single mom, who by the way has a very, very good job, despite being an emotional wreck). Of course, she comes around to the worthy boy…after he invites her to a film festival where his incredibly professional animated “student” film unspools…and is about her!

How is this twaddle 93% Fresh? How is this a story that touches an average girl’s heart when the central character is a spoiled beautiful upper-middle-class brat?

The writer/director, Kelly Fremon Craig, does a professional job and some nice moments do happen, most with the Woody Harrelson teacher character. The producer is James L. Brooks, whose TV work (The Simpsons, Lou Grant) has often been stellar but whose movies (often acclaimed) have consistently missed me, and I include Broadcast News and Terms of Endearment.

So your mileage may vary.

* * *

This flurry of reviews lately – all positive last week, remember? – does not negate the fact that I genuinely dislike writing bad reviews. They are the easiest kind of thing to write, often filled with cheap shots (see above). For a long time I stopped writing them. I learned from my own indie movies just how hard the process is – that even making a bad movie is a tough, tough thing. I resigned from my movie column at Mystery Scene because of that. Then I wrote mostly good reviews at Asian Cult Cinema for several years.

Now, like a drunk falling off the wagon, I find myself writing bad reviews again. Why? It reflects a level of frustration that I feel as someone who loves movies, and who goes to a lot more of them than most people. Because I’m in Muscatine, Iowa, I often miss the art movies that are highly touted, but often when I see those, I am no more happy than when I see Hollywood’s standard fare. Art movies, indies, have become a kind of genre in themselves; that includes a lot of European stuff.

I am older now, and harder to please. I have quoted several times what the beautiful and wise Barb said when, as we watched a lousy Italian western at home, whether we would have stayed through the entire movie in the theater, back in “the day” (the ‘70s or ‘80s). As I shut off the Blu-ray player, she said, “Yes, but we had our whole lives ahead of us then.”

Truer words.

* * *

I am working on a Quarry graphic novel, which Titan will publish in four issues and then collect. Don’t know the artist yet, though I approved several based on samples.

It’s very, very hard. I have been away from this format for a while, and the story takes place partly in Vietnam in 1969 and then back in the America of 1972. Providing visual reference for the artist has been a dizzying, daunting task. A 22-page script runs to 60 pages with panel descriptions and links to reference photos.

I doubt I will do many more such projects. Prose is far less taxing.

* * *

The Rap Sheet takes a look at the Black Dahlia case, and has nice mentions of the Nate Heller novel, Angel in Black.

Here’s info on the upcoming Blu-ray and DVD of the Quarry TV series.

M.A.C.

This Just In…

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Not much to say at the moment other than I am thrilled and flabbergasted.

Mystery Writers of America Announces 2017 Grand Masters
Max Allan Collins and Ellen Hart
Plus 2017 Raven and Ellery Queen Award Winners

November 29, 2016 – New York, NY – Max Allan Collins and Ellen Hart have been chosen as the 2017 Grand Masters by Mystery Writers of America (MWA). MWA's Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality. Mr. Collins and Ms. Hart will receive their awards at the 71st Annual Edgar Awards Banquet, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on Thursday, April 27, 2017.

When told of being named a Grand Master, Collins said, “To be in the company of Agatha Christie, Rex Stout and Mickey Spillane is both thrilling and humbling.  This is an honor second to none in the art of mystery and suspense fiction.”

Max Allan Collins sold his first two novels in 1972 while a student at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop.  More than one hundred novels have followed, including his award-winning and groundbreaking Nathan Heller historical series, starting with True Detective (1983). His graphic novel Road to Perdition (1998) is the basis of the Academy Award-winning 2002 film starring Tom Hanks.  His other comics credits include the syndicated strip "Dick Tracy"; his own "Ms. Tree"; and "Batman.”  For the hit TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, he wrote ten novels selling millions of copies worldwide, and his movie novels include Saving Private Ryan, Air Force One, and American Gangster.

Upon learning that she was named a Grand Master, Hart said. “A writer's stock-in-trade is imagination.  I’ve always felt mine was pretty good, but never in a million years did I ever think winning the MWA Grand Master award was a possibility.  I’m stunned, grateful, and profoundly honored.”

Ellen Hart is the author of thirty-two crime novels.  She is the six-time winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Mystery, the four-time winner of the Minnesota Book Award for Best Popular Fiction, and the three-time winner of the Golden Crown Literary Award for mystery.  Ellen has taught crime writing for seventeen years through the Loft Literary Center, the largest independent writing community in the nation.

Previous Grand Masters include Walter Mosley, Lois Duncan, James Ellroy, Robert Crais, Carolyn Hart, Ken Follett, Margaret Maron, Martha Grimes, Sara Paretsky, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Bill Pronzini, Stephen King, Marcia Muller, Dick Francis, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie.

The Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing. Dru Ann Love will receive the 2017 Raven Award.

Dru Ann Love is owner/editor of dru’s book musings (https://drusbookmusing.com/), a blog where characters give a glimpse into a day in their life, as well as her musings. Her musings also appear in Crimespree Magazine. She is also a guest blogger at the Stiletto Gang. Dru Ann is an avid reader, writes poetry, quilts, and loves attending reader/fan conventions. Dru Ann’s blog was nominated for a 2015 Anthony Award for Best Critical or Non-Fiction Work. She also serves on the Bouchercon standing committee.

When told that she would receive the Raven Award, Love said, “I’m so thrilled and honored to be awarded the Raven. The mystery community is like a big family and I’m so proud that they have embraced me with open arms. Thanks to the nominating committee for selecting me and a big thanks to the authors—without them, this would not be possible.”

Previous Raven winners include Sisters in Crime, Margaret Kinsman, Kathryn Kennison, Jon and Ruth Jordan, Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Oline Cogdill, Molly Weston, The Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore in Chicago, Once Upon a Crime Bookstore in Minneapolis, Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont, PA, Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge, MA, and The Poe House in Baltimore, MD.

The Ellery Queen Award was established in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry”. This year the Board chose to honor Neil Nyren.

On learning he would receive the Ellery Queen Award, Nyren said, “I’ve spent most of my life with crime and suspense fiction, both as a fan and a professional, but I never imagined this. It’s an enormous honor even being mentioned in the same breath as such legendary previous Ellery Queen Award winners as Joan Kahn, Ed Gorman, Jacques Barzun, Otto Penzler, and Eleanor Sullivan (just to name a few!).”

Neil Nyren is the Executive VP, associate publisher and editor in chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Random House. He has been at Putnam for over 32 years, and before that, at E.P. Dutton, Little Brown, Random House, Arbor House, and Atheneum.

Among his current authors of crime and suspense are Clive Cussler, Ken Follett, C.J. Box, John Sandford, Robert Crais, Jack Higgins, W.E.B. Griffin, Frederick Forsyth, Randy Wayne White, Alex Berenson, Ace Atkins, Alex Grecian, Carol O’Connell, Owen Laukkanen, Michael Sears, and Todd Moss. He has also worked with such writers as Tom Clancy, Patricia Cornwell, Daniel Silva, Martha Grimes, Ed McBain, Thomas H. Cook, and Thomas Perry, and he was the first to publish books by Carl Hiaasen, Jonathan Kellerman, Gerald Seymour, Garrison Keillor, and Ian McEwan.

Among his nonfiction authors: A. Scott Berg, Maureen Dowd, James A. Baker III, Dave Barry, Joe McGinniss, Charles Kuralt, Andy Rooney, Jeff Greenfield, Senator Harry Reid, General Tony Zinni, Abba Eban, John McEnroe, Pat Riley, Bobby Orr, and Wayne Gretzky.

Previous Ellery Queen Award winners include Janet Rudolph, Charles Ardai, Joe Meyers, Barbara Peters and Robert Rosenwald, Brian Skupin and Kate Stine, Carolyn Marino, Ed Gorman, Janet Hutchings, Cathleen Jordan, Douglas G. Greene, Susanne Kirk, Sara Ann Freed, Hiroshi Hayakawa, Jacques Barzun, Martin Greenburg, Otto Penzler, Richard Levinson, William Link, Ruth Cavin, and Emma Lathen.

The Edgar Awards, or "Edgars," as they are commonly known, are named after MWA's patron saint Edgar Allan Poe and are presented to authors of distinguished work in various categories. MWA is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime-writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre. The organization encompasses some 3,000 members including authors of fiction and non-fiction books, screen and television writers, as well as publishers, editors, and literary agents. For more information on Mystery Writers of America, please visit the website: www.mysterywriters.org

* * *

When I was discussing the up’s and down’s of 2016 last time, I neglected two major “up’s.”

Among the blessings for me in the vale of tears that was 2016 was having a Quarry TV series…and a good one, at that. Considering I created Quarry in 1971 at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, this blessing took a while to pay off…but pay off it did. Many of you have had nice things to say about show. A few wish it were more like the books, and I’ve discussed that here. But for me it was a major blessing.

Soon I will be starting a new novel, Quarry’s Climax, and beginning work on a graphic novel, Quarry’s War, which will be serialized as comic books by Titan’s new Hard Case Crime comics.

The other major blessing, overlooked last time, was being able to play some band jobs this year. In 2015, I had to cancel all but one gig for Crusin’ because of my heart condition – I don’t remember ever cancelling a gig before in the five decades I’ve been playing, and I hated doing so. I’m strictly a show-must-go-on kind of guy. This year we were able to do half a dozen gigs, and I hope more will follow in 2017. My guitar player, the incredible Jim Van Winkle, and I have been together for over a decade. Drummer Steve Kundel has been with the band, off and on, since the ‘90s, and is truly world-class. “New kid” Brian Van Winkle, Jim’s brother, took over bass when Chuck Bunn passed away a few years ago – Brian is one of the coolest guys you could ever hope to meet, and an excellent bass player.


Crusin’ at Muscatine High School 50th class reunion, left to right, M.A.C., Jim Van Winkle, Steve Kundel, guest Joe McClean, and Brian Van Winkle.

The gigs we played in 2016 were a mixed bag. Actually, every gig went well, but three of them were impacted by my pertussis. Whooping cough does not do a lead singer any favors. The third gig I was getting somewhat back to normal, but it was something of a disappointment because we had originally intended to have a reunion of my original band, the Daybreakers. Illness (not mine for a change!) threw a wrench in the works, although we did add guest artist Joe McClean of the XL’s into the standard Crusin’ mix. The dance went well but I’m afraid a 50th class reunion could not live up to the wild, rockin’ affair of my imagination.

Anyway, 2016 had its highlights, and QUARRY on TV and Crusin’ on stage were chief among them.

Today I am putting finishing touches on the third Caleb York western, The Bloody Spur. That’s the last one on the contract – we’ll see if more follow.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Barb cooked up a storm, and baby Sam Collins was the life of the party. We had our Department 56 Halloween houses up, with lots of movement and scary sounds, and he was fascinated…not frightened in the least.

* * *

J. Kingston Pierce has included Better Dead on his Best 10 list, and has wonderful things to say about it.

Here’s a great review of The Legend of Caleb York.

Mystery Scene magazine has a wonderful Quarry in the Black review by Hank Wagner. Here’s a taste: “…Collins delivers some of the crispest, funniest and most gripping prose of his long career to date. Hardboiled crime fiction at its finest, the Quarry series continues to provide top-notch action, wit and suspense.”

M.A.C.

Hammer, Quarry and TV’s Frank

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

This coming Thursday (Sept. 1) at the Fleur Cinema & Café in Des Moines, I’ll be hosting a screening of both my documentary, MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE, and the classic Mike Hammer noir, KISS ME DEADLY. Seeing the latter on a big screen will be a treat. The documentary goes on at 6:30 and the film at 7:30. I’ll do a Q and A after, and there should be some books on hand for me to sign.

Here’s more info.

My L.A. stringer Leonard Maltin – think of him as an older, wiser Jimmy Olsen – took and sent me the pic posted here this week, the first reported QUARRY sighting in L.A. The billboard is on Vermont Avenue some blocks down from the old Parker Center.

The premiere of the series will be September 9 at 10 p.m. eastern (10:00-11:15 p.m.). Other CINEMAX playdates, also eastern time: Sept. 9 (11:20 p.m., 12:40 a.m.), 10 (9:00 p.m., 12:35 a.m.), 11 (5:35 p.m.), 12 (11:00 p.m.), 13 (2:05 a.m.), 14 (10:00 p.m.), 15 (9:00 p.m.) and 29 (6:40 p.m.).

As indicated above, the first episode is 75 minutes and plays like a particularly strong indie crime film. I anticipate some fans of the novels will have to adjust to the Memphis setting of the series, but let’s face it – the Broker was born to have a Southern accent.

* * *

I have shipped to Thomas & Mercer the third Reeder and Rogers political thriller, EXECUTIVE ORDER, which concludes the Branches of Government trilogy begun by SUPREME JUSTICE and continued with FATE OF THE UNION. This was a tough one, as my co-conspirator Matt Clemens will no doubt confirm. For one thing, it was only the second novel I worked on after my heart surgery, and the first was an ANTIQUES novel for which Barb delivered me a great, easy-to-work-with rough draft. We ran into some plotting difficulties with EXECUTIVE ORDER that had me starting it, then interrupting it to write the Mike Hammer novel, THE WILL TO KILL, while Matt re-worked his story treatment to accommodate the new plot elements.

It was a bear.

The final stage of preparing the manuscript is a read-through that takes a day or two and consists of me marking up a hard copy, with Barb typing in the tweaks and corrections. This one had so much rewriting and tweaking and cutting that I admit I have no sense of the book at all, whereas usually I have a real feel for what’s been accomplished. The read-through took three days – it’s a big book, 450 manuscript pages and 80,000-plus words – and today I feel punchy as hell. But sometimes you take your best shot and cross your fingers.

I have a feeling that some of my readers – I might even say “fans” – who are Nate Heller and Quarry followers have not partaken of these political thrillers. Fact is, the first two Reeder and Rogers novels are among my bestselling books, ever. SUPREME JUSTICE has done 300,000 copies. So however punch-drunk I may feel about EXECUTIVE ORDER after the big fight, it’s should be worth a read if you like my work.

* * *

For some reason, fans are always asking writers what they are reading. They seem to want validation for their own tastes, and expect me to say, James Lee Burke or James Ellroy (or some other James whose books I can’t read), and I really don’t get it. If I were talking to Alfred Hitchcock (and I realize that would probably require a Ouija board), the last thing I’d ask him is what movies he watches.

What I read is rarely fiction, since I’m living in the world of fiction every work day – it’s called a Busman’s Holiday, kids, and I’m not interested. Lately I’ve read THE FIFTY-YEAR MISSION about the first 25 years of STAR TREK, SEINFELDIA about the SEINFELD TV series, CURTAIN UP about Agatha Christie’s plays, FOREVER AMBER: FROM NOVEL TO FILM, two NOIR CITY annuals, and COLUMBO UNDER GLASS, a critical study of the series.

But the greatest book I ever read, including MOBY DICK (but excluding of course my own body of work), is TWENTY-FIVE MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 FILMS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE IN NO WAY WHATSOEVER by Frank Conniff – TV’s Frank! The book, at 104 pages, is somewhat shorter than MOBY DICK and doesn’t have a single whale in it.

Speaking of MOBY DICK, Barb and I just watched the John Barrymore film version from 1931 and were a trifle surprised to find that it has a happy ending. Ahab not only kills the white whale, he goes home dancing on his peg leg to his sweetheart. I guess I should have put SPOILER ALERT in front of that.

The above discursive paragraph is designed to prepare you for TV’S Frank’s book in which he doesn’t really discuss any of the films that he is supposedly showcasing. He instead goes off on free-form riffs (yes, I said riffs) that careen from one hilarious absurdity to another, and if you’re MST 3000 fan enough to buy this book, you’ll have no trouble hearing TV’s Frank’s distinctive dissipated bored baby tones. Discussing being offered the job on Mystery Science Theater of watching old movies, he says, “I stepped up to the plate in my head and accepted the challenge.”

Here are a few more examples:

(Supposedly discussing SIDEHACKERS but instead talking about PSYCHE-OUT with Jack Nicholson): “PSYCHE-OUT is like an episode of the late-sixties DRAGNET series but with only the hippies and no Sgt. Joe Friday to berate them for being a bunch of freak-show screw-ups. Now that we have the technology, somebody should digitally restore this film so that it includes Sgt. Friday. Any film about hippies dropping acid seems incomplete without him, but I’m of the opinion that every movie would benefit from having Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday as a character.” Me, too, Frank!

(Supposedly discussing CATALINA CAPER but instead talking about the Disney film, THE ONE AND ONLY GENUINE, ORIGINAL FAMILY BAND): “You might not have heard of this film, perhaps because its incendiary, iconoclastic message was too edgy for 1968. This was a film that declared, ‘you may think you’re cutting edge, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Stooges, MC Five, Blue Oyster Cult, but we’re the One and Only Genuine, Original Family Band, motherfuckers!’”

(Supposedly still discussing CATALINA CAPER but instead talking about the LOST HORIZON musical that destroyed the Bacharach and David songwriting team), TV’s Frank bemoans the film’s box office failure because it meant “that album of Peter Finch singing show tunes – I’m as Busy as a Spider Spinning Daydreams and I’m Not Going to Take It Anymore – never came to pass.”

(Supposedly discussing ROCKET ATTACK U.S.A. but instead contemplating atomic Armageddon in general): “A New York City decimated by a nuclear war would kind of suck, but it might at least be slightly more affordable to live in. And walking amid radioactive wreckage in Brooklyn would no doubt be a depressing experience, but at least there would be no hipsters around, except maybe zombie hipsters, or as they’re also known, hipsters.”

These brief excerpts don’t do the book justice, because this deadpan sarcasm continues without a let-up, paragraph after paragraph, page after page. You certainly have my permission to read Burke or Ellroy, if you must; but you owe it to yourself to experience 104 pages of TV’s Frank.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Jon Landau says in the advance praise on the back of the book: “I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”

* * *

Here’s a brief but much appreciated positive review of ANGEL IN BLACK.

This is a terrific review of A LONG TIME DEAD, the Mike Hammer short story collection coming out September 6. But there’s an odd goof – Mickey Spillane is credited throughout as creating a private eye character called…Mickey Spillane!

And here’s a cool interview with Damon Herriman, who plays Quarry’s partner, Buddy. In the novels, this character is called Boyd, but because of Walton Goggins on JUSTIFIED, Boyd got changed to Buddy. Ironically, Damon Herriman had a major role on JUSTIFIED – Dewey Crowe.

M.A.C.

Quarry – September 9!

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

The first of eight episodes of QUARRY will be on Cinemax on September 9 at 10 p.m. (I assume that’s eastern time).

Obviously this has been a long time coming, but I think the wait will have been worth it. Already the series has resulted in Hard Case Crime reissuing the first five books, with a new book coming in October (QUARRY IN THE BLACK), a four-issue comic book series early next year, and another novel (QUARRY ON TARGET) that I will write later this year.

The news about the series and its debut is all over the Internet – probably a couple of dozen write-ups. Here are several that should serve to catch you up.

The Early Word has something of a publishing slant. Collider has advance images, and Den of Geek is nicely opinionated.

* * *

A big Kindle sale is coming up later this week, featuring assorted titles of mine in the Mystery, Thriller & Suspense category. Each book will be $1.99. The sale begins July 1 and runs through July 31.

Here are the specific titles:
[Note from Nate: For your convenience, I’ve linked the Amazon logo to each book’s Amazon page, and the text title to each book’s info page on our website.]

CHICAGO LIGHTNING
WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER
SUPREME JUSTICE
THE TITANIC MURDERS
THE LONDON BLITZ MURDERS
THE HINDENBURG MURDERS
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS MURDER
THE PEARL HARBOR MURDERS
TRUE CRIME
THE MILLION-DOLLAR WOUND

Beginning 7/1/2016, go here:
https://www.amazon.com/b?node=13819722011.

If you go there before that date, the page may not show the new promotion, or it may be empty. If that’s the case, check back on July 1, the official start date.

* * *

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame discussion continues. Here’s a great comment from Mike Dennis that you may have missed:

I’m on board with Pat Boone, Max. For exactly the reasons you cite. He singlehandedly opened the door for R&B artists who couldn’t get their records played on white radio stations by recording their songs himself. And of course, those R&B artists collected lots of money in songwriting
royalties.

As far as the 1958-63 (Elvis/Army – Beatles invade US) era is concerned, I’ve thought about that. It was not the most fertile period for rock & roll. Think about 1958. Rock & roll was in danger of disappearing altogether. I’m sure you remember. Radio DJs were breaking records on the air, clergymen from coast to coast were pounding their pulpits over this sinful, new music. It was not a given than the music would survive, rather it was held together by a loose gathering of young artists and the eager teenagers who had fallen under their spell. The adults couldn’t stand it.

Then Elvis entered the Army, Jerry Lee Lewis self-destructed on his disastrous tour of the UK, and Buddy Holly died in February of 1959. That was really the end of the period where this raw, exciting music was being made by mostly young Southern boys, independent of each other, music crafted and honed in the dirt-road joints of the emerging South. The songs, and the artists who recorded them, were a natural outgrowth of a post-World War II America, reflecting (like the film noir that rose during that period) all the alienation that existed in the country at that time.

The songs spoke only to young people, while the artists were generally sex-crazed hillbillies sent out on the road with no adult supervision. Elvis was the King of Rock & Roll. Jerry Lee Lewis was supposed to inherit the throne following his British tour. Holly represented the music’s sensitive side. But with all three of them gone by early 1959, there was a vacuum at the top. The major record companies saw their opening and moved in. They swiftly rounded up a stable of compliant, cute, barely-talented artists who were willing to do what they were told for a shot at stardom. Rock & roll songs were no longer written on the back of napkins or on paper bags, they were written in the Brill Building by calculating, businesslike songwriters whose job it was to turn out hits that had been scrubbed clean of sexuality.

Also, I’m glad you pointed out the role of the Wrecking Crew in the making of so many great records. I would like to note there was a British version of the Wrecking Crew — I’m not sure if they had a slick name like that — that played on most of the British Invasion records. One noteworthy example is the Kinks’ first two records, YOU REALLY GOT ME and ALL DAY AND ALL THE NIGHT. The opening buzzsaw guitar chords were played by Jimmy Page, not Dave Davies as is commonly thought. I met Page in 1966, right after he joined the Yardbirds and he told me all about those sessions. Until then, he was a first-call studio player in London and he and a few other guys played on all the British Invasion records (all, that is, except the Beatles, the Stones, and maybe a couple of others).

That said, I still don’t consider Buffalo Springfield as anything more than a one-hit wonder. Laura Nyro was a great songwriter, as you pointed out, but I don’t think she’s worthy of induction in the R&RHOF. There are artists I would like to see in the Hall, like Johnny Rivers, the Monkees, and the Association, but as long as the Hall is itself not worthy of having them, I’m not going to get too upset over their omission.

Mike, thanks for this articulate, insightful mini-essay. Much of what you say I agree with, but I think you (in a way characteristic of some who highly value Elvis, Jerry Lee and Buddy Holly) underestimate some of what was going on in the between-Elvis-and-the-Beatles years. Some very exciting stuff was happening, on the east coast particularly. You know I am a big Bobby Darin fan – his version of his own “Early in the Morning” is far superior to the rushed Buddy Holly cover, and Darin cut many strong rockers backed by great Atlantic Records session men. I would also cite artists like Bobby Vee and Bobby Rydell (two more of the much-maligned “Bobbys” and neither on a major label) as real rock artists.

Then there’s Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, and I can’t agree about the Brill Building output – not when we’re talking Bacharch & David, Goffin & King, Mann & Weil, Pompous & Shuman, Greenwich & Barry, Leiber & Stoller. A lot of that was anything but scrubbed of sexuality.

You mention 1958. Rock was not disappearing – not with the Everly Brothers, Ricky Nelson, Danny and the Juniors, the Coasters, Little Anthony and the Imperials, and – oh yeah – a guy named Chuck Berry…all charting. From ‘59 to ‘62, there were many greats and near-greats making hit records: Lloyd Price, Ritchie Valens, Dion and the Belmonts, Freddy Cannon (“Woo!”), Ray Friggin’ Charles, Jackie Wilson, Johnny Cash, Del Shannon (opened for him!), the Shirelles, Gary U.S. Bonds, Joey Dee and the Starlighters, and Gene Pitney. Not chopped liver! And not a major record company artist in the bunch.

The supposed dearth of rock post-Elvis and pre-Beatles strikes me as highly exaggerated. I wonder how many people like me – I’m now the ancient age of 68 – lived through all of these eras of rock and loved every one.

A couple of footnotes. The Buffalo Springfield played at the Masonic Temple in Davenport, Iowa, within a year of when my band the Daybreakers played there, when we opened for the Rascals and Gary Puckett. Buffalo Springfield was amazing and brave – they played extended, very loud solos prefiguring what every band would be doing in a year or two, and alienating much of the Iowa teenage audience. And my God was the fringe on Neil Young’s leather jacket long!

Same venue, same year. Gene Pitney and several other acts, including the Turtles (opened for them twice!), appeared in a kind of caravan-of-stars format. Pitney tore the place up, his vocals just towering. Then half-way through the set, he spoke for the first time, telling the audience in a hoarse voice, almost a whisper, that he apologized for doing so poorly, but he had a bad cold and was fighting laryngitis. Then he sang THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE.

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Finally, MS. TREE fans may enjoy this fun, smart podcast in which two comic book experts review (favorably) the story “One Mean Mother.”

M.A.C.