Posts Tagged ‘Nate Heller’

Hey Kids! Free Books (2016 Edition)

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Before we get to the free book section, I want to invite anyone and everyone in the Iowa City area to come to a special screening of MOMMY at the wonderful indie theater, Film Scene, this coming Wednesday (May 4) at 10:00 p.m. I will be introducing the film and maybe taking a few questions after. We’re part of Film Scene’s Grindhouse series. This is from their Facebook write-up:

Late Shift at the Grindhouse – Wednesdays get weird when Late Shift hosts Ross Meyer, Joe Derderian and Aaron Holmgren dig up low-budget b-movies, horror and gore-fests, and camp classics for your viewing pleasure. Buy your ticket and take a ride in our Time Machine! Punch in and earn a bonus! $3 Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys and $2 small popcorn! PLUS– special custom trashy trailer reel curated by Ross with cheap swag and prize giveaways!

MOMMY
She’s pretty, she’s perfect, she’s June Cleaver with a cleaver.
“The Bad Seed grown up… chillingly good!” – Leonard Maltin

“Writer/director Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition) has crafted a fun little tribute to The Bad Seed that succeeds despite its ultra-low budget.” – Stacie Ponder, Final Girl

“What must be noted about Mommy is the amazing cast that Max Allan Collins has managed to assemble.” – Richard Scheib, Moria: The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review
Dialogue with writer/director Max AllanCollins in person.
In 1995 mystery writer Max Allan Collins created an indie thriller that scored surprising media attention and killer reviews – an “unofficial” sequel to The Bad Seed (1956) starring that classic film’s Academy Award nominated child star, Patty McCormack, grown into the menacing Mommy.
The scary black comedy also features Jason Miller (The Exorcist), Majel Barrett (Star Trek), scream queen Brinke Stevens and legendary “Mike Hammer” creator, Mickey Spillane, with an award-winning performance by 11-year-old Rachel Lemieux.
Happy Mother’s Day!
co-presented by Bijou Film Board
Free tickets for University of Iowa students. (Free U.I. student tickets will be distributed at 9:00 p.m.)

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Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Nook Kobo

The day this update appears (May 3) is the pub date of the new Nathan Heller. As you may recall, a flurry of new M.A.C. books has just hit, so we’ve decided to do what we’ve done occasionally in the past and offer free books in return for a review at Amazon (Barnes & Noble and personal blogs are also good). We will be giving out at least five copies of BETTER DEAD, THE BIG SHOWDOWN (Caleb York) and ANTIQUES FATE. We may go up to as many as ten copies each if demand is strong.

ALL COPIES GONE, THANK YOU!!
We ask the following: e-mail us at REDACTED and make your request for a free book, listing the order of preference. IMPORTANT: include your snail-mail address. Only USA please – foreign postage (even Canada) is a killer. Act now, because within about three days, they’ll be gone.

Also, if you’ve read and liked MURDER NEVER KNOCKS, we are still very under-reviewed at Amazon. If you’ve written a review at your blog, please post it at Amazon; and if you’ve read and liked it, please take time to write a short review there.

* * *

In honor of the publication of BETTER DEAD, I thought it made sense to share with you this lovely review from the Historical Novel Society:

“Told in two novellas tied together by the unscrupulous Senator Joe McCarthy, Better Dead’s Book One finds Collins’s Nathan Heller hired by writer Dashiell Hammett to try to find anything to clear Ethel and Julius Rosenberg on the eve of their executions. Heller uncovers some discrepancies in the Rosenberg trial, including discovering the missing drop-leaf table. But even in Collins’s world, he can’t change history, and the Rosenbergs still die. In the second book, Heller is retained by McCarthy to try to pry loose any information the CIA might have on him. As Heller digs more deeply, he becomes entrenched in a labyrinthine maze of CIA spooks, LSD-25 experiments on civilians and agents alike, and an unlikely partner in a young Bettie Page.

“Collins’s writing is as electric as the Cold War atmosphere he’s set Heller into. All the characters, both real (McCarthy, Page, the Rosenbergs) and created, are authentic and believably written. There is a coarse, edgy feel to the writing that helps drive a frenetic pace to an ending that has Heller looking back at both cases with a sense of loss and wonder. In his wonderful take on the insanity of the McCarthy Red Scare and the CIA LSD-25 experiments of the 1950s, Collins weaves a fanciful story that honors history yet allows for his usual deft creative styling.”

We have a less enthusiastic but not bad review from Publisher’s Weekly:

“In trying to cover too much ground, Collins dilutes the impact of the main investigation in his 18th historical whodunit featuring PI Nate Heller (after 2013’s Ask Not). In 1953, Sam Spade–creator Dashiell Hammett hires Heller to find whatever evidence he can to secure Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who are on death row for treason, a new trial. The investigator adroitly persuades U.S. senator Joe McCarthy, whose Communist witch hunt is at its height, and columnist Drew Pearson, a former McCarthy ally, to help fund his work by promising to reveal anything he finds to them as well. After learning how flimsy the government’s case was against the couple, Heller pursues some leads he gets from a visit to Julius and Ethel in Sing Sing. The truth proves to be more nuanced than any of his employers believes, and Collins again does an effective job of bringing the past to life and making a complex cause célèbre accessible. Recent disclosures about the so-called atomic spies, however, lessen the suspense.”

What both of these refer to is that BETTER DEAD is two stories, Book One and Book Two, that are linked by Senator McCarthy and general Red Scare era themes. I have known from the start that some reviewers, and perhaps readers, will complain that they are getting two short novels instead of one; but that was the best way, in my opinion, to deal with two very interesting McCarthy era cases, neither one of which could quite fill out a full 100,000 word Heller novel. I believe it works as a single novel. But if you view it as two Gold Medal paperbacks about Nate Heller, I am cool with it.

* * *

Reader Kevin Helmsberg wrote a nice e-mail that included a number of questions. I figure it makes sense to answer them here.

1) I was very glad to learn that you’ll finally be publishing Road to Perdition (the novel) as it was meant to be. In one of the early interviews (2002) you said you’d turned in 90,000 words, however in your February 2016 post you mention 70,000 words as the complete version. You pointed out it was essentially the same book as intended in 2002, apart from “some tweaking” and “very little rewriting or additional writing.” So how come there’s a 20,000 words difference?

Also, in one of your interviews, you mentioned a Road to Perdition prequel – any news?

The PERDITION novel is about 70,000 words. I was just estimating when I used 90,000 words in that and other interviews – or maybe it was just hyperbole. Still, when you cut 30,000 words from a book, and replace all the dialogue with lines from the movie, it’s not only shorter, but bad things happen. I am thrilled that Brash Books is bringing out the novel and publishing it as it was intended to be.

2) The graphic novels in the series – Road to Perdition: On the Road (i.e. Oasis, Sanctuary, Detour) and Return to Perdition – is there a slightest chance of producing the prose versions? I’m one of those people who prefer prose fiction to comic books, so would be thrilled if I could enjoy it that way. I read some of your thoughts on the subject, including your love for comic books and some of the advantages in presenting the story, but still it would be great if you considered making real books. You’re a hell of a writer and I have no doubt the final product would be a hit. To quote yourself, “It’s great that I’ve become the poster child for graphic novels… but the fact is for my career, I need to hit a mainstream audience and I won’t by going out and only selling 3000 copies.”

I think it’s doubtful – but not impossible – that I would do a novel based on ON THE ROAD and RETURN. They probably suffice in their present form. The prequel I’m considering would work in either prose or graphic novel; it might be called RETURN FROM PERDITION, as it deals with Michael O’Sullivan Sr. returning from WW 1 to work for John Looney. Whether it’s a graphic novel or prose one might depend on what publisher is interested.

I also at one time considered a story about the Two Jacks and a Queen characters from ON THE ROAD, and I would love to do another project (PERDITION-related or otherwise) with Richard Piers Rayner.

3) In one of your posts, you mentioned that “several goofs in the hardcover of Complex 90 were corrected in the paperback version.” Do you have a list of errata?

Not a long list (references are to the hardcover edition):

On page 130, third line from the bottom:
“Irene Worth” should be “Irene Carroll.”

On page 222, third line from the bottom:
“Marley” should be “Romanos.”

4) Do you have plans to publish the following as ebooks:
– the Road to Perdition series, plus Black Hats and Red Sky in Morning;
– the Quarry stories: “A Matter of Principal,” “Quarry’s Luck,” and “Guest Services”;
– the Sherlock Holmes stories in jigsaw puzzles: “The Adventure of Professor Moriarty’s Notebook,” and the other one you mention in your blog (don’t know the title)?

ROAD TO PURGATORY and ROAD TO PARADISE – along with the full-length, aforementioned movie novel, ROAD TO PERDITION – will be published by Brash Books. BLACK HATS and RED SKY IN MORNING will be published by Brash as well, under my real byline (R.I.P., Patrick Culhane). At some point the three Quarry short stories will be published in a format that includes e-book, but no plans are afoot as yet. I doubt the Holmes stories by Matt Clemens and me will be collected anywhere, but it’s possible.

Thanks, Kevin!

* * *

If you need convincing, here’s an except from BETTER DEAD at Criminal Element.

More on MOMMY at Film Scene.

Finally, here’s a lovely review of MURDER NEVER KNOCKS from J. Kingston Pierce at the Kirkus blog. I never thought I’d live to see the day I got a positive Kirkus review.

M.A.C.

Nice to be Nominated (Nicer to Win)

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

I’m happy to announce that I’m a double nominee in this year’s International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers “Scribe” awards. Both are collaborations with Mickey Spillane. Here’s the entire list of nominees, with ours highlighted.

BEST ORIGINAL NOVEL – GENERAL
Elementary: The Ghost Line by Adam Christopher
Kill Me, Darling by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan: Desert Falcons by Michael A. Black
24: Rogue by David Mack

BEST ORIGINAL NOVEL – SPECULATIVE
Deadlands: Ghostwalkers by Jonathan Maberry
HALO: Last Light by Troy Denning
HALO: New Blood by Matt Forbeck
Pathfinder: Forge of Ashes by Josh Vogt
Shadowrun: Borrowed Time by R. L. King
Star Trek The Next Generation: Armageddon’s Arrow by Dayton Ward
Star Trek Seekers 3: Long Shot by David Mack

ADAPTED NOVEL – GENERAL AND SPECULATIVE
Backcountry by D. E. McDonald
Batman: Arkham Knight by Marv Wolfman
Crimson Peak by Nancy Holder
MANOS —– The Hands of Fate by Stephen D. Sullivan
Star Wars: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden

SHORT STORIES
Mike Hammer The Strand “Fallout” by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Shadowrun: World of Shadows “Swamp of Spirits” by Jason M. Hardy
The X-Files: Trust No One “Back in El Paso My Life Will Be Worthless” by Keith R. A. DeCandido
The X-Files: Trust No One “Dusk” by Paul Crilley
The X-Files: Trust No One “Non Gratum Anus Rodentum” by Brian Keene
The X-Files: Trust No One “Statues” by Kevin J. Anderson

AUDIO
Dark Shadows “Bloodlust” by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells and Joseph Lidster
Dark Shadows “In the Twinkling of an Eye” Penelope Faith
Doctor Who “The Red Lady” by John Dorney
Doctor Who “Damaged Goods” by Jonathan Morris
Pathfinder Legends “Mummy’s Mask: Empty Graves” by Cavan Scott

Did you see how many X-FILES stories were nominated from the anthology I also contributed to? Oddly, what I wanted to submit was my X-FILES story “House on Hickory Hill,” but the original printing saw that story (and many others) filled with typos and other mistakes. So I decided to wait for the second printing. When it didn’t come out in time for me to submit, I sent the Mike Hammer story instead…so maybe that was a good thing! Happy accidents are clearly the best kind.

Speaking of awards, Barb and I attended the 25th annual Iowa Motion Picture Association awards, held in scenic Pella, Iowa, where windmills reign and the tulips were (nearly) in full flower. The ceremony/show was held in the Pella Opera House, a lovely old restored theater. I won the Award of Excellence for my “Heller” pilot script, in the unproduced screenplay category, as well as (and this was a big surprise) the President’s Award for outstanding career achievement.

Earlier that day I appeared on a “Past Presidents’ Panel,” bringing together five of us who had served in that position. A lot of stories going back to the mid-‘90s were shared, as well as thoughts on changing technology over the years. I made the point that content is king, and the delivery system is ultimately irrelevant.

IMPA 2016
Presidents’ Panel: (l to r) Doug Miller, M.A.C., Marty Jorgensen, Kent Newman

I was active for many years in the IMPA – I served as president three times – and the trip to Pella (where Wyatt Earp was raised) was a joy because Barb and I got to see so many old friends. I particularly want to acknowledge Shirley Long, the “glue” of the organization, who received a life achievement award (now named for her!). I know she had a lot to do with my similar President’s Award.

But the weekend was also a test. We initially went to Des Moines for some R & R that included the great Ohana Japanese steak house in West Des Moines, where our favorite chef Ken was so glad to see me aboveground, he comped us. Then the next morning, on to Pella, about an hour away. Two nights away from home in two hotels. This was our first over-nighter since the surgery two months ago.

How did I do? All right, I guess – Barb was pleased. I continue to tire easily, and between the Past Presidents panel and the evening festivities, I took a short nap. How short? Two hours. And I was very tired on the trip home, and my right hand felt thick and useless, the stroke side of things asserting itself.

Today (Monday as I write this) I feel much better. It’s important to get back to my life, to get things as back-to-normal as possible, without being stupid about it. The next big challenge is a band gig in June (first post-surgery rehearsal is this week). Rock ‘n’ roll…er, I mean, ROCK ‘N’ ROLL!!!

* * *

Here’s another great e-mail (this one from Ken Hollister) about the Mike Hammer novels that I’d like to share with you:

I just started reading Murder Never Knocks, and it occurred to me that I should contact you to express my gratitude for continuing to finish Mr. Spillane’s work.

I have been a fan of Mickey Spillane since the 1980s, when the television series with Stacy Keach introduced me to Mike Hammer. Since that time, I’ve scoured second-hand bookshops to find Spillane’s books; a treasure hunt, so to speak. Fortunately, the Internet has made this easier, but it’s still been difficult – but the enjoyment I’ve received from reading Spillane’s novels has been worth the effort.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the several books you’ve done, as well as the “radio novels” from Blackstone Audio, and your commentary on the Blu-ray release of The Girl Hunters. I am happy to see that this is the “original” Mike Hammer, and that the character hasn’t been re-invented. I hope there more of Mr. Spillane’s work that you’re completing.

After I finish reading Murder Never Knocks, I’ll be starting to read your Quarry series. I’m looking forward to them, and I hope they bring me as much enjoyment as your collaborations with Mr. Spillane.

It’s really gratifying to hear, out of the blue, from a reader who really “gets” the Spillane collaborations.

Also, if you’ve read and liked MURDER NEVER KNOCKS, please post a review at Amazon. Bob Goldsboro’s new Nero Wolfe, STOP THE PRESSES!, has 46 reviews – we have 8! Are you going to let Wolfe and Archie pimp out Mike Hammer?!? (Even if STOP THE PRESSES! is a typically fun Goldsboro continuation.)

Incidentally, if you’ve posted a review of MURDER NEVER KNOCKS (or any of my books, really) on your own site, please also post it at Amazon.

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Here’s a fun QUARRY review from a new reader (who is also a crime novelist).

And here’s a radio piece where I (and Lee Goldberg and several distinguished others) are interviewed about movie novels and TV tie-ins.

M.A.C.

Criminal Music

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
Jazz on Film: Crime Jazz

An 8-CD set called JAZZ ON FILM – CRIME JAZZ! has just been released in the UK. The “film” part of the title somewhat misrepresents the set, which is dedicated almost entirely to the TV private eye and crime TV shows of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. The liner notes are written by yours truly, an assignment I eagerly accepted although there was no money involved – which is the kind of career decision that keeps me semi-known, and in Iowa.

The best price is directly from Amazon UK right here (though you can order it through the USA Amazon, too).

My liner notes discuss each of the albums. Check out this astonishing line-up: “77 Sunset Strip,” “Hawaiian Eye,” “Checkmate,” “Shotgun Slade,” “The Naked City,” “Richard Diamond,” “Bourbon Street Beat,” “M-Squad,” “The Untouchables,” “Peter Gunn,” “Mr Lucky,” “Staccato” and “Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer” (both the TV series soundtrack and the music from the rare Stan Purdy “Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer Story” LP).

This is an incredible bargain, and features the likes of Henry Mancini, John Williams and Nelson Riddle.

Here is the opening of my liner notes (you’ll have to buy the set to read my CD by CD discussions).

CRIME JAZZ – AN INTRODUCTION

Full disclosure: I’m not a jazz buff. I was invited to the party because of crime-writing credentials, and a love for the late ‘50s/early ‘60s wave of TV private eye shows in America, an enthusiasm I’ve never been shy about sharing.

On the other hand, jazz is in the ears of the beholder. It’s a term that cuts a wide swath, and is defined in so many ways by so many fans that it nearly falls into the all-things-to-all-people category. I mean, we’re talking about a term that covers everything and everybody from Al Jolson to Miles Davis.

Similarly, “noir” is defined in many ways by many fans of crime fiction and films. Its roots are French, the term “noir” borrowed by film critics (several of whom went on to be noted filmmakers) from “Serie Noire,” a line of books from Gallimard that after the Second World War began translating and publishing such American crime writers as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson, Chester Himes and many more, including the author of this introduction.

But the term noir – chiefly designed to discuss American crime films of the war years that disguised a dearth of budget by a maximum of creative, moody lighting effects – has come to refer to all tough crime fiction, replacing the antiquated-sounding “hardboiled.” Arguments about what truly is noir occur constantly. Some critics, including the esteemed Otto Penzler, insist that private eye stories aren’t truly noir, because they aren’t bleak tales told from a criminal’s point of view. This will come as a surprise to anyone who’s read Mickey Spillane’s One Lonely Night (1951) or seen Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past (1947).

Spillane is a key figure here because his brutally tough, sexually active, war-haunted Mike Hammer created a boom in the private eye field at a point where radio had trivialized this mythic character into self-parody. Hammett’s prototypical tough P.I. Sam Spade became a figure of fun as a radio series, and Jack Webb’s various pre-Dragnet P.I.’s were all send-ups.

But Spillane revitalized the genre and – perhaps as a conscious follow-up to the craze for westerns on American television in the mid- to late fifties – a new wave of private eyes grabbed TV viewers like hoodlums they were roughing up. Generally considered to be first, and the gold standard, was Blake Edwards’ Peter Gunn and its cool jazz score by Henry Mancini, whose impact forever changed the way television series utilized music. (The interesting connection between Blake Edwards and Gunn and Spillane and Hammer will be discussed below.)

Mancini’s bestselling soundtrack created a whole new genre of vinyl entertainment for hi-fi enthusiasts, as well as an additional revenue stream for TV studios. In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, such soundtracks – like comedy albums showcasing stand-up comics – were a craze unto themselves. Several P.I. series that pre-dated Peter Gunn (which first aired September 22, 1958) revamped their formats, often including an exciting movie-credits style opening inspired by Gunn’s, bringing a jazz-infused style to the scoring…as well as the opportunity for a soundtrack album.

This collection gathers many of the best of those albums, and while the Gunn influence can easily be discerned again and again, each has its own personality and merits, like the various TV series for which the scores were composed.

(Continued on the liner notes of JAZZ ON FILM – CRIME JAZZ.)

Though nobody at DC has notified me about it, apparently a collection of most of my controversial BATMAN work is coming next year:

Batman: The New Adventures
Max Allan Collins, Dave Cockrum
On Sale Date: July 21, 2015
$19.99 USD
272 pages
Trade Paperback
Comics & Graphic Novels / Superheroes9781401255183, 1401255183
Summary: After an encounter with Gotham City street criminals, Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Robin, is injured. When Batman goes into action on his own, he meets a young hoodlum called Jason Todd. Determined to guide Jason away from a life of crime, Batman takes him under his wing. These 1988 stories take Batman into police procedural territory, and set the stage for the bestselling BATMAN: A DEATH IN THE FAMILY. Written by acclaimed mystery novelist Max Allan Collins, best known for his graphic novel THE ROAD TO PERDITION, which was made into a Academy Award winning movie starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law.
Collects BATMAN #402-403, 408-416 and BATMAN ANNUAL #11.

Speaking of my controversial BATMAN run (controversial in the sense a lot of fans think my work sucked and I don’t), here’s a fair-minded discussion of the Robin character as revamped by me and killed off by homicidal phone-call poll.

A very nice write-up about my Nathan Heller novella “Dying in the Post-War World” (available in TRIPLE PLAY) appears at the Gravetapping blog site. It was widely picked up in the mystery community.

Here’s a dandy review of the blu-ray of THE GIRL HUNTERS.

And here’s a solid discussion of the DICK TRACY strip, including my years on the feature.

Finally, I was pleased and honored that reviewer J. Kingston Pierce at The Rap Sheet chose BYE, BYE BABY as one of his ten favorite mystery novels of the past ten years.

M.A.C.

Pop Culture Clash

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Starting about ten years after I graduated from college, I began having an experience that has repeated itself many times since: I would read some entertainment publication, perhaps Rolling Stone or Entertainment Weekly, and feel hopelessly out of touch with the popular culture around me. Since I make my living in pop culture, and have been a fan of pop culture since early childhood, this is distressing. I have prided myself, over the years, for being more connected to what was going on in entertainment than the average person of my advanced age (whatever that advanced age happened to be at the time…in this country, all ages past 35 are advanced).

That happened again to me over the weekend, as I sat down to read Entertainment Weekly’s 2013 preview issue. And my recurring problem – shared possibly by other purveyors of popular culture who aren’t in their twenties or early thirties – reasserted itself with a vengeance. I understand that the popular culture is fragmented. We don’t have, and haven’t had for some time, the kind of shared experience we once had – Elvis and the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, or the premiere episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, or opening week of Thunderball.

There are, obviously, some pop culture experiences of today that rival the shared experiences of the Twentieth Century. The Super Bowl and American Idol, for instance, neither of which I’ve ever seen, but have an awareness of because of their all-pervasiveness. Michael Jackson and Madonna were last gasps of the shared pop culture experience (and even they were not on an Elvis/Beatles level), as they were part of the MTV era that flowed out of the greater cable TV explosion that so fragmented our entertainment experience. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, just an undeniable thing. I don’t believe Lady GaGa has a pop cultural resonance on a level with Madonna, just as Madonna doesn’t have a pop cultural resonance on a level with the Beatles. (On the other hand, the Beatles were on a level with Elvis, just as Elvis was with Sinatra before him.)

But for a writer, even one who often deals with historical subjects, to lose touch with the pop culture is death. And at 64, I’ve reached that age the Beatles once sang about in relation to a distant old age, so I know death is also an undeniable thing. Yet somehow it chills to me read an issue of Entertainment Weekly and see so much I know little or nothing about.

What follows are rhetorical questions, and you may post answers if you like, but understand that’s not the nature of these questions.

Who the hell are Niall Horan and One Direction? Must I watch a show called GIRLS on HBO and endure “superawkward sexual encounters”? Why would anyone want a Blu-ray boxed set of the Jackson Five cartoon show? (Not understanding nostalgia may represent a hardening of the arteries in someone as drenched in nostalgia as I am.) Who the hell are Nick Kroll, Hunter Hayues, A$AP Rocky, Conor Maynard, and M83? Who are Campo, Chainz featuring Dolla Boy, and Arcade Fire (the last falls into a category that I would designate as Actually I Have Heard of Them But Have Never Knowingly Heard Their Music). Why are there so many TV stars I am unfamiliar with (Chris Coffer, Monica Potter, Season Kent, Manish Raval, Thomas Golubic)?

The reason I am posing these questions rhetorically is that if they were actual questions, the obvious answer to all of them is: I’m out of touch. But fragmentation is a mitigating factor, as is bad pop culture that a reasonable human shouldn’t be expected to endure. You make decisions, as you trudge through life, about certain things you aren’t going to put up with. For me, Rap/Hip Hop falls into that category, as does country western music. Both pander to our worst instincts, though I am aware that intelligent defenses can be made of various artists and specific works within those fields. Country western music gave us Patsy Cline, so it can’t be all bad. Rap is a travesty, and I refuse to call it “music” since at his core is a lack of melody. I know doggerel when I hear it – I am an English major, after all.

Not that there isn’t plenty in this issue of Entertainment Weekly that I’m familiar with – probably a good share of which would be unfamiliar to a lot of people my age. But this is that moment, which has repeated so many times in my life, where I feel the popular culture is rolling over me, flattening me like a steamroller in an old cartoon.

* * *

This weekend we saw two films, one of which (ZERO DARK THIRTY) will likely be among my favorites this year, and another (GANGSTER SQUAD) which will likely be among my least favorites. Despite the political squabbling (by parties with varying agendas) in the media over the use of torture, ZERO DARK THIRTY is a gritty, involving docu-drama reminiscent at times of the great BBC series SPOOKS (aka MI-5). The real-time Bin Laden raid is stellar filmmaking. By the way, if you lit a match under my foot, I would gladly give you the atomic bomb secrets. So maybe with some weak-willed persons, torture does work.

GANGSTER SQUAD is a handsomely mounted but incredibly dumb supposed look at Mickey Cohen’s reign as a mob boss in post-war LA. I have never seen a more inaccurate “true crime” film, which is essentially a sloppy, riciulously violent re-do of THE UNTOUCHABLES, with Sean Penn’s smirky, sneering one-note performance managing to be even less true to Mickey Cohen’s character than the moronic screenplay. I hate movies like this, because not only do they suck, but they usually flop and make it tough for good period crime movies (say, based on a Nate Heller novel) to happen. Though over the top and obvious, the art direction makes sumptuous eye candy, and Josh Brolin is very good as a Mike Hammer-ish cop. He would make an excellent Hammer. On the other hand, sleepy-eyed, whiny Ryan Gosling remains the opposite of charismatic, a walking void who sucks the life out of any scene he enters.

* * *

I spent the week doing my draft of a 12,000-word novella called “Antiques Slay Ride,” a Christmas-themed e-book being done as a promotion for the Trash ‘n’ Treasures series. It will appear, not surprisingly, toward the end of this year.

Congrats to Dan John Miller, who was selected as one of AudioFile Magazine’s “Voices of the Year” for his performance of FLYING BLIND. If you’re a Heller fan who listens to audios, I highly recommend Dan’s readings of all of the novels (yes, he’s done them all, and the short story collections, too). He really is Nate Heller.

Some nice Net reviews have rolled in of late, including this one on CHICAGO LIGHTNING.

And here’s a swell TARGET LANCER review.

Short but sweet, this review of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT comes from the UK’s Crimetime site.

Speaking of the soon-to-be-published SEDUCTION, here’s some Goodreads reviews of the novel.

Here’s a review of the previous Jack and Maggie Starr mystery, STRIP FOR MURDER, with a fun discussion of Fearless Fosdick.

Finally, check out this perceptive review of BYE BYE, BABY, and you may want to read my comment posted below it.

M.A.C.