Posts Tagged ‘New Releases’

Batman — Second Chances

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015
Batman: Second Chances

Nobody at DC Comics informed me of this, but a collection of all of my BATMAN comic book stories has been published. A small box of comp copies arrived the other day, my first contact with DC on the book. Its pub date is July 21, but comic book shops may have it sooner.

It’s a handsome volume, but I haven’t sat down to read it yet. That experience will no doubt be bittersweet, because my BATMAN comics were not well-received by a significant number of fans. Even today, I’m one of the least popular BATMAN writers on many comics chat sites.

My position has always been that I did a good job, but was undone by poor editing. The latter is hard to prove, because I no longer have my scripts and my memory is fuzzy – I just know that certain explanatory captions were dropped and several sequences that were cross-cut got reassembled in a more linear, boring fashion. Back in those pre-Internet days, contact with an editor (in this case, the legendary Denny O’Neil) was strictly through the mail and the occasional long-distance call. I’ve come to think that Denny and I were not a good fit because, ironically, we both respected each other’s work so much that we didn’t want to step on the other guy’s toes.

What really turned me into an also-ran on BATMAN was the inability of O’Neil to pair me with an artist for longer than two issues. Sometimes the second part of a story would be drawn in an entirely different manner from the first, and apparently minus any reference material having been provided to the second artist to keep character visuals consistent with the first. There are eight comic-book stories by me in this volume (a handful by other writers are included) and for those eight issues, I had six artists.

Among the ironies of my brief tenure on BATMAN is my Toys ‘r’ Us success. That company went to DC, wanting to put together bags of BATMAN comics; the Toys ‘r’ Us people looked at about three or four years of BATMAN…and picked out my issues. I made a lot of dough from those reprints.

I’ve also been told that my material has been a source for animated BATMAN adventures.

The most famous thing about my version of Jason Todd is that fans voted to kill him off, like Andy Kaufman getting voted off SNL by phone. I should say that the writers who followed me (notably Jim Starlin) did not take Jason Todd’s story in the direction I intended and had set up.

BATMAN – SECOND CHANCES is complete as to my comic-book stories. But it does not include the first continuity of the BATMAN strip that I did before the Tribune forced me to step down at the threat of a lawsuit (the great Marshal Rogers was the artist). I did a final comic-book script about my Mime character that was never produced, but I turned it into a BATMAN short story. My two BATMAN graphic-novel projects – SCAR OF THE BAT, Eliot Ness Meets Batman; and BATMAN – CHILD OF DREAMS based on the Kia Asamiya manga – constitute the rest of my body of work on the Dark Knight, and represent my best work there. And it speaks well of Denny O’Neil that he recruited me for SCAR OF THE BAT after all we’d been through.

For the record, I was not fired – I quit. Now, I probably quit about fifteen seconds before I would have been fired…but I beat ‘em to the punch.

BATMAN – SECOND CHANCES represents a second chance for my comics stories on that character to be reappraised, and I’m pleased to have these stories gathered in one place.


Antiques Swap — Collect it!

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015
Antiques Swap
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The latest entry in the Trash ‘n’ Treasures series (usually referred to as the ANTIQUES series) hit the bookstores last week. Barb and I (the co-authors, as “Barbara Allan”) spotted ANTIQUES SWAP nicely displayed in the Davenport Barnes and Noble.

This one begins at a swap meet but actually touches upon other, more risque meanings of “swap,” in a plotline we feared might be frowned upon by our editor, though we got away it. Cozies are supposed to be…cozy. The murders are supposed to be…nice. But for all the humor we put into the books – and we put a lot in – we try not to take homicide too lightly.

We also realize that our audience may include some readers – possibly you – who don’t regularly read cozy mysteries. After all, the great reviewer Jon Breen has called us a “subversive” take on the form, which he meant as a compliment. When we created the series, and were asked to include certain elements (exotic setting, cute pet, gimmick premise), we did so in an overtly tongue-in-cheek way that we thought would get us rejected.

Obviously we weren’t.

By the way, neither of us love the term “cozy,” and I suspect a lot of mystery writers feel that way. But the term seems to be the reigning one, much as “noir” has supplanted “hardboiled.” Cozy mysteries are more properly called “traditional.”

Ours are definitely in a sub-genre of comic mysteries. We don’t, however, consider ourselves to be spoofing the form or doing satire. Just as we take the murders in the stories seriously, we take our two main characters seriously and follow them through problems and challenges in their lives. Vivian Borne, Serenity’s theatrical diva, may seem larger-than-life, but I’ve met her at various times in various forms. You probably have, too.

Of everything I work on, the ANTIQUES series is the one that maintains the most constant presence. That’s largely because Barb spends almost all of her writing time on it. Of late we’ve been doing a novel and a novella every year, and that keeps her in production all but a few months in the summer. So we’re discussing the stories pretty much year-round.

Also, the nature of the book business is that once you’ve “finished” a book, you’ve just begun – a copy-edited manuscript will roll in unannounced for you to check through (and we both have to do that), and then galley proofs (which we both have to deal with). These never arrive at a good time, and always are due yesterday.

Barb and I had barely finished next year’s ANTIQUES FATE when the upcoming novella, ANTIQUES ST. NICKED, arrived in galley proof form. She’s gone through it already. I haven’t yet.

In the meantime, I continue work on THE BIG SHOWDOWN, the sequel to the current THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK. I admit to feeling something of an imposter, as I have read precious few western novels in my time. On the other hand, I love movie westerns and have a huge collection of them on DVD and Blu-ray. I’ve said here many times that MAVERICK was my favorite show in childhood (and still ranks high) and that the episode “Shady Deal at Sunny Acres” is the greatest hour of episodic television ever…an opinion that hasn’t changed.

While working on CALEB, I have subjected Barb to a festival of western movies…but “subjected” really isn’t right, because loves western movies, too. Right now we’re in the midst of a Joel McCrea festival. I rank McCrea in the upper reaches – in the top five western stars (John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Audie Murphy and Gary Cooper being the others). Regular readers of mine know I am an Italian western fan, since Nolan was largely based on Lee Van Cleef’s screen persona in those films.

What I find really difficult in the CALEB YORK novels is balancing the myth with the real west. Despite my reputation for historical accuracy with the Nathan Heller novels, I am much more interested in the mythic west than the real thing.

THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK seems to be a little tough to find in bookstores, so I recommend you order it online. It’s already in a second printing.

Incidentally, while writing ANTIQUES FATE – which touches upon the British school of mystery writer – we spent our evenings in a festival of UK crime fare, leaning heavily on MIDSOMER MURDERS and the new Blu-rays of the great Joan Hickson as MISS MARPLE.

* * *

This terrific ANTIQUES SWAP review just came in from one of our favorite writers (and favorite people), Bill Crider.

My writer pal Ed Gorman used this review of the Dover reprint of STRIP FOR MURDER at his terrific blog.

The QUARRY series gets great play in this article about Memphis trying to lure the series back there (it’s shooting in New Orleans currently with limited Memphis footage scheduled to be shot later).

A recurring cast member has been added to the QUARRY series.

Here’s another of those articles about movies you didn’t know were based on comics, with ROAD TO PERDITION included. But either I am getting very old or the world is getting very young when such movies include ANNIE and THE ADDAMS FAMILY (!!!).

And finally, of all things, here’s a review of the audio of DEAD STREET, the first Spillane novel I completed (though I took only limited credit for my polish and concluding chapters).


The Legend of Caleb York

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015
The Legend of Caleb York

E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Audio MP3 CD:

Audio CD:


THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK is available as a hardcover right now. I can wait while you order it. (Collins humming themes from “Maverick” followed by “Rawhide,” concluding with a rousing rendition of the title song of “The Gunfight at O.K. Corral”). (You have to admit the song would not be as cool if it were “The Gunfight in the Vacant Lot Between Two Buildings Adjacent to the O.K. Corral.” Not only do we sometimes have to print the legend, sometimes we have to sing it.)

Okay, you’re back? Just for your info, there’s an audio book, too, which I’ll report on once I’ve listened to it, and a large print edition for people with eyesight even worse than mine.

If you’re a fan of Mickey Spillane’s, or mine, or both, you will surely want to grab this. In the late 1950s, Mickey wrote a screenplay, “The Saga of Cali York,” for his pal John Wayne that never got produced. It was one of three unproduced screenplays waiting for me in the Spillane files that Mickey had his wife Jane turn over to me. I based the novel on Mickey’s screenplay, which I thought was very good – it’s a traditional 1950s western in the vein of a really top-notch Randolph Scott, Joel McCrae or Audie Murphy flick.

What separates “York” from other westerns is the Spillane-style toughness and the explicit violence. Wayne presumably did not produce the film because his company Batjac got in financial hot water due to the way-over-budget production of THE ALAMO. But it’s also possible the over-the-top violence, at times anticipating Sam Peckinpah, made it a problematic project. It’s somewhat sexually steamy for the 1950s, too.

Writing the novel was tricky. I am right now in the early days of writing a sequel, utilizing material from Mickey’s notes and various drafts of the “York” script, and I spend as much time on Google doing research – and utilizing two shelves of my office library cart with books on the Old West – as I do writing.

Just the same, nobody should expect the level of historical accuracy that I bring to the Nathan Heller (or other historical crime) novels of mine. While I try to drop in tidbits of authenticity, Mickey was clearly operating in a movie/TV world, specifically of the ‘50s. Think of the Warner Bros. westerns of that period, or movies by Howard Hawks, John Ford, and Budd Boetticher. That’s the world.

So I don’t know how western fans will react. And I’m not sure how Heller fans will, either. BLACK HATS showed me taking the Heller approach to Wyatt Earp, but the Spillane westerns I’m doing for Kensington (there will be at least three) are definitely exploring the myth. Exploring it violently, but exploring it.

Not many reviews yet, but two really nice ones popped up last week, including one by modern-day pulpster, Ron Fortier.

And here’s a good one, very smart I think, from the Kindle Taproom.

Speaking of Spillane, I was thrilled to get another Mike Hammer review from the UK’s great Mike Carlson. He really digs KILL ME, DARLING.

Another Hammer review popped up for a title released a few years back, THE BIG BANG.

And, finally, out of nowhere came this write-up about the DICK TRACY comic strip collection, DICK TRACY AND THE NIGHTMARE MACHINE.


Stacy Keach Kills Me!

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Kill Me, Darling Blackstone Audiobook

This week, the audio book of KILL ME, DARLING will be released with the great Stacy Keach as the reader. The book is already available from Audible for download, and Barb and I started listening to it in the car on a trip to the Quad Cities this weekend, and are saving the rest for our next, longer-distance car trip. What a wonderful job Stacy is doing.

Check out the great audio book cover, which I actually prefer to the Titan one (which is very cool, but ignores the Florida setting).

It’s hard for me to express what it means for me to hear Stacy Keach read these novels (he’s done the prior six Spillane/Collins “Hammer” collaborations). Stacy – and I know him well enough to name-drop with that familiarity – is the most famous and certainly the most popular screen Mike Hammer of all time. I was not always crazy about producer Jay Bernstein’s TV version of HAMMER, but Stacy was consistently terrific and he captured the character beautifully, even perfectly. He became the Hammer of several generations.

Of the various Hammer projects I’ve been involved with, the two audio “radio play”-style full-cast, full-length dramatizations for Blackstone are among my favorites. The first one, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER VOLUME TWO: THE LITTLE DEATH won the Audie for best original work, and the second, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER VOLUME THREE: ENCORE FOR MURDER, was similarly nominated. I am very proud of those two audios, and owe a big thanks to producer Carl Amari. Also, since my late friend Mike Cornelison played Pat Chambers in both, they hold a special place in my heart.

We almost missed out on having Stacy read the audio of KILL ME, DARLING – in fact, we almost missed out on having an audio at all. For reasons I can’t fathom, although I may have been asleep at the wheel myself, Blackstone Audio was not approached in a timely fashion. Audio publishers like to be publish simultaneously with the books themselves. I didn’t check on this until early February, and when I found the ball had been dropped somewhere along the line, rushed to get Blackstone and Stacy together on this. Bless them both for jumping on board with little notice. As it is, the audio is appearing a couple of weeks after the book’s initial availability.

If you’re a Hammer fan and you haven’t listened to Stacy Keach read these new Hammer novels, you are really, really missing out.

From my point of view, a Hammer novel doesn’t feel real to me until I’ve heard Stacy read it.

I was nervous about KILL ME, DARLING – although frankly I love the book – because it was the first time I had a shorter chunk of Mickey’s work to expand and complete (less than fifty double-spaced pages as opposed to one-hundred). Would readers and reviewers find this as authentic a Hammer novel as the previous ones? So far the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Partly, I think, that’s because this is only the second of the Hammer’s I’ve completed that dates to Mickey’s most popular period (late forties/early ‘50s – the other being LADY, GO DIE!, chronologically the second Hammer novel). KILL ME, DARLING is the book that would have followed KISS ME, DEADLY – in other words, it picks up right where that hugely popular novel left off…right where Mickey left Hammer fans dangling for what would be a decade.

The next partial Spillane “Hammer” manuscript I complete will also be from the ‘50s. I feel privileged and thrilled to be able to fill in those missing years.

* * *

Regular readers of these updates will know that KILL ME, DARLING was created from a false start on THE GIRL HUNTERS. So it’s fun and interesting that (thanks to the Scorpion Blu-ray/DVD releases) that the Spillane-starring movie version of that novel is getting fresh attention.

Here’s one fun look at the film, with some mentions of my contributions to the blu-ray.

And here’s another.

In the meantime, I’m back to work on ANTIQUES FATE.