Posts Tagged ‘New Releases’

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.

How We Make The Sausage

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Now in Paperback!

A little more behind the scenes stuff this time….

The writing week began with detailed discussions between Barb and me over the plot of the next ANTIQUES novel, which she will be diving into soon. The story takes place outside of our usual setting of Serenity in a village that was founded by Brits and has patterned itself on their model of smalltown life.

Barb struggled some on the previous novel because we’d been a little too open-ended on our plotting, and this time she wanted to try working from a somewhat more detailed plot breakdown. Lots of back-and-forth ensued, I put my ideas down on paper, and finally she developed all of it into a several-page chapter-by-chapter breakdown. I went over this, discussed some possible changes and additions, and then we locked it. Since then Barb has written a second chapter (we had already written the first chapter, a requirement of our Kensington contract – we have to give them a brief synopsis and a first chapter for approval) and we seem to be on our way.

In the meantime, with my desk cleared of all other writing assignments, I dug in full-time on research for the next Heller novel, BETTER DEAD, which deals with the McCarthy era and specifically the Rosenberg case. Lots to read, and some of it fairly mind-numbing. I find at this age I tend to read a lot, nap a little, read, nap, etc. I was trying to get as much read as possible before the arrival of my longtime researcher (and friend) George Hagenauer. In recent years, every Heller novel has included a preliminary visit from George, who arrived Sunday afternoon around two p.m., lugging more reference books for me to read.

At this point George is more on top of the history than I am. Our sessions often involve fairly heated discussions reflecting our conflicting takes on the material. George tends to be more fixed on the historical accuracy issues (although he’s loosened up) while I am the guy reminding him that first and foremost a Heller novel is a private eye thriller. He is very good at the underlying political currents and at spotting material that can link us back (and in this case forward) to other Heller novels.

Three hours of discussion and brainstorming finally had the first (longer) section of the novel revealing its shape. The story I want to tell was fitting into, and flowing out of, the history. The timeline was behaving itself, too, so that little or no compression would be needed. But the final aspect that needed attention was (private eye thriller, remember): where will the sex and violence come from?

However much the Heller novels are historically accurate, and outpace other such novels, they still need to have the classic hardboiled PI elements – murder, lust, betrayal, action…the good stuff. So the conversation turned to: who’s trying to stop Heller in his investigation? We kicked around possibilities and came up with something fresh, largely thanks to George.

Over supper at Salvatore’s Restaurant (Barb stayed behind, as George had a cold she didn’t want to catch), we hashed out more issues. Tomorrow morning (I’m writing this on Sunday evening) we will get back to it, and talk about the final section of the book, which concerns CIA dosing its employees with LSD to see what would happen. You know, like teenagers at a party in 1968.

George will probably be on the road shortly after lunch (he came here straight from a Minnesota comic con – and ended Sunday with some comic art trading, which is how we met three-plus decades ago).

By the way, the most recent Heller, ASK NOT, has just been published in mass market paperback by Forge.

* * *

The moderator on my upcoming Bouchercon panel has taken to reading the QUARRY novels by way of prep. He’s even posted this very nice essay on the books.

And check out the Forge/Tor web site where they promote the ASK NOT paperback.

Barbara Allan: How it Works

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
Antiques Fruitcake

No question comes my way more frequently than, “How do you and your wife Barb collaborate on the ANTIQUES books?” Well, actually, I’m more often asked, “Has anybody told you that you look like Elton John?” But not much.

As I spent last week working on a Barbara Allan project, this seems as good a time as any to answer the first question. (As for the second question, there’s no answering it that will make it go away.)

As part of our most recent contract with Kensington Publishing, Barb and I agreed to write three novellas in the ANTIQUES series in addition to three full-length novels. The idea was to write novellas that could be e-books in an effort to attract new readers, and to prime readers for the next book in the series.

Further, each novella was to be Christmas-themed. This set the stage for possibly collecting the novellas, maybe with a new one, in book form at some point. Looking at the writing of one of these novellas should provide a study in microcosm of the collaborative writing process used by Barb and me on the novels themselves.

The work began several months ago with a series of conversations, fairly casual, about what the basic story would be, and what the title might be. Titles are tricky on these Christmas novellas. Coming up with something clever, like HO HO HOMICIDE or CHRISTMAS STALKING isn’t that tricky (although lots of possibilities have been used, including those); but in our case we have to include ANTIQUES in the title. Something like ANTIQUES CHRISTMAS STALKING has about as much music as a trombone falling down the stairs.

The first of the novellas was ANTIQUES SLAY RIDE and the second (which will be e-published a week from today) is ANTIQUES FRUITCAKE. We considered ANTIQUES MISTLETOE TAG, but that damn “Antiques” made it clumsy. So – we gave up and moved on to figuring out the story.

As is our habit, we kicked around ideas over lunch at various restaurants. Barb suggested something to do with a street-corner Santa Claus getting killed for his donation bag. But that had no “antiques” aspect, so I suggested somebody had put a valuable old coin in the bag, possibly by mistake. Then came the notion that our Santa was not Salvation Army variety, but a good-hearted local person raising money for some good cause. And the valuable-coin donation was on purpose.

From there came both a more detailed plot – with the same kind of back-and-forth brainstorming that Matt Clemens and I engage in – and a possible title. ANTIQUES SECRET SANTA. Finally I came up with ANTIQUES ST. NICKED, which became the title (unless Kensington hates it).

About five weeks ago, we finalized the chapter breakdown (over lunch, of course). When the Hollywood pitch trip came along, Barb went with me and worked on the ANTIQUES story in our hotel room while I was off on meetings. She got her draft of the first of five chapters written.

Back home, she continued at a rate of one chapter a week. In the meantime, I was doing two drafts of that TV script I’ve mentioned as well as several smaller writing jobs I agreed to do in weak moments. A week ago, she turned over her five-chapter, 69-page draft to me.

Monday through/including Thursday, last week, I did a chapter a day, revising, expanding, tightening, tweaking. Along the way I would have plot and character questions for Barb, which she would answer, or that she and I would discuss and work out. End of day she’d read my draft, mark it up, and I would enter her changes and corrections, either then or the first thing next work day.

Friday was beautiful, so we said, “Screw it,” and had one of our typical getaway days, going to the Amana Colonies and then Cedar Rapids for food and shopping. Saturday I did the final of five chapters, and on Sunday we both read the manuscript, first Barb, then me, each making notes and corrections.

Reading any long manuscript that you’ve written a chapter at a time, without doing much referring back as you go, means you’re likely to encounter plot and continuity problems, and that happened here. One thing that happened was that several things in our plot and on a “CHARACTERS/SUSPECT” sheet that Barb had prepared for me had not made it into the manuscript. We wrote them in. By late afternoon Sunday, the manuscript was finished – now 84 pages.

We may not turn it in for a while – that will be our editor’s call – because we did this story way early, in part because Barb needs to get cracking on the next ANTIQUES novel, but mostly because the deadline for the second Caleb York novel (also for Kensington) is the same day as for this novella. A “yikes” would not be inappropriate here.

It’s hard for a writer to know, right after finishing something, if it’s worth a damn. Barb is still just shrugging, shaking her head and making faces about this one. I feel more confident that we have just the right mix of our typical format with our characters presented well, a tricky little mystery, Christmas theme, serious subject matter handled delicately, and lots of laughs.

* * *

Here’s a very good, flattering essay about my work that morphs into a Chicago crime piece. I do wonder if the writer knows that much of what he goes on to discuss was dealt with in my novels ROAD TO PURGATORY and ROAD TO PARADISE.

Here’s a great little piece (with mentions of yours truly) on one of my favorite paperback writers of the ‘60s, Ennis Willie. (I’ll be talking about him and several other under-appreciated writers on a Bouchercon panel.)

Finally, check out this generous write-up, having to do with my writing a brief advance review of a book on Milton Caniff and his STEVE CANYON character Miss Mizzou.

M.A.C.

Supreme Justice Hits #1

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Last Sunday, June 1st, was in many respects a typical Sunday for Barb and me. We had an early lunch at the Riverside Café, Barbie did yard work and sunned, and I worked on a Mike Hammer chapter. We had supper at the Peking Restaurant, and watched the first two episodes of PENNY DREADFUL (did not care for it, despite some fine actors). She went to bed early to read, and I went back to helping Mike Hammer kill thugs for a couple of hours.

Two things made June 1st special. First, and of secondary importance but pleasing, SUPREME JUSTICE became available to Amazon Kindle readers a month early and quickly rose to #1 on the Kindle bestseller list. As I write this, it’s still there. (I only knew this because my co-author Matt Clemens gave me a call while Barb and I were grocery shopping) (left that off the list of events above).

By the way, that means anyone who received an advance copy of SUPREME JUSTICE can post a review any time now. The reader reviews so far have been great, with the exception of several (including comments) from conservatives who dismiss the book as “liberal drivel.” Most of them proudly admit that they haven’t read the book, and are responding to Amazon’s description of it. This only proves my theory that are plenty of idiots on the far right to along with my corollary theory that there are plenty of idiots on the far left. (The latter often review my Mike Hammer novels as right-wing drivel or words thereabout and, yes, without reading them.) Since the detecting team of Reeder and Rogers spend the entire novel trying to save the lives of conservative justices from a leftist attempt to re-stack the Supreme Court, these rightist reviewers just may be misguided. Call me crazy, but I think you should at least try to read the book itself before posting a review on it, negative or positive.

The really important thing about June 1st is that Barb and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary. As you may have guessed, we did not actually celebrate on the 1st, choosing instead to take Friday the 30th off so that we could go to two of our favorite restaurants that aren’t open on Sundays. Those restaurants are Lagomarcino’s in the Village of East Davenport, a home-made candy store that has been around forever and serves great lunches (any place with Green River at their soda fountain is jake by me). For supper we went to an old favorite, the French bistro Le Figaro, which began decades ago in Muscatine as Rachid’s. We’re talking serious food here – Dover Sole for Barb, Veal Oscar for me. Whether the goofy smile on my mug is for the veal or my beautiful wife, I leave for you to decide. Whatever you come up with, you’ll be basing it on more evidence than certain nincompoops writing Amazon reviews.

MAC and Barbara 40th Anniversary

“Nincompoops” was one of my late father’s favorite words, by the way, and I find I use it more and more because (a) it reminds me of him, and (b) there really are a lot of them out there.

Speaking of SUPREME JUSTICE, this blog announces the book and uses our editor’s Alan Turkus’s nice take on why he bought the novel.

The film version of ROAD TO PERDITION continues to make the lists of best comic-book movies. Here’s just one of the recent ones.

Finally, this straight review of the film shows how PERDITION is only gaining in stature with the passing years.

M.A.C.