Posts Tagged ‘New Releases’

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.

Supreme Giveaway

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

[Note from Nate: This just in — M.A.C. is on The Huffington Post with a new article (and a very cool video list): “The Case of the Aging Sleuths and the Dying Detectives.”]

Supreme Justice

Yes, the time has come to offer up a dozen advance reading copies of SUPREME JUSTICE, the political thriller Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer will be publishing in June…I mean, July…I mean…

Okay, here’s the deal as I understand it. Members of Amazon Prime will have the opportunity to select SUPREME JUSTICE from an offering of four new novels on Kindle, a month before official publication. Prime members can pick one book free and order any others of the four at a vastly reduced price. I’m very lucky to have SUPREME JUSTICE selected for this program, because books in it have tended to do very well. It sort of jump-starts them.

What this means is a couple of things. First, if you’re in Amazon Prime, you can get the book on Kindle as early as June 1. (If you aren’t, you have to wait till July 1, when “real” books become available.) It also means that reviews for SUPREME JUSTICE can appear as early as June 1, if you’ve received one of these twelve advance reading copies.

All I ask is that you post a review at Amazon if you are one of the dozen getting these ARC’s. Reviews elsewhere and on blogs are also appreciated. These tend to go quickly. [Note from Nate: And they’re gone! Thanks for your support!]

This will likely be the last of these giveaways this year. I know some people have the idea that I write a novel a month or something, but the reality is closer to four novels a year, which I admit is a fair amount. But keep in mind a number of these books are collaborations. I work from Spillane manuscripts on the Hammer novels, and with Barb on the ANTIQUES mysteries. SUPREME JUSTICE is a collaboration with Matthew Clemens, although his name isn’t on the cover (he gets a full page credit inside, however).

But because each of these books is for a different publisher, they put them out when they feel like it…and now and then a cluster of novels comes out. ANTIQUES CON, KING OF THE WEEDS and SUPREME JUSTICE are within a couple of months of each other, and THE WRONG QUARRY wasn’t that long ago, either. This tends to discourage reviewers at places like Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, and Library Journal from reviewing all of them.

That’s one of the reasons why I have started this effort to get advance copies into the hands of readers who might post Amazon and other reviews for the books. Amazon reviews are important, as I’ve said before, because the number of reviews impacts how the books are viewed (and sold) there. Speaking of which, if you received advance copies of ANTIQUES CON and KING OF THE WEEDS and haven’t reviewed them yet, please do. Positive reviews are appreciated but not mandatory.

Also, if you are one of the unfortunate souls who don’t get a free copy and (choke!) have to actually buy one, I would be grateful to you for posting reviews, as well. I know I’m a broken record (remember those?) on this subject, but reviewing my books and those of any author whose work you enjoy is very important in this publishing environment. I talk not just of Amazon but Barnes & Noble and your own blogs.

SUPREME JUSTICE is a rare political thriller from me, although there many be more if this does well. Matt and I have a trilogy in mind for these characters, ex-Secret Service agent Joe Reeder and FBI agent Patti Rogers. We hope to do a thriller based around each branch of government. This one, obviously, is about the Supreme Court.

Advance reviews have been mostly very good, but I am sensing that my perceived liberal politics may be hurting the novel with some readers. This surprises me, because Matt and I strove mightily to keep that out of it; to hit the ball right down the center. Reeder is a sort of JFK liberal, but he spends the book trying to protect conservative justices. Where some conservative readers/reviewers appear to be having trouble comes from the novel depicting an America a few years hence in which Roe V. Wade has been overturned and the Patriot Act expanded. This was intended much less as a political statement than a plot motivation, setting up an America where something extreme might be attempted to reconfigure the Supreme Court.

First and foremost, SUPREME JUSTICE is a thriller with a modern-day Holmes at its center, and politics is the backdrop, not the point of the yarn. Now and then I get slammed over Mike Hammer’s right-wing politics from the other side of the aisle, and a writer can get whiplash that way. My politics are probably what you’d describe as center left. I say to my friends farther right and left than me: lighten up. These are just stories. And if they make you think a little bit, well, that’s just a mint on the hotel pillow, isn’t it?

* * *

KING OF THE WEEDS continues to get some lovely reviews, like this one from Swiftly Tilting Planet.

City of Films has a nice KING OF THE WEEDS review, too.

So does Geek Hard.

And Geek Hard also interviewed me on their podcast last week.

Two weeks in a row (!) The Daily Kos “Monday Murder Mystery” reviewer has looked at one of the Disaster novels. This time it’s THE HINDENBURG MURDERS, and the reviewer likes that one, too.

Finally, a brief but nice THE WRONG QUARRY review has trailed in here (you have to scroll down a bit).

M.A.C.

New Mike Hammer Novel Out Today

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
King of the Weeds Hardcover
Hardcover:

E-book:

King of the Weeds Audio
Audio MP3 CD:

KING OF THE WEEDS, the sixth Spillane/Collins Mike Hammer novel, is available now. Those of you who received advance copies can post Amazon reviews now. (Thanks to those of you advance ANTIQUES CON readers who’ve gotten around to posting Amazon reviews.)

Also available will be Stacy Keach’s audio reading of the novel, pictured here. I haven’t heard this yet but will be listening to it very soon – hearing perhaps the most famous screen Mike Hammer read these new Mike Hammer books is a very special treat for me.

As you probably know, the Edgar-nominated Mike Hammer short story, “So Long Chief,” did not win. The MWA has always had a tough time with Mike Hammer and Mickey Spillane (don’t get me started), so I am not surprised. That’s why I didn’t attend the banquet.

Instead, I stayed home and finished another Hammer story for the same magazine (The Strand), “Fallout,” which deals with Mike Hammer and Pat Chamber getting rockily back on friendly footing after the events of THE GIRL HUNTERS. This the sixth Mike Hammer short story I have developed from shorter Hammer fragments in Mickey’s files. That leaves one left to do. These seven stories, plus “Grave Matters” (a Hammer story I originally wrote as a “Mike Danger” with Mickey’s input) would round out what I hope will be an eventual collection. What’s nice about the fragments is that they are the start of Spillane stories, and nobody every wrote better beginnings in fiction than Mickey.

J. Kingston Pierce of the essential blog The Rap Sheet several years ago did the definitive in-depth interview with me. He has returned with a similarly in-depth follow-up on the occasion of the publication of KING OF THE WEEDS. It’s in the two parts. The first part, which is entirely Hammer-centric, appears at the Kirkus web site.

Part two, which is much wider-ranging, appears at the Rap Sheet.

Here’s a brief but very nice KING OF THE WEEDS review at Singular Points.

The American Airlines in-flight magazine has done an overview of continuations of mystery and thriller characters, including Mike Hammer and a quote from me.

And here’s a better-late-than-never one of THE FIRST QUARRY.

* * *

I had my first band job of the year Saturday night. Crusin’ played for a plus-40 Singles Dance, a perfect crowd for us, and a nice crowd danced every song and applauded after every song, too.

This is part of a “hiatus” year for the band due to our drummer, Steve Kundel, having school age kids who generated lots of concerts, sports events and other literal fun and games that require something once known as “parenting.”

In addition, we were worn down by a fairly rigorous schedule for a bunch of guys with real jobs (if, in my case, writing can be called that). We played 24 times last year. This year I have scheduled five. And no bars.

It felt very good to be with the guys again and out there performing once more. I strongly considered hanging it up at the end of last year, but couldn’t face the thought of having live rock ‘n’ roll performing a thing of my past. All of us – with the exception of our young (44) drummer – are reeling in the years, and the rigor of the last five steady years of playing is best behind us. The playing itself is physically demanding – I refuse to sit down while playing keyboards – and the loading of the equipment remains a delight, if by “delight” you mean waking up the next morning in screaming lower-back pain.

I do think fulltime writers like me need to have some outside activity, and I don’t mean mall-walking. It’s nice to get out in the world and see what’s happening – even if it does include a geezer who comes up to the stage and wonders aloud, “Don’t you people do any waltzes?”

That’s right, girls, he’s single….

M.A.C.