Posts Tagged ‘No Cure For Death’

Quarry TV Sept. 9; Mike Hammer Book Sept. 6

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

How bizarre it seems – in a sense, it hasn’t registered – that the novel I began at the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop in late 1971 has spawned a 2016 TV series.

My instructor, William Price Fox, didn’t like it. Most of the class didn’t, either. But several smart people thought the first two chapters of QUARRY were the best thing they’d ever read in a Workshop class. Fox, a writer I admired, was spotty as a teacher. He shared some good stories about his Hollywood perils, but he also spent several classes reading his own stuff to us. The class was only two hours once a week, and I had to drive from Muscatine (forty miles) to attend. I thought then that Fox reading his own work was lazy and self-indulgent, and I still do. But he did teach me the “Indian behind a tree” concept (ask me sometime).

A week or so after my Workshop class with its mixed reviews of QUARRY’s first two chapters, I sold my first novel, BAIT MONEY, and, a couple of weeks later, I sold the second one, NO CURE FOR DEATH. Both were written at the Workshop when Richard Yates was my teacher and mentor – a great writer and a great guy. The NYC editor wanted sequels to both, so I put QUARRY aside (probably a third of it written) and proceeded with THE BABY BLUE RIP-OFF and BLOOD MONEY. I had graduated in early ‘72 by then.

Then I got back to QUARRY, probably in ‘74, and it sold in ‘75 and was finally published in ‘76 (initially published as THE BROKER).

How vividly I remember sitting in my office in our apartment in downtown Muscatine (over a beauty shop – the smells wafting up were not heavenly) and pounding away at those early books. I thought QUARRY was the best thing I’d come up with, as the Nolan books were glorified Richard Stark pastiches and Mallory was just me filtering my private eye jones through an amateur detective. QUARRY was something original. I was going places! This would, in a good way, leave a mark.

And at first it seemed it would. The editor wanted three more novels about the character, and of course I eagerly complied. By the fourth book, two things were obvious – QUARRY was not setting the world on fire, and I was having trouble keeping the black-comedy element from spinning out of control. THE SLASHER seemed to me over-the-top, or anyway a subsequent novel would have been.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t disappointed that no more books were requested by the editor. But the QUARRY series seemed, at four entries, to be complete. I was going places, all right – back to the typewriter to try again.

But a funny thing happened on the way to obscurity – a small cult of interest arose in QUARRY. Smart people like Jon Breen, Ed Gorman and Bill Crider said nice things about the books. The series started getting fan letters. So when I had some success with the Nate Heller novels, I decided to do just one more QUARRY – and I did, PRIMARY TARGET (since re-pubbed as QUARRY’S VOTE). The book was well-received, but that was the end of it.

The end of it, anyway, till the new millennium dawned and a young filmmaker named Jeffrey Goodman came knocking, and a new publisher/editor named Charles Ardai got in touch. From Goodman’s enthusiasm for the QUARRY short story, “A Matter of Principal,” came an award-winning short film written by me, and then a feature-length version co-written by me, THE LAST LULLABY. More or less simultaneously, Ardai asked me to do a QUARRY novel for his new retro-noir line, and I jumped at the chance to give the series a real ending – THE LAST QUARRY, a novelization of my version of the screenplay of the Goodman feature.

The surprisingly strong response to THE LAST QUARRY resulted in a conversation between Ardai and me that went something like this:

“I wouldn’t mind you doing another QUARRY for us,” he said.

“I wouldn’t mind myself.”

“But you ended the series. What book can you write after you’ve done THE LAST QUARRY?”

“Why not…THE FIRST QUARRY?”

Now we’re at eleven novels – QUARRY IN THE BLACK next month – and, after a somewhat rough birth going back to 2012, the QUARRY TV series will debut on Cinemax this Friday, at 9 pm Central time.

I’ve seen all eight episodes and they are excellent. It’s essentially an extended origin story of how returning Marine Mac Conway (the character’s real name, according to the show anyway) becomes hitman Quarry. Michael Fuller and Graham Gordy, the creators of the series, initially did not reveal the character’s “real name,” but it became clumsy for the lead character not to have, well, a name. They dubbed him “Mac” after me – M.A.C. Nice gesture.

And they were smart enough to set the show in the early ‘70s. It’s a nice fit with my current approach, which is to do my new QUARRY novels in ‘70s/‘80s period. You know you are old when a series you began as contemporary is now historical.

So I hope you like the TV series. If you don’t, and are a fan of the books, pretend to, will you? If the show becomes a hit, I may get to write more QUARRY novels.

Stranger things have happened.

* * *
A Long Time Dead

Softcover:

E-Book: Amazon Nook Kobo iTunes

Limited Signed Hardcover: Mysterious Bookshop

Also this week, the Mike Hammer short story collection, A LONG TIME DEAD, will become available in print and e-book editions from Mysterious Press. This is an exciting project for me, as it represents the first collection of Hammer stories, and possibly the last, since I have exhausted the shorter fragments in the Spillane files.

My sincere thanks to Otto Penzler for publishing it. Otto, who edited and published the first three posthumous Hammer novels, has been a great friend to Mickey, Mike Hammer and me.

* * *

The advance reviews for the QUARRY TV show are strong, like this one.

And this one.

Here QUARRY is seen as one of the nine best shows of the fall season.

And here it’s seen as one of the ten best shows.

You’ll enjoy this interview with Michael Fuller, half of the creative team behind the writing of the QUARRY series.

Here’s a nice write-up on the forthcoming QUARRY comics mini-series.

Check out this terrific review of the Hammer novel, MURDER NEVER KNOCKS.

And, finally, here’s a positive review from Kirkus, of all people, for A LONG TIME DEAD.

M.A.C.

Trimming the Weeds & a Reprehensible Ranger

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

I have completed KING OF THE WEEDS, the final novel created from the six substantial Mike Hammer manuscripts in Mickey Spillane’s files.

This does not mean my collaborations with Mickey are at an end – I hope to fashion three more novels from shorter but still significant manuscripts. There are also short Hammer fragments (five or six pages) that I will continue to flesh out into short stories with an eventual collection the goal. In addition, considerably more non-Hammer material awaits in Mickey’s files, including three unproduced screenplays that I hope to turn into novels. Plus, there are short but significant non-Hammer fragments ranging from a chapter to two or three chapters, sometimes with notes, that could possibly be converted into Hammers. In addition, several outlines for Hammer novels remain (like the one I used as the basis for the audio play ENCORE FOR MURDER).

Mickey wrote and published thirteen Mike Hammer novels. I think it would be very cool if I could add another six novels (to the six I’ve completed) plus a short story collection and double that list. On the other hand, I have reached my first and most important goal – to complete the manuscripts on which Mickey had done considerable work. In several cases – like COMPLEX 90 and the Morgan the Raider novel THE CONSUMMATA – the books had even been announced in the publishing trades. I think Mickey truly intended to go back and finish most of these.

As I’ve mentioned, I will be talking with the folks at Titan at San Diego Con about continuing Hammer. I will report when I get back.

Now, while I say I have “completed” KING OF THE WEEDS, I still have work left to do. I have finished the book in the sense that I have reached the end of it. I revise as I go, a minimum of three passes per chapter and often more, with Barb editing along the way – she seeks out inconsistencies, word repetition, missing words, and makes suggestions. I always enter her corrections and deal with any revisions growing out of her edit before I move on.

Today I start the process of reading and revising. I work with red pen on a hard copy, and Barb enters the corrections and revisions as we go. How long this process takes varies book to book – a Quarry novel may take a day or two, whereas a Heller could take a whole week. This Hammer novel, which has a very complicated plot, will take two days minimum. If I hit something that strikes me as problematic, all bets are off – I will go back to the machine and start re-writing any troubled section. This happens seldom, though.

This was a tough one. I think it turned out well, and my fears have lessened that the older Mike Hammer might not please new readers who know only the wild and woolly private eye of THE BIG BANG, KISS HER GOODBYE, LADY, GO DIE! and COMPLEX 90. But the final chapters are as wild a ride as you’ll find in any of those. And I think the older Mike Hammer, with his career winding down — KING OF THE WEEDS was conceived by Mickey as the last Mike Hammer novel, after all – is very interesting.

Next week, we will be going to the San Diego Comic Con. By “we” I mean Nate, Abby, Barb and me. We will post our schedule (including two panels Nate is on) here next week. Then we will probably post brief daily updates from the con.

* * *

The Fourth of July weekend was a lot of fun with very beautiful weather. The Crusin’ gig at the Brew in Muscatine went extremely well, and lots of locals who hadn’t seen us in a while got to see the current strong line-up – earning us many great comments.

We also spent a good deal of time with my old high school buddy Ron Parker and his very cool wife Vickie, visiting from Florida where they retired after careers in the military. Ron is very smart and funny, but don’t tell him I said so. He is one of the last surviving members of our group of poker-playing pals who went through school together. How far back does this go? Well, we began playing poker together when MAVERICK was airing first-run episodes. Ron and I reminisced about Jon McRae, the basis for the John character in NO CURE FOR DEATH, and our late friend Jan McRoberts, whose mysterious death I fictionally explored in A SHROUD FOR AQUARIUS. Jim Hoffmann, who produced the MOMMY movies, was also part of that group, is also gone. Alive and well of the poker players are Mike Bloom, Nee Leau, John Leuck and David Gilfoyle – the latter the funniest of a very witty bunch of guys. Dave was nicknamed “Wheaty,” and you will meet him in my previously unpublished 1974 novel SHOOT THE MOON, if you buy the Perfect Crime collection EARLY CRIMES coming out late this summer.

The Lone Ranger

With Ron and Vickie, Barb and I went to THE LONE RANGER. I don’t like to write negative reviews, but I found the film reprehensible – misguided, misjudged, misbegotten. If we hadn’t have been with friends, we would have walked out. Disney is a company built on family entertainment, and THE LONE RANGER of radio and TV was the most wholesome of western heroes – he used silver bullets so that would not shoot his gun carelessly, and (like Superman) never killed. This LONE RANGER is an unpleasant western filled with stupid violence put together by a gifted director who wanted to pay tribute to ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and not the actual source material. The new film’s Lone Ranger is a clumsy goofus and Tonto a nasty lunatic. The tone is uneven to say the least – forced unfunny humor is interspersed with bloody violence. And it’s as slow and long as you’ve heard. Oddly, much of the 2013 LONE RANGER seems culled from the previous disastrous take on this material, the notorious 1981 flop THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER, which did not make a star out of Klinton Spilsbury. Remember that one? The producer alienated every baby boomer on the planet by suing the ‘50s TV Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore, to keep him from doing personal appearances in his mask. LEGEND is a hard film to see – my widescreen copy is from overseas – but it’s actually better than this new RANGER film (faint praise), which lifts from LEGEND such elements as making John Reid (think Clark Kent) a virtuous attorney, turning Butch Cavendish a madman, setting an action set piece on a moving train, mounting a Gatling gun massacre, and showing the Ranger and Tonto dynamiting a bunch of stuff (a bridge in the new picture, a dam in the other).

The 2013 movie actually ends with the Lone Ranger finally uttering his signature line, “Hiyo Silver, away,” and Tonto telling him never to say that again. The Ranger apologizes, of course. The final line of the movie is a reminder that “tonto” means “stupid” in Spanish. These filmmakers are embarrassed by the material they were hired to re-boot, and should be ashamed of themselves. When would Barb and I have walked out had we not been with Ron and Vickie? How about when Tonto, for a cruel gag, drags a barely conscious, wounded Lone Ranger through horse dung? Or maybe when the grand steed Silver drinks beer and belches. RULE NUMBER ONE IN ADAPTING FAMOUS MATERIAL: Do not have contempt for it.

M.A.C.

Complex 90 Out Today

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
COMPLEX 90 Audiobook

Hardcover:

E-Book:

Audio CD:

Audio MP3 CD:

Actually, COMPLEX 90 – the new Mike Hammer novel – will be published tomorrow, since I write these blog posts a day in advance. The cover we’re showing off here is the Blackstone audio version, read by Stacy Keach. I haven’t heard it yet, but it’s one of the greatest joys of my career to listen to Stacy reading these Spillane/Collins novels on audio.

This is, I think, one of the strongest of the collaborative Hammers, as it answers a lot of questions about Mike and Velda’s relationship, and it’s a sequel to perhaps the Mickey’s best book of the ‘60s – THE GIRL HUNTERS. Yes, the Dragon (the surviving half) is back. What great fun, writing about Mike Hammer in his espionage agent mode in a book begun by Mickey at the height of the James Bond spy craze. Fun, too, imagining Mickey as Mike in a movie playing in your demented brain. Well, my demented brain, anyway.

People often ask how I decide what order to do these books in – I had half a dozen substantial (100 pages or more) Spillane “Hammer” manuscripts to choose from. GOLIATH BONE was a no-brainer choice – it was the final book Mickey was working on, and was the longest manuscript (of the Hammers, that is – DEAD STREET was shy only of the last three chapters). Also, it had a 9/11 aspect that threatened to date it. So it was first up.

THE BIG BANG was a great ‘60s novel, with Hammer taking on drug racketeers, and just a great manuscript from Mickey, with one of his most outrageous endings. It won second position as a way to really show off Mike at his best. KISS HER GOODBYE, with its ‘70s setting and themes, was a natural progression. I held back the greatest find – LADY, GO DIE!, the unfinished sequel to I, THE JURY – for the fourth position, because my initial contract was for three books, and I wanted something very strong to launch the second trio, particularly if I had to change publishers…which I did.

COMPLEX 90 needed to be held back a while, because the anti-Commie aspect of it would only court trouble with the Hammer haters. I needed Mike to be back for a while before going there. Also, though Mickey wrote about Russian espionage in ONE LONELY NIGHT and THE GIRL HUNTERS, the Cold War theme is not what Hammer is best known for.

Shortly (yet this month) I will begin work on KING OF THE WEEDS, a novel designed by Mickey as a sequel to BLACK ALLEY and as the final Hammer novel. Mickey set it aside after 9/11 seemed to require Mike Hammer to wade into the war on terror. So these six novels begin with the final Hammer novel (THE GOLIATH BONE), and wind up with what Mickey had intended to be the final novel (KING OF THE WEEDS), making that the penultimate one, I guess.

Is this the end of the Spillane/Collins Hammer stories? Probably not. I am expanding short Hammer fragments into short stories (most recently in The Strand, “So Long, Chief”), and in two or three more stories will have enough for a collection. There’s also the possibility of doing a book that offers prose versions of the two audio plays. And there are three more significant Hammer fragments that I hope to turn into novels. When I say “substantial” unfinished manuscript, I mean that Mickey left behind at least one hundred pages and often plot and character notes.

When I say “significant” unfinished manuscript, I mean at least forty pages and sometimes plot and character notes.

I am hopeful readers and my current publisher will agree that the Mike Hammer canon should be completed. I see no reason for me to do original Hammer stories, not with the wealth of Spillane material at my fingertips. There are even non-Hammer fragments that could be Hammer-ized if need be. If the movie happens, anything is possible.

* * *

Last week was taken up with preparing materials for my producing partner, Ken Levin, to take with him to LA for meetings. Barb and I wrote up a TV proposal for the ANTIQUES series, and I put together an Eliot Ness in Cleveland TV proposal. In addition, I did a full-scale rewrite of “House of Blood,” turning it from an 85-page feature film script into a 58-page TV pilot script.

This week I’ll be meeting with Matt Clemens to work on the plotting of SUPREME JUSTICE, my second Thomas & Mercer novel. My friend Brad Schwartz and I have been working on a Teddy Roosevelt project, and the screen treatment of that will be finished probably today. Then I will be doing articles for Huffington Post and other web sites to promote COMPLEX 90.

Did I mention it’s coming out today?

A lot of Net activity to report and share.

A Minneapolis radio station has Part One of the Gary Sandy-starring version of MIKE HAMMER: ENCORE FOR MURDER produced at the International Mystery Writers Festival in Owensboro, Kentucky, last year. They will post Part Two next week. This is a lot of fun, but the host gives perhaps the most shambling introduction I have ever heard, starting with a discussion of the character “Mickey Spillane” who debuted on radio before the publication of I, THE JURY. You learn something every day….

The great web site Bookgasm had a lively, complimentary review of ANTIQUES CHOP, now a bouncing baby one week old.

Here’s a nice write-up on COMPLEX 90 at the Geek Girl Project.

I haven’t listened to this interview, but I was on the phone a long time, so be forewarned that you may need Red Bull to make it through. The guys interviewing me were great, but I’m afraid I blathered even more than usual.

Here’s a cool Nerds of a Feather write-up of COMPLEX 90 (out today!) (over doing?).

The news about HOUSE OF BLOOD winning that IMPA award was covered neatly at the Fangoria web site.

The SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT reviews are still comin’ in! Check out this cool one at Nerd Bloggers.

I was very pleased by this NO CURE FOR DEATH review – having a smart reviewer approve of a book written forty years ago is kind of amazing. Not as amazing as me writing it when I was six, but amazing.

This is a very intelligent review of THE BABY BLUE RIP-OFF from a guy who forgives me for being a liberal. (I’m taking something for it.)

And at this late date, we’re still being told that ROAD TO PERDITION was based on a graphic novel. Who’da thunk it?

THE TITANIC MURDERS gets a very nice write-up here.

And, finally, here’s the review you were all waiting for – of SKIN GAME, the second DARK ANGEL book (not published today…but still in print!). Matt Clemens co-wrote the DARK ANGEL novels with me, and they are among our best collaborations, in both our opinions.

M.A.C.

Bloody House

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
IMPA 2013

In Des Moines over the weekend, Barb and I attended the 22nd annual Iowa Motion Picture Association awards banquet. My screenplay “House of Blood” was nominated for Best Screenplay (Unproduced), and won the Award of Excellence.

The IMPA is an organization I was extremely active in from the mid-90s until maybe five years ago. I am a three-time president, and Barb and I ran the award shows (with me hosting and Barb giving out the awards) for maybe half a dozen years. I was on the IMPA board for ten or twelve years, and this required a monthly drive (about a three-hour one) into Des Moines, which finally wore us down. But I made a lot of friends there, some of whom I got to see at the Saturday night event – we had the fun of sharing a table with screenwriter Shirley Long, the “godmother” of the IMPA, and documentarian Kent Newman, also a multiple past prez of the organization. The evening of course brought to mind my late friend and prized collaborator, Mike Cornelison, who won numerous IMPA awards himself. A number of people spoke to me about Mike. Being on his home turf brings the loss sharply into focus.

The organization has hit some rough patches in recent years, reflecting the film industry in Iowa getting tarnished when an ambitious tax-credit program went belly up in a haze of scandal and buck-passing. I don’t know what really went on, but I do know this multi-million dollar program was run by one man in an OFFICE SPACE-style cubicle at the Department of Economic Development. This was a huge government bungle, and is responsible for me having to seek doing my indie film work in Illiniois and Louisiana (and California, of course). There is talk, among some legislators, of the industry making a comeback in this area, and a new Film Office chair person will be named soon. I am guardedly hopeful.

The “House of Blood” screenplay that won was the feature film version. It now looks like I will be converting the script into a one-hour TV anthology format, bringing it back closer to its original form as a 45-minute Fangoria’s Dreadtime Stories radio play. Serious talk is afoot for both a series, which I’d be heavily involved in, and a slate of four movies, which I have been told would include two M.A.C. properties, possibly with me directing. I’ll keep you informed.

The keynote speakers – very informal and funny – were Darryl and Darryl from Newhart – Tony Papenfuss and John Voldstad. I spoke to John and he was a very sweet guy, and a fan of ROAD TO PERDITION. He was one of the many great comic actors in one of our family’s favorites, STRIPES.

On the way to and from Des Moines, Barb and I listened to the Brilliance audio of THE LONDON BLITZ MURDERS. That novel, which I was quite proud of at the time, received little attention when originally published, and has received some harsh reviews at Amazon and particularly Amazon UK. So I was a little gun shy about listening to it. But I was pleasantly surprised – I think I did just fine, writing a true-crime story set in the UK with Agatha Christie as the detective, even if some of the Brits at Amazon UK think I was about as convincing as Dick Van Dyke in MARY POPPINS. My credibility takes a huge jump thanks to the reader, British actress Anne Flosnik, who does an incredible job. To my ears, she really brought Agatha and the book to life. After hearing her (and Simon Vance on THE HINDENBURG MURDERS), I would be tempted to have all of my books read by actors with English accents. On the other hand, I can’t imagine a better Nate Heller than Dan John Miller. (Unfortunately, Brilliance won’t be doing the forthcoming ASK NOT – another company will be, TBA – but I will certainly recommend Dan.)

If you are a longtime reader of my work, I think you might have a really good time revisiting my novels in audio form. Brilliance has done a fantastic job with the Hellers, the “disaster” novels, the Mallorys (Dan John Miller again), and assorted others (REGENERATION, BOMBSHELL, MIDNIGHT HAUL).

Speaking of Amazon reviews, let me remind readers that a great way to support the writers you enjoy is to write and post a review at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and other sites. A two- or three-line positive review at Amazon, and nice high star rating, takes little time and is most helpful to authors. There are some dumb readers out there, and nasty ones, who do authors damage, and you can help. I speak not just for myself, but for any author whose work you enjoy. Those star ratings are important, because they are averaged. And so often the bad ratings are not for the book, but for perceived bad service, or in my case now and then, a reader angry that ROAD TO PERDITION or CSI: SERIAL turned out to a “comic book.”

End of telethon, although your continued contributions would be appreciated.

* * *

Here’s a nice SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT review from Blogcritics, which got lots of play on the Net.

And another one from BookSteve’s Library. The reviewer has some problems with the front end of the novel, because he’s so familiar with the history already, but gets on board when the mystery kicks in. It’s been interesting to see how many readers really love the front end of the book, with its fairly detailed account of the comic-book witch hunt, and how many others prefer the mystery portion that kicks in half-way. This reviewer falls into a small but distinct category of readers who are a little bored by encountering history they’re already familiar with.

Here’s a very nice and flattering review of the new edition of NO CURE FOR DEATH, from a Kindle site. This was my second novel (well, third if you count MOURN THE LIVING) and it’s a relief to see a reviewer liking it at this late date.

Finally, here’s a terrific review of ANTIQUES CHOP from Bill Crider (himself a helluva writer).

M.A.C.