Posts Tagged ‘Nolan’

Quarry Pilot Casting News

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

The producers of the HBO/Cinemax pilot QUARRY have added two more cast members to an already impressive roster:

Nikki Amuka-Bird of the top-notch British series LUTHER and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, whose many credits include the wonderful SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD.

I got a fun e-mail from reader Lee Grant relating to the QUARRY pilot, and I’d like to share it with you:

My introduction to your work came back in the 1980s with The Baby Blue Rip Off and Kill Your Darlings. I graduated to the Nathan Heller novels and rediscovered comics again with Ms. Tree. The Nate Heller and disaster novels remain my favorites, though your treatment of Mike Hammer is right up there with the Mick. Now, if you could only do some Travis McGee or Nero Wolfe novels that would be the icing on the cake. Anyway, my wife and I are at home in Bartlett, TN last night when we receive a call from a woman who is doing advance location work for a movie to be set in an old house in Mississippi. She is interested in using my wife’s old family farm house in it – one that looks like it may have been used by Machine Gun Kelly (BTW) who did spend some time in this area. I don’t think much of the conversation other than it is interesting. I ask what the film is and my wife, Jayme, says the advance scout didn’t remember the title but that it was a mystery. So, Jayme goes to visit the scout today at the house in Independence, Mississppi and when she comes out she literally stuns me saying it is for a film based on a mystery by Max Allan Collins. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She tells me, “Yeah, it is about some hit man. I think his name is Quarry.” As my teenage daughter would say, “OMG.” I don’t say that myself, I would be more like Nate Heller, but I try to avoid that can of language in emails. The sad news is that the farm house, though no one has lived in it for 25 years, may be too nice to use according to the scout. So it probably won’t be in the film, but to think that it was considered for a Max Allan Collins’ film made my day. Anyway, good luck with the film. If you ever visit the set and need someone to show you some undiscovered BBQ places, or need a driver to Graceland, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll be happy to act as a guide. It would be my way of saying thank you for all of the hours of great reading you’ve given me these past 30+ years.

Any other readers out there who have a close encounter of the QUARRY kind are urged to let me know.

A few comments on recent movies and TV, just briefly….

MAN OF STEEL is well-cast, with both Superman (Henry Cavill) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) quite wonderful; like Glenn Ford in the first Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN, Kevin Costner gives the Smallville sections a nice homespun weight. But the last act is borderline dreadful, with oh-so-serious co-writer Christopher Nolan meeting up with the excesses of director Zack Snyder in a perfect storm of missteps – i.e., relentlessly idiotic and uninteresting TRANSFORMERS-style destruction of downtown Metropolis, topped off by Superman actually taking a life. And some of the screenwriting is truly abysmal – the movie opens with a lengthy, detailed study of Krypton’s final days, somewhat ponderous but not bad. Then when Russell Crowe as Marlon Brando, I mean Jo-El (Superman’s father), shows up as a ghost or something, he spends five minutes telling Kal-El (Superman) what happened in the first half hour of the movie! Wow. Exposition at its most clumsy, and pointless.

THIS IS THE END, on the other hand, is a truly great comedy, with star/writer Seth Rogen assembling James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and many other comic stars of his generation to play themselves in an Apocalyptic horror flick that is largely about these talents pimping themselves out. One of the best movies of the summer, maybe the year.

Barb and I binged on two American remakes/revamps of great foreign TV mini-series – HOUSE OF CARDS with Kevin Spacey standing in for the late Ian Richardson in an excellent U.S. take on the acid British political dark comedy. Not quite as good as the original, which is one of the greatest of all UK television mini-series, but damn good in its own right. Think of it as a very dark take on THE WEST WING.

THE KILLING begins as a faithful remake of the excellent Danish series of the same name (well, the UK name, anyway – the Danish name is Forbrydelsen, “The Crime”), but expands upon it and goes its own way, and ultimately rivals and perhaps exceeds the original. The show got a bad rap and rep because it didn’t solve the central murder by the end of the first season (it never pretended it was going to), but viewing the two seasons binge-style is a hypnotic, rewarding experience. And it’s back for a third season and a new central crime. Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman are the very strong leads, two damaged detectives who combine to make an unlikely and even reluctant team.

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A very nice review of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT in the Cedar Rapids Gazette has been picked up around the Net.

Here’s a review of TWO FOR THE MONEY, the Hard Case crime collection of the first two NOLAN novels, BAIT MONEY and BLOOD MONEY.

Here’s a little preview of THE WRONG QUARRY with a nice uncluttered look at the cover art.

Finally, take a look at this terrific review of TRUE CRIME. I’m so pleased Heller is getting a whole new round of readers thanks to the Amazon reprints.

M.A.C.

The Guy Who Was Quarry

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013
The Wrong Quarry

Writing this on Memorial Day, I am reflecting on how the novel QUARRY (aka THE BROKER) came to be, especially in light of the recent casting of Logan Marshall-Green in the lead of the HBO/Cinemax pilot. Whether this pilot goes to series or not, it’s almost mind-boggling to me that something I created at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop back in 1972 would have such continuing resonance.

Again, because it’s Memorial Day, I am thinking about my late friend Jon McRae, one of the funniest and most troubled guys I ever knew – and often the troubled side of him was very funny. He was very much the inspiration for Quarry, although Quarry himself is much more me than Jon. But like Quarry, Jon did come home from Vietnam to find his wife cheating on him (he did not murder the guy, though I’m sure it occurred to him), and he was the textbook example of a decent Midwestern kid who went into the military to become a hero, and indeed became one…but a fucked-up one.

Jon used to come home and stay with us on his leaves. I noticed he had begun to drink heavily – lots of vodka. He was a machine-gunner in the tail of a chopper, a job with the highest mortality rate in that war; in that circumstance, I would have been into vodka myself. Jon loved my books and would show up on his leave with a bag filled with whatever weapons I had written about lately. He said I needed to handle the guns that my characters used. We would go out to a garbage dump and shoot the place up. It was great fun.

He was a sweet guy, I swear to God. He was a romantic. He was a huge movie buff, particularly ‘30s and ‘40s ones. He was the first among us to bring a James Bond-like briefcase to school (many of us followed suit).

But after he was in the service, everywhere he went, he packed a gun. I was always a little edgy around him. On leave, he would wear a buckskin coat like Sheriff Brennan’s son John in NO CURE FOR DEATH (that character was directly based on him), and also a longhair wig. He would go with the Daybreakers on band jobs, and when we ate at truck stops afterward, he would bait truckers into calling him a hippie and then hurl them against a wall.

He also went to my classes with me at the University of Iowa, no longhair wig there, rather a full-dress uniform, silently daring any anti-war protester to call him a baby killer.

Jon is gone now, under somewhat mysterious circumstances. He stayed in the Marines for a long time, but I believe he was a civilian, somewhere in the Philippines, when he passed, maybe twenty years ago – again, I have no idea what the details are, or even the vague outlines for that matter.

The Quarry novels are all dark comedies, which is to say tragedies played out so absurdly you have to laugh. The idea of Quarry was always that he was me, and us – that he was a decent, intelligent but fairly ordinary young man who was sent off to fight a meaningless war. We have never been the same since that war. Those of us who did not go would watch body bags getting loaded onto choppers (like the one Jon flew) as we ate our evening dinner on TV trays. It made us numb. But that whole war made us numb. It wasn’t a fight against Hitler or even the imperialistic Japanese. To this day, no one really knows what that war was about. And it damaged us all.

But it damaged guys like Jon most. God bless him, and all the other Quarries who fought for us, despite the vagueness of the mission, heroes we did not treat nearly well enough upon their return.

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The COMPLEX 90 reviews keep coming in, and most are very good, even raves. Check out this terrific one from Noir Journal, where it’s the featured book.

Full disclosure: Ed Gorman is one of my best friends. But he’s always one of our greatest living crime-fiction writers, and somebody who (like me) defended Mickey Spillane back when others threw bricks. I’m delighted that he wrote favorably about COMPLEX 90 at this terrific blog.

Now and then we get reviewed at Not the Baseball Pitcher, and I am always impressed with the blogger’s work. He likes COMPLEX 90.

I get a real charge out of seeing positive reactions to the Hammer books from young people who have never read a Spillane or Collins book before. This is a very cool one.

This is an interesting, mostly negative review that I think says more about the UK reviewer than it does about the book, and reminds me of the kind of hysterical attacks (“wish fulfilment wank fantasy for hardened Republicans”) that used to be leveled against Mickey, though oddly the reviewer does credit Spillane for his importance and power. If you haven’t read the book yet, there are spoilers.

Here’s a really nice piece from a comics fan about the film version of ROAD TO PERDITION.

And finally, here’s a fun review of the reprint of the Nolan novel, FLY PAPER.

M.A.C.

Write and Wrong

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

I will be tweaking THE WRONG QUARRY today, doing final rewrites, and I hope “shipping it” (i.e., e-mailing it) to editor Charles Ardai) today. It was written largely in two frenzied weeks, although my fourteen-day-no-day-off stay in the bunker was preceded by a week of prep and plotting, and now a day (or two) of tweaks and rewrites.

A writer my age should probably not undertake to write a novel in this fashion, working till 1:30 a.m., rising at 7:30 a.m. and starting in again, before going down for orange juice and English muffin. But I have always written Quarry novels in two to three weeks (with the exception of the first one, which took six months) because they are stream-of-consciousness affairs that require me to live inside the story (and Quarry’s head) for the duration.

The story is set in the early ‘80s, and falls into the Quarry sub-category of our hero helping the target of a hit contract. It takes place in a small town in Missouri, during the off-season of its tourist industry. This may sound like a fairly ordinary Quarry set-up, but I assure you it’s wilder than Mr. Toad’s ride. In fact, Barb gave me the best Quarry review ever: “Who is this twisted man I’ve been sharing my bed with?”

This will be, since I obviously have work to do, a brief update. Barb and I saw SIDE EFFECTS, the Steven Sonderbergh thriller starring Jude Law, Rooney Mara (American GIRL WITH THE DRAGON etc.), and Catherine Zeta Jones. Very good twisty piece of work, sort of like ‘70s DePalma but slightly less overt in the sex, violence and style department. Like PARKER, a throwback to kind of grown-up genre piece that the theaters used to regularly offer.

My anti-Super Bowl rant last week got some interesting comments, particularly Mike Doran aptly pointing out that my lack of interest in pro sports may be related to my living outside a metro area. No big sports franchises in Iowa. Good point. The U of I’s Hawkeyes are worshipped in this state. My father fetishitically bought black-and-gold everything, including a Cadillac once.

Odd postscript to my sports “bloviating” (as one commenter termed it): I often love sports movies and sometimes books. Mark Harris’ Henry Wiggins novels are among my favorite novels. DAMN YANKEES is high on the list of my favorite movie musicals. And I’ve already written here about TV’s FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, one of my favorite shows.

Ah yes, I am an enigma wrapped in a riddle. If an occasionally bloviating one.

Here’s a terrific early COMPLEX 90 review from Ron Fortier, an excellent writer his own self.

And here’s a terrific review of my new collection (as complete as possible) of the MIKE HAMMER comic strip.

My friend (and great excellent crime writer) Ed Gorman was kind enough to post this generous review of SPREE, the final Nolan (to date, anyway).

Just in time for the publication of the third Jack and Maggie Starr (SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT), here’s a nice review of the first one, A KILLING IN COMICS.

Speaking of which, here’s a fun review of SEDUCTION from a gaming site.

And to celebrate finishing THE WRONG QUARRY in 2013, here’s a good review of the 1976 Quarry novel, QUARRY’S LIST.

M.A.C.

Parker at the Movies

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Most people checking in with me here know that I was a big fan and later friend of Donald E. Westlake. In fact, Don was a mentor who helped me get my first novel, BAIT MONEY, into print. This was especially gracious considering that my Nolan character is so blatantly derived from his Parker.

Parker novels have been the source for a number of films, notably POINT BLANK (a ‘60s classic), THE OUTFIT, THE SPLIT and PAYBACK (in two versions). There have been several foreign adaptations as well, including a Jean Luc Godard travesty. Fans of the novels Don wrote as “Richard Stark” tend to be pretty hard on these films, though POINT BLANK is generally revered. Don never allowed Parker to be called “Parker” in any of the movies (Lee Marvin plays “Walker” in POINT BLANK) to guard against unwanted sequels.

Now, for the first time, a film uses the name Parker – in fact, it’s called PARKER. The title is probably the worst thing about this strong, tough little crime movie. Parker is a cult character and all of the fans of the books couldn’t fill enough theaters to make a ripple. So why would you call the movie PARKER? Maybe for whatever stupid reason that somebody decided to call a movie JACK REACHER. Those aren’t movie titles, they’re suicide notes.

Barb and I love the over-the-top TRANSPORTER and CRANK movies with Jason Statham, but almost nothing else he’s made is worth a damn. PARKER is. It’s very tough, with plenty of action, but also the kind of character bits that represent the oddball humans who (in the novels) often drift into Parker’s orbit (represented here chiefly by a real estate agent, well-played by Jennifer Lopez). Many touches reveal the director and screenwriter are familiar with the Parker novels in general – Parker calls his heist victims by their first names to put them at ease, he is loyal to his girl friend Claire despite temptations otherwise, he operates by a code that is harsh but fair, and he shows little if any emotion. The screenplay is a fairly faithful rendition of the Parker novel FLASHFIRE, with some POINT BLANK elements stirred in. It’s not the classic POINT BLANK that is, though PARKER is ultimately more like the novels than that great film. The only other Parker movie to rival PARKER is THE OUTFIT with Robert Duvall.

However…PARKER was disliked by many critics, and apparently did only mediocre business on its opening weekend (the audience we saw it with loved it, even applauding at the end). And a good share of the hardcore Parker fans are unhappy with the film. Check this out at the Violent World of Parker site, and be sure to read my comments.

Two other quick notes. We also saw HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS. Why did we go? I get cabin fever, working on a book (and I have just started THE WRONG QUARRY), and have to get out and do something – in Muscatine, Iowa, a movie is pretty much it. The reviews have been dismal, though seem to have been written by people who either haven’t seen the movie or had already decided their opinion of it before doing so. One of the producers is Will Ferrell, which indicates that a lot of reviewers are not understanding what audiences seem to: it’s spoof. It’s a comedy. Not an unintentional comedy, but a send-up of all these dumb serious “fairy tale” movies like RED HIDING HOOD. It’s a combo of EVIL DEAD and RESIDENT EVIL. If you like either or both of those, you will probably enjoy this one.

A final movie note: I loved (and still do) RUSHMORE by director Wes Anderson. But virtually everything he’s done since has seemed precious and disorganized to me, and I really, really hated THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX. But my son and his smart wife encouraged me to take a look at MOONRISE KINGDOM. I did, and they are right – it is a wonderful movie that would have been high on my best of 2012 list, had I seen it sooner. It is precious – or, as some smarty-pants critics like to say, “twee” – but it’s also charming and a very well-plotted, beautifully characterized story of young love. Funny as hell, too. Also the best boy scout movie ever made – even better than HENRY ALDRICH, BOY SCOUT (and those who know me well will understand that this is not sarcasm, but high praise).

The positive reviews about SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT just keep rolling in, I’m pleased to say. Like this one from the always insightful Craig Clarke.

And this short sweet write-up.

Plus this even shorter and sweeter one.

On the other hand, there’s this generally positive, amusingly written but patronizing review. Could we please ban the use of the pretentious term “trope”? But if we do use it, can we please not affix needless adjectives like “well-worn”? And can reviewers quit apologizing for liking something?

Finally, here’s a pleasant surprise – a late review of the first Nate Heller JFK trilogy novel, BYE BYE, BABY.

M.A.C.