Posts Tagged ‘Nolan’

Second Chances

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

When I was a teenager in the thrall of Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer, I spent many hours searching (mostly in used bookstores) for Spillane imitators who might satisfy my thirst. Few came anywhere near. One, however, hit the ball out of the park, and he worked for a small outfit in Chicago with the books packaged like softcore porn. Even then the books were hard to find. Now they are impossible.

Sand's Game
Ennis Willie’s novels – particularly the ones about ex-mobster Sand, on the run from his former bosses – were an enormous influence on my development as a writer. I encountered Sand before the similar mono-named Parker, and my character Nolan derives as much from the former as the latter. Willie, though a shameless Spillane imitator, did not write in the first-person and did not write about P.I.s – which gave him his own unique voice and place. He wrote a handful of books in the mid ‘60s wrapping up by the end of the decade, then disappearing. Guys like Steve Mertz, Lynn Myers and Ed Gorman and I tried to track him down, wondering if “Ennis Willie” was a penname or maybe a black writer (there was an African American poet named Willie Ennis).

Willie was one of my heroes, right in there with Spillane and Richard Stark, and the other day something happened so surrealistic, it rivaled my meeting Mickey. A collection of Sand novels and stories, signed to me by Ennis Willie, arrived in the mail. Knocked me out.

Okay, it wasn’t a surprise. I was involved in the collection, though the editors were Mertz and Myers; I did an introduction. Willie, thanks to the internet, had turned up, somehow getting wind of the many discussions (decades worth!) on the subject of who-the-hell-he-was. He wrote Gorman saying, “Well, I’m him. Ennie Willie.” And included his driver’s license photo!

Anyway, the book from Ramble House is getting some attention. You can order it here in various editions. If you like Mickey Spillane, Richard Stark and/or M.A.C., you will not be sorry.

And Bill Crider wrote about it here.

One of my characters, influenced by Willie’s Sand, is a guy called Quarry. My pal Leonard Maltin did a terrific, high-profile write-up on THE FIRST QUARRY that just blew me away. Check it out.

I’ll be appearing at the Iowa City Book Festival on Saturday July 17 with Nicholas Meyer. I was told they’ll be screening THE LAST LULLABY, but I don’t see it on the schedule yet. At any rate, I am anxious to meet Nick Meyer, who was a student at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop a few years ahead of me; he’s a writer and filmmaker I admire very much.

The fun funky site Davy Crockett’s Alamack posted a nice piece on the first of the two volumes of MIKE HAMMER comic strips I edited back in the ‘80s. I’m hoping we can get a single volume collection out there one of these days (though I am still missing one Sunday).

Second City Class of '79 Reunion
Jim Belushi, Mary Gross, Tim Kazurinksy at Second City 1978.

Barb and I spent several days in Chicago (over her birthday, which is June 18), kicking it off by seeing the Class of ‘79 Reunion benefit show at Second City on June 17. That we were able to get tickets to this big-deal event was thanks to my pal Tim Kazurinsky. Appearing with the always hilarious Tim were Nancy McCabe-Kelly, Bruce Jarchow, Danny Breen, Bernadette Birkett and (at the piano) the legendary Fred Kaz. Oh, and some guy named George Wendt.

This is the Second City company that Barb and I followed religiously in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Among other talents from that era (not in attendance) were my friend Larry Coven (who appears in MOMMY’S DAY and REAL TIME: SIEGE AT LUCAS STREET MARKET), Mary Gross, Lance Kinsey, and Jim Belushi (whose son Robert was a guest star at the reunion show, a talented, charismatic addition to that famous clan). Breen and Jarchow are particular favorites of mine (and reminded me why with their genius turns), and they were very nice chatting with us afterward. Also – and this is a big deal to Barb and me – we got to meet and talk with Bernie Sahlins, one of the founders of both Second City and SCTV.

Here’s a nice write-up about the show.

Barb said it was a pretty good birthday. Pretty, pretty good (as Larry David would say).

M.A.C.

 

Crusin’ Update

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Crusin' at Warehouse Four
Crusin’ at Warehouse Four, 1970’s
L to R: Ric Steed, M.A.C., Bruce Peters, Paul Thomas

This will be a brief update, because this week Nate and I have put our time into getting a long overdue revised update on my band Crusin’. Anyone interested in me and my work should find this of interest — lots of photos and a detailed history of the group’s 35 year history (41 year history, counting the Daybreakers, the band Crusin’ evolved into).

A very interesting write-up on Johnny Craig’s early EC crime work touches upon my introductions to the collected EC CRIME SUSPENSTORIES and even discusses ROAD TO PERDITION in that context. Any article that extols Ralph Meeker’s Mike Hammer is jake by me.

And my old pal Christopher Mills has posted a great LAST LULLABY review at his DVD Late Show site.

Chris has also re-posted a terrific ELIOT NESS: AN UNTOUCHABLE LIFE review from a while back.

Brian Drake, who is a lively writer with great taste (i.e., he likes my stuff), wonders if I’m one person or not. I get this all the time — “When do you sleep?” and so on.

I have said any number of times that I am very lazy by nature, but that no one sends money to my house if I don’t work. Being called prolific gets you credit for hard work but is the most left-handed of writing compliments. Some years (like 2009) I have very little out — the only original novel was QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE. This year is heavier, with ANTIQUES BIZARRE, YOU CAN’T STOP ME and THE BIG BANG just around the corner. But do note that in the case of those three projects that I am working with talented collaborators (Barbara Collins, Matthew Clemens, and, well, Mickey Spillane) and I am not carrying the entire workload.

Speaking of collaborators, never forget Terry Beatty — and also hitting the net this week is a very nice overview of our MS. TREE feature.

A blog called UNSQUARE DANCE gives a nice write-up to the Hard Case Crime joint reprint of BAIT MONEY and BLOOD MONEY (as TWO FOR THE MONEY).

See you next Tuesday.

M.A.C.

Star Trek and Conventional Wisdom

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

I am immersed in the writing of KISS HER GOODBYE, just completely absorbed by Mike Hammer, Mickey Spillane and their world.

Nice things keep appearing on the net about my work. For example…

My pal Ed Gorman was kind enough to write about the Nolan novel, SCRATCH FEVER, as one of the weekly “Forgotten Books” at Patti Abbott’s website, but also on Ed’s own blog, with some interesting comments only seen there. Easiest way to read SCRATCH FEVER is to track down the omnibus paperback, TOUGH TENDER, which has it and HARD CASH combined.

ROAD TO PERDITION is number one on another list of comic book-derived movies, specifically ones that some people apparently don’t know came from comics.

Barb and I are working our way through the third season of STAR TREK on blu-ray. All day I work on Mike Hammer, and all evening I watch STAR TREK (and in the company of a beautiful blonde). Life is good. But I am reminded by how much I truly, deeply despise conventional wisdom and regurgitated opinions.

I’ve revealed here previously that I am a first-generation Trekkie (not Trekker — Trekkie was the term Gene Roddenberry preferred). Here’s proof: Barb and I went to see William Shatner in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH at the Pheasant Run theater outside Chicago; and attended a George McGovern rally in DeKalb, Illinois, because Nimoy was hosting. Satisfied?

Anyway, Barb and I have watched the second season and third on blu-ray essentially back to back, and the first season not so long ago. Conventional wisdom says the first season is great, the second season very, very good, and the third season an embarrassment. The truth is STAR TREK in all three seasons has embarrassing episodes. And every season has a bunch of solid, meat-and-potatoes episodes. And a handful of excellent ones. If I had to nominate a weak season, it might be the second one, with its many, many earth culture planets (the Roman planet, the gangster planet, the Nazi planet, OMEGA GLORY with its tattered and very unlikely American flag, etc.). But the second season also owns AMOK TIME, one of the very best episodes.

Is There In Truth No BeautyThe third season admittedly has the two worst stinkers in the entire STAR TREK line-up – LET THIS BE OUR LAST BATTLEFIELD, the dismal racial parable (the one where Frank Gorshin does the Riddler as half black and half white, chasing around the Enterprise his fellow scenery chewer Lou Antonio who is half white and half black) and the truly abysmal WAY TO EDEN, the hippies in outer space episode, which manages to waste Charles Napier. But the third season has also the surrealistic gem SPECTRE OF THE GUN (one of the first negative views of Wyatt Earp at the OK Corral – and with DeForest Kelley, who was in the Burt Lancaster/Kirk Douglas film version, as one of the Earps!), and possibly the three best STAR TREK episodes of all, THE EMPATH, IS THERE IN TRUTH NO BEAUTY and ALL OUR YESTERDAYS. Some of the best STAR TREK episodes feature music by George Duning, sometimes re-frying his BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE score.

Without breaking it down, I would say (looking at the entire run of the show), there are probably about eight great STAR TREK episodes, and probably about half a dozen really, really lousy ones. The rest are solid entertainment, if of varying degrees.

I have always felt the success of the show had more than anything to do with the combination of Roddenberry’s concept and an exceptionally well-assembled cast. Say what you will about Shatner, he provides a dashing, charismatic hero (and you have to go to the lousy episodes, where he is really working hard, to find him truly hammy), and Nimoy’s Spock remains one of the great series TV characterizations, endlessly fascinating (I said I was a Trekkie), while DeForest Kelley provides compassionate glue, a friend and irritant to the other two leads, as need be. The rest of the cast is excellent, too, with its interracial components. In the third season, my old friend Walter Koenig in particular shines as Chekov, whose character is poorly defined by the writers but is beautifully portrayed and pulled together by the actor.

Live long, prosper, and quit listening to conventional wisdom.

M.A.C.