Posts Tagged ‘Passings’

Crusin’ With Andy Landers (And More)

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

[Note from Nate:] Before we get to the update, I’d like to highlight a Nathan Heller sale over on the Kindle storefront with ten novels and two collections for $1.99 each. The sale ends on September 20, so don’t miss out!

True Detective
True Crime
The Million-Dollar Wound
Neon Mirage
Stolen Away
Carnal Hours
Blood and Thunder
Flying Blind
Majic Man
Angel in Black
Chicago Lightning: The Collected Nathan Heller Short Stories
Triple Play: A Nathan Heller Casebook

We now return to your regularly scheduled update.

(P.S. The wee baby Sam’s doing great, and Abby and I hope to have him home within the week!)

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Crusin' 2008
Crusin’ 2008 – (left to right), M.A.C., Andy Landers, Chuck Bunn, Steve Kundel, Jim Van Winkle

Last Saturday evening, Barb and I took in a performance by Andrew Landers at the new brew pub in Muscatine, the Contrary Brewery. Andy is a fantastic performer and songwriter, who for some years was involved running various hip music programs at churches (here in Iowa, later in Colorado), but recently has gone “all in” to make it in the music biz. He’s a returning hero who came back to an enthusiastic, capacity crowd on his old turf.

Andy used to do an introspective set, with lots of storytelling and self-reflection. Now he’s unleashing his full showmanship and versatility, including really rocking out and using his big, brash yet somehow unintimidating personality to pull the audience in. If you get a chance to see him, do so.

For around eight years, Andy was part of my band Crusin’, which regular followers of these updates know is a ‘60s revival group that has been around forever…or anyway, 1975. The period during which Andy was part of the band saw us playing five to eight times a year – not as regularly as we have been in recent years, though more than we’ve been playing lately.

My late friend and longtime musical collaborator, Paul Thomas, brought Andy into the band; Paul was part of Andy’s ambitious musical program at a local church. Since I am a lapsed Methodist and just a little less religious than Bill Maher, I was initially not enthusiastic about bringing in a “minister of music.” Shortly I found out that Andy was both a fantastic talent and an off-the-wall loon. That made him ideal for Crusin’.

In that era, I was playing keyboard bass. Andy came in and played rhythm guitar on an acoustic, and a lot of other things, sharing in the lead singing and great on harmony. He was, in many ways, similar to Bruce Peters, who Paul and I had played with in both the Daybreakers and Crusin’, and who was an outright musical genius and amazing showman. Like Bruce, Andy can play anything. When we would do our final number of the night, “Gimme Some Lovin’” (the Spencer Davis classic), during a middle section Andy would take over my keyboards for a solo, then go back and take over the drums for Steve Kundel. We did a number of Andy-written tunes in those years – always risky for an oldies band to do originals, but audiences had no problem with Andy’s stuff – and Andy did some recording with us. He’s on the tracks we did for my indie film, REAL TIME: SIEGE AT LUCAS STREET MARKET (including singing a song I wrote, “Help Yourself”).

When the my first band, the Daybreakers, was inducted into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, our original bass player, Chuck Bunn, came back. Chuck had been suffering from cancer but was doing well, and I could tell he really wanted to play again. I added him to Crusin’ and we began to play more regularly, usually twice a month, which we did till around two years ago. (Chuck’s last gig was our performance at the St. Louis Bouchercon – he passed away less than two weeks later.)

But when we began playing more regularly, Andy decided to step down. He had a band of his own, for one thing, and various responsibilities and ambitions. The image this week is the only band photo that includes both Andy and Chuck – and Andy played only a single gig with that line-up.

I’m so pleased that Andy is doing well. That this charismatic entertainer’s musical dreams and ambitions are being fulfilled. And when I see how much energy he is bringing to his shows, I have to be allowed the luxury of thinking that some of Crusin’ rubbed off on him.

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Speaking of Crusin’, we had four dates lined up this year, but all of one had to cancelled for various reasons. This is our 40th anniversary year, yet it seems we may play only a single gig.

For those of you in the eastern Iowa area, that gig is imminent – this coming Sunday afternoon (Sept. 13) on the patio overlooking the Mississippi at Pearl City Plaza in Muscatine (217 West 2nd) starting at 6 pm. Looks to be a cool, lovely day, by current estimates. We will be presenting an hour and a half concert (with one break). Be there or…you know.

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I note with sadness the passing of my writer buddy, Warren Murphy, co-creator of the Destroyer series, screenwriter (EIGER SANCTION), and author of numerous thrillers as well as the Trace mystery novels. He was a fun, funny, generous guy.

Barb and I were on a “mystery cruise” that Warren and Bob Randisi organized back in the late ‘80s (I think). My most vivid memory of that experience was the lanky, attractively disheveled Warren insisting that each of us write two chapters in a collaborative novel while the cruise was under way. When we complained that we didn’t want to spend precious fun time doing that, he cheerfully berated us, advising us to be grown-ups and pros about it. Then when asked if he was going to write his chapters while aboard, he said, “Oh, hell no – I already wrote them at home!”

That book was called CARIBBEAN BLUES, and features Nate Heller in three chapters, if I’m remembering right.
If you want to know how to honor a writer who has passed, read a book by that writer. It will bring the author back to life in your mind.

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For those keeping score, I completed the new Mike Hammer, DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU, last week, and shipped it via e-mail to Titan in England on Thursday. I’ve been dealing with some health issues this summer (don’t ask) but have bounced back (really, don’t ask) and I wanted to prove to myself I could still do it. And I did. It’s a wild one, even for a Hammer novel.

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Finally, this is a nice overview of mystery in comic books, with an especially nice, fairly lengthy look at Ms. Tree – which the commentator (a very wise fellow) rates my work with Terry Beatty as tops in the field.


Nice Men, Sad Ends

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
Jeremiah Healy

Jeremiah Healy took his life last week. He was a nice man and a good writer, specializing in PI fiction and legal thrillers (he had a legal background). We weren’t close friends but we were friendly, and because we both graduated high school in 1966 always kidded each other about being classmates. I remember at one long ago Bouchercon he took the time to converse with my son Nate, just a kid at the time, and gave him a signed book or two. He was so affable it’s hard to believe this dire news. I find it impossible to picture him without seeing him smiling. You can read a little more about it here.

Ed Gorman, who is a close friend, tells me that alcoholics who fall off the wagon after a long time sober often are victims of suicide or heart attack. I had no idea – none – that Jerry had alcohol problems or depression, either. If there’s a point here, it’s that we can never know what’s going on inside a life…even a life that seems obviously one thing, as with Jerry, who appeared so upbeat and fun whenever I saw him. He was active in the Private Eye Writers of America, and the year I won the Eye for Life Achievement was the master of ceremonies. I know Jerry’s peers are shaking their heads as much as drying their eyes over this one.

Robin Williams, Popeye

Of course this comes on the heels of Robin Williams’ suicide. I admit, meaning zero offense, that I was not a big fan of his comedy, particularly not of his stand-up. He seemed to me to be rolling over crowds with speed not wit – it was all his distinctive delivery and manic pace, because if you slowed it down nothing was very funny. Maybe there’s something in that. I have a feeling his fans – and there are many of them – will have to deal in the future with trying to find him funny knowing what his private demons were.

Now I am an admirer of much of his film work. He was a solid, sincere, gifted actor and his list of films includes any number that will be around for a long time. One that is under-appreciated is the Robert Altman-directed POPEYE. As it happens, I met Williams after a concert in San Francisco (I was attending a Bouchercon and I’ll bet Jerry Healy was too). Paul Reubens had arranged for me to see a show starring Rick and Ruby from the original Pee-Wee Herman Show. It’s possible Terry Beatty was with me, but I’m not sure why he’d be at a Bouchercon. (It’s not so much that my memory plays tricks on me as it refuses to perform.) Anyway, I was able to go backstage, and Williams was there schmoozing with a hip comedy crowd.

I was doing DICK TRACY at the time, introduced myself as such, and we had a conversation for maybe five minutes. He was low-key, very modest and gracious – a very sweet man. We talked about POPEYE, which had received something of a rough welcome from critics and audiences, and I told him how much I loved it. How cool it was that Altman had done the E.C. Segar comic strip version of POPEYE, and we agreed that this merit of the film hurt it with an audience expecting strictly the animated cartoon version. He said he was grateful to hear from someone in the comics business who “got” the film. Anyway, it was a nice, warm moment between a couple of guys in related professions. I’ve always looked back at that exchange with fondness. Now I’ll treasure it.