Posts Tagged ‘Primary Target’

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?”


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


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.


Hammer Sounds

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Quarry's VoteThis is going to be a brief update this week, because Nate has a busy week in Japan.

This week’s cover from Perfect Crime’s reprint series of the first five Quarry novels is QUARRY’S VOTE. The original title of this one is PRIMARY TARGET, a title I like and actually prefer; but we needed to make the patterning of the titles consistent, and especially with the new Hard Case series entries, Quarry seems to have found his way into the titles.

I recently heard the final mix of THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER Vol. 3: ENCORE FOR MURDER, and could not be more pleased. Stacy Keach, Mike Cornelison and Tim Kazurinsky (among other talented thesps) (I don’t think I ever typed “thesps” before) did great work. The audio stuff – both Carl Amari’s radio-style dramas and the readings of the new Spillane/Collins novels by Stacy Keach – are attracting some attention and awards. Here’s a nice write-up on Mike Hammer as one of the classic tough guys available on audio. And here’s a link to a brief, fun interview with Stacy on the same subject.

We will very soon have the new CRUSIN’ CD available, probably right after Nate gets back from Japan. Because it’s a promotional item, I can’t sell it, but I am reserving around 50 of the 200 run to give away as free bonus items with the sale of another, related item. I’ll be more clear about that later….


Barbara Collins on Barbara Allan

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

This week I’m turning the update over to Barb, in celebration of ANTIQUES BIZARRE going on sale this week (the pub date isn’t till March 1 but on sale date seems to be Feb. 23).

Before I do, though, we have had a lovely review of the book that you might like to check out.

Also, Quarry continues to attract attention – for example, this fun review of THE FIRST QUARRY.

In addition, here’s a retro review of the Quarry novel PRIMARY TARGET. PRIMARY TARGET is available as the bulk of QUARRY’S GREATEST HITS from FiveStar.

And now the better (and better-looking half) of the Barbara Allan team, on collaboration – a piece that expands and updates a piece she wrote for CRIMESPREE a while back. She refers to me as “Al,” which many of you know is my nickname.

Antiques BizarreAntiques Bizarre, the fifth book in our Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery series from Kensington, will be hitting the stores this week. This latest collaboration between Al and me, under the name Barbara Allan, is more of a who done-it than the previous books, but there is still plenty of turmoil in the personal lives of Prozac-popping Brandy Borne, bi-polar Mother, and their blind, diabetic dog Sushi. The mystery revolves around the auction of the newly discovered last Faberge egg that had been commissioned by the Russian Tsar, its disappearance and the death of the buyer.

Often Al and I are asked about collaboration. Why do it? Why risk a friendship, a business association, or (gasp) even a marriage?

Collaboration happens successfully in movies, of course, when the collective efforts of writer, director, and actors come together to make something wonderful – Road to Perdition comes to mind. And collaboration works beautifully in musical theater, too. Where would Rodgers be without Hammerstein? Or a certain composer named Bernstein without the brilliance of a young lyricist named Sondheim? But can the joining of two minds and one computer work as well in novel writing? Quick, name your favorite book written by a duo. Hummmmm…me neither.

My own experience with collaboration came after I’d published a number of short stories, and my next assignment left me with unhappy results.

“What’s wrong with it?” I asked my veteran writer-husband after pressing the pages I had just written into his hands, as if it were a patient in need of resuscitation.

“It’s missing a key scene,” he said a while later, adding, “You got lazy.”

“Awwh, I don’t wanna write it,” I whined. “Will you?”

“Sure…but then my name goes on it, too.”

Well, that seemed reasonable; after all, writing a key scene was much more of a contribution than plot suggestions given to me over breakfast at Country Kitchen, or suggestions jotted in the margins of my work. And so, my first foray into the tricky world of collaboration was quite, quite painless.

Barbara AllanSince then, Al and I have collaborated on other short stories, two stand-alone novels, and – having confidence that the marriage would hold – signed a five-book contract. Our Trash ‘n’ Treasures mysteries – the first of which, Antiques Roadkill, came out from Kensington in fall of ‘06 – have a female voice, with back story that leans more on my life than Al’s, although the antiquing aspect is a shared interest.

Our collaboration process is simple: we plot the novel together, often on a long car trip or over several restaurant meals; usually I take notes. Then I write a complete first draft without Al seeing any of it. If I run into trouble along the way, we discuss the problem over another lunch (there’s a very famous restaurant in Muscatine, Iowa – perhaps you’ve heard of it: Applebees).

Then, when I’m finished with the first draft (and good and sick of it), Al takes his pass, bumping up the word count because I’m a short story writer at heart, and he can flesh out scenes and descriptions, in particular amplifying dialogue. He also fixes any plot holes or too-girly fight scenes.

During this phase there can be some shouting – but only because Al’s office is on the second floor and mine is on the first, and we haven’t sprung for an intercom system yet – as he asks, “What did you mean by this?” or “How about doing it this way?” As Al revises each chapter, I read his second draft for corrections and any final additions or changes I’d like to lobby for. The end product, then, is something we both feel satisfied with.

So. For those of you who dare to follow in our footsteps, here are a few observations and suggestions we’ve learned along the way.

Do not attempt to collaborate if you and your partner have incompatible writing styles. Exception: one person does the research; the other writes. (The great team of Dannay and Lee behind Ellery Queen divided up the work in a fashion that didn’t require compatible styles of expression.)

Maintain separate offices and computers. One person seated at a desk while the other stalks the floor smoking a stogie only worked on “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Ditto for sitting side by side.

Before writing a word, have a clear and singular vision of what the writing project is to be. This is more than just plotting, but attitude and even thematic concerns. Before beginning our novel Regeneration, we discussed at length the notion of the selfishness of baby boomers, and how they had failed to properly save for retirement.

Think of the collaboration as two builders teaming to construct a house: one writer takes the lead and fashions the structure (to specifications already agreed upon); the other writer then takes over and decorates the interior. The interior decorator should not go knocking out supporting walls; conversely the original builder should not re-arrange the furniture, at least without discussion.

Those who think collaboration is somehow a time-saving approach are, well, confused. It is actually harder – although if each writer has a sense of his or her strengths and weaknesses, that’s a great help. If writer A and B agree that A is better at dialogue, for example, writer B can write short dialogue scenes knowing that writer A will come along later and effectively expand.

Sometimes it comes down to sheer knowledge – I don’t think I’ll be handing over the fashion do’s and don’ts, or even the antiquing tips, to Al any time soon. But why should I break my back writing a fight scene with the creator of Nathan Heller in the house?

Beyond shoring up each others weaknesses through your own strengths, why should a writer embark on such a perilous enterprise? The answer is as simple as collaboration is complex: a third writer is created.

A successful writing collaboration creates a distinct third voice in an end product that – because of the strengths each writer brings to the work table – could not have been accomplished alone.

That’s when two plus two can equal five. Even my husband can do that math.